What We've Lost - Salem, Massachusetts

Salem, MA, USA


25 Carlton Street (Built c. 1803)
MACRIS SAL.3296

In June 2015, my then soon-to-be husband and I made the move from my childhood home on Cape Cod to the “Witch City.” At that point, I had been visiting Salem for eight years and like many, had fallen in love with the city’s charm. The winding streets with ancient architecture and vast waterfront all beckoned to be explored. The energy of the seasonally crowded streets and magic of the brick lined promenades made moving to Salem irresistible. We settled in the Historic Derby Street Neighborhood, just steps away from The House of the Seven Gables, where we got engaged a few months earlier.  Prior to moving to our new neighborhood, I began researching the area to quell my excitement.

During my research, I stumbled upon a blog post about the demolition of 25 Carlton Street, one of the oldest structures on the street. The c. 1803 home was built for shipwright, Thomas Magoun during the area’s prosperous maritime age. The modest home met its end in 2014, when it was drowned by a developer who removed the roof prior to a rainstorm. Previously having received backlash from preservationists, this move by the developer seemed like a calculated way to justify the replacement of the historic home with a new build. The plan worked and the 19th century home was soon deemed unsalvageable and demolished. By the time my husband and I moved to the area, the finishing touches were being installed in the luxury condos of the new, towering building. Although I felt the loss of the previous historic home, I thought this incident was rare in such a historic city as Salem.

Unfortunately, over the next five years I would learn that demolition by neglect and the loss of historic architecture in favor of big development was more commonplace in Salem than I could have ever imagined.  This charming, city by the sea was in a constant battle of old and new. Despite the pleas of outspoken citizens, visitors, and historians, when it came to development, Salem’s leadership has seemed to favor new development over preservation and adaptive reuse for decades.

As Salem continues to expand at an alarming rate to cater to its growing residential and visiting population, seeking the same charm and magic that once attracted me, I take a moment of pause to ponder what we’ve lost.

This is just a select handful of buildings in Salem deemed significant by the Massachusetts Historical Commission and ultimately demolished between 2015 and 2020.

331 Lafayette Street (Built c. 1935)
MACRIS SAL.1933
(Salem State University Archives Photograph)




5-7 West Avenue (Built 1886)
MACRIS SAL.1934

65 Washington Street (Built 1976)
MACRIS SAL.2433


219 Washington Street (Built 1926)
MACRIS SAL.2209


231-235 Washington Street (Built c. 1930)
MACRIS SAL.2210


70-90 Boston Street (Built c. 1910)
MACRIS SAL.139


333 Lafayette Street (Built c. 1880)
MACRIS SAL.1933
(Salem State University Archives Photograph)


Carriage house belonging to 6 Federal Court/95 Federal Street (Built c. 1880)
MACRIS SAL.1525
(City of Salem Photograph)

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