The Salem Witch Museum - Salem, Massachusetts

Salem Witch Museum
Postcard showing the Salem Witch Museum

Now a major tourist attraction, this Gothic Revival building adjacent to Salem Common was once home to the Second Unitarian Church. The church was built between 1844-1846 and was designed by New York architect Minard Lafever, well known for his Gothic Revival style.

Real photo postcard showing Salem Witch Museum as Second Unitarian Church in 1908
Salem Witch Museum, 1908
In 1958, following a consolidation of Unitarian churches, the building was listed for sale. The following year The Salem Auto Museum and Americana Shops opened with a collection of art work, vintage cars, and a fabricated idyllic Salem street, complete with fourteen shops. A decade after opening the interior of the museum was destroyed by another fire.

Many items were lost including an 1825 hand tub and 1925 Mercedes Benz.A fire destroyed much of the church’s interior in July of 1902, including its 19th century organ. Damage from the fire was still being repaired when in 1925 a decision was made to lower the height of the exterior towers.

After extensive remodeling, the Salem Witch Museum opened in 1972. The museum advertised the use of “modern day technology” to “authentically re-create the emotions of 1692.” The museum continues its operation, attracting thousands of visitors each year.

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.

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