Hawthorne Hotel - Salem, Massachusetts

Images courtesy of Salem State University Archives and Special Collections

The Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Massachusetts came to be as the result of a community effort begun on May 27, 1921 at a Salem Rotary Club meeting. It was then that George Hooper, Salem Laundry owner, lobbied the importance of building a hotel in Salem. At the time, Salem was bustling with tourists and businessmen, who were unable to find lodging and would therefore leave the city, stifling Salem’s economy. Following this meeting, the Rotary Club appointed Frank Poor of the Hygrade Lamp Company (Sylvania) to assist Hooper in drawing up a proposal.

Incorporated on August 27, 1923, the Salem Hotel Corporation began with a 52-member committee consisting of Salem business owners and philanthropists who all believed in the importance of building a hotel in the city. In July of that year, fundraising for the new hotel kicked off with a group of 175 volunteer businessmen, all strategically trained to sells stocks by the Hockenbury Co. of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which was brought in to manage the campaign. The volunteers were divided into 16 competitive teams. A rally was held at the Salem YMCA on July 16, 1923 to celebrate the beginning of the fundraiser. Daily meetings continued there to discuss sales results, which were posted on a large billboard in Town House Square. Results were also advertised in the committee’s “Ho! Tell!” literature. On the first day alone, $500,000 was raised, more than half of the original $750,000 goal. By the end of the week long campaign, the total raised was $527,000.

Following the fundraiser, planning for the new hotel began with location proposals. The Franklin Building, sitting at the corner of Essex Street and Washington Square was offered by the Salem Marine Society with the condition that a room would be built for exclusive use by the society. 

The Franklin Building was razed and construction began on the hotel in June 1924 with contractors Pitman and Brown and architect Phillip Horton Smith, of Smith and Walker, in Boston. Shortly before the hotel’s completion, an additional $90,000 was raised to expand the ballroom and reduce the hotel’s mortgage. Members of Salem Hotel Corp. donated goods from their businesses. Hygrade Lamp Company supplied light bulbs and Naumkeag Steam Cotton Co, provided sheets.

Inspired by the success of the hotel’s fundraising, an additional $10,000 was raised for the Hawthorne Memorial Association, which was looking to buy a statue of Nathaniel Hawthorne by Bela Lyon Pratt from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, with plans to place it on the newly completed Hawthorne Boulevard, adjacent to the hotel. The statue was purchased and dedicated in December 1925. The Hawthorne Memorial Association’s chairman, Judge Alden White, suggested the hotel be named in honor of Nathaniel Hawthorne, as it was situated near so many significant places from the author’s time in Salem.

Earlier than expected, the Hawthorne Hotel opened to much fanfare, which kicked off with a multi-day celebration. On June 21, 1925 a parade was held that included the Salem Cadet Band, Salem Chamber of Commerce, Salem Rotary Club, and other local organizations. After the parade, Frank Poor and Mayor George Bates raised the American flag for the first time atop the roof of the new hotel.

The celebration continued with private parties for stockholders and contractors. On July 23, 1925, a banquet was held in the new ballroom to celebrate the public grand opening of the Hawthorne Hotel. Over 400 people were in attendance and dined on delicacies of the time, including turtle soup. The Salem Evening News reported that in a single day, as many as 2,500 people toured the hotel during its opening week. Just a few short months after opening, the Hawthorne Hotel hosted its first wedding. Lucretia Johnson Perkins wed William Russell Burns on October 17, 1925. The couple had met while Burns was working as one of the principle architects during the hotel’s construction.

In the late 1940’s, the hotel purchased the Crowninshield-Bentley House at 106 Essex Street, located directly behind the Hotel. The house was built in 1724 for Captain John Crowninshield and was home to the Crowninshield family for multiple generations. The house has additional historical significance due to its connection with Reverend William Bentley, who boarded with the family from 1791 until his death in 1819.

In 1959, the Crowninshield-Bentley House was donated by the hotel to the Essex Institute (now Peabody Essex Museum), which moved the building to 126 Essex Street. At this time, in order to modernize, the hotel changed its name to Hawthorne Motor Hotel and added a parking lot in the Crowninshield-Bentley House’s previous location.

The hotel continued to thrive as a local gathering place, hosting weddings, and community functions. In the 1960’s, the hotel began offering dance lessons in the ballroom with legendary Salem instructor, Harriet James. Large annual celebrations showcased the student’s abilities and were well attended.

In June 1970, Hollywood came to Salem with the filming of Bewitched. The cast and crew stayed at the hotel while filming in the city and nearby Gloucester, even filming some interiors in the hotel, most notably in the lobby’s elevators. The Hawthorne Motor Hotel, as it was called, appears in name and can be seen in the background during travel scenes however, the hotel’s facade was replaced with a Hollywood set.

Towards the end of the 1970’s, the hotel once again altered its name, this time to The Hawthorne Inn, which it remained until 1989 before finally reverting back The Hawthorne Hotel.

Hawthorne HotelOn October 30, 1990, a séance was held in the Hawthorne Hotel’s grand ballroom in hope of summoning the spirit of Harry Houdini on the 64th anniversary of his death. Despite being unsuccessful, this séance lead to the introduction of the annual Halloween Party, which premiered in 1991. The month leading up to Halloween is now the hotel’s busiest month, as it coincides with Salem's Haunted Happenings celebration.

In 2003, the Hawthorne Hotel purchased the Suzannah Flint House located behind its parking lot on Essex Street. The home had previously served as a bed and Breakfast. Upon acquiring the Suzannah Flint House, it was discovered that the house had been misnamed for one that had stood nearby. In 2011, the Suzannah Flint House was renamed for Fidelia Bridges, a famous painter who had once resided there. The building now serves as a guest house for the hotel. 

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

Woman's Friend Society - Salem, Massachusetts

Images Courtesy of Salem State University Archives and Special Collections
The Woman’s Friend Society stems from a town meeting proposal made in 1875 by Kate Tannatt Woods, a Salem schoolteacher and representative of the Moral Education Society of Boston, who recognized the importance of promoting the “moral elevation of women.” Woods was backed by Salem’s Marshal, William M. Hill, who also called for a meeting at Salem’s Town Hall in order to raise money to help purify the area. Both were appalled by the lawlessness and lack of etiquette displayed by young women throughout Salem.

On March 22, 1876, the Moral Education Society of Salem was officially formed, a few months later changing its name to Woman’s Friend Society. The group was designed to combat what Woods viewed as the community’s withdrawal from Puritan values, noted by the amount of crime and vulgarity in Downtown Salem at the time. The organization created a Girls Reading Room in the Mayne’s Block building on Essex Street (Across from Derby Square). This room was used as a meeting place, where local displaced youth could learn to read and have access to wholesome books.

Looking to expand the Society’s outreach, they began searching for a home to shelter homeless women and girls. The wife of Joseph Hodges offered her property at the corner of Essex Street and Daniels Street in Salem for three months, rent free. It came to be called “The Daniels Street Home” (Present day, The Daniels House Bed and Breakfast)

In 1876, the Bureau of Employment (Later the Intelligence Office) was added to the Society’s programs. It served to connect woman with stable jobs in the area.

In 1878, outgrowing their current operations, the Society placed an appeal in the local newspaper, requesting a home for their organization that would also serve as a shelter for women. Their appeal was answered by John Bertram, who despite being on his death bed was still practicing his well-known philanthropy. He offered to them half of a house he owned located at 12 Elm Street (Hawthorne Boulevard) for a period of five years. If within those five years, the Society was able to maintain the home and continue their community efforts, the home would be gifted to them. The Society moved in on May 9, 1879 and the building was named the “Working Women’s Bureau.” The success of the Intelligence Office prompted the creation of a Committee on Registry to oversee it. That same year, Mrs. George D. Putnam, an early member and leader of the Society, was officially named President.

In 1880, the Committee on Needle-Work was created. They taught sewing lessons and handed out supplies, enabling woman to sell garments and linens out of their homes, while caring for their children. The following year, Mission to the Sick began, which brought care to those who were bound to their homes by illness. This program would later evolve into the Visiting Nurse Association of Salem.

In 1884, Jennie Bertram Emmerton, gifted the house at 12 Elm Street to the Woman’s Friend Society on behalf of her deceased father, John Bertram. The Society began raising money to purchase the other half of the house but was initially met with resistance by the owners who asked for an unattainable sum. That same year, Esther C. Mack bequeathed money to create an industrial school for woman to learn sewing and cooking skills. In 1906 the Mack Industrial School opened at 17 Pickman Street where it operated until 1920. In 1908 the school recorded having over 500 students. In 1910 these classes were opened to immigrant woman arriving in Salem.

The Woman’s Friend Society continued its community outreach into the 20th century, adding classes for expectant mothers in the 1940’s. In 1977, the Visiting Nurse Association branched off of the Society’s district nurse program but the two organizations continue to work together. In 1971, the Woman’s Friend Society offered the first Christmas in Salem house tour as a fundraiser for the VNA. This event remains an annual tradition in Salem and is now operated by Historic Salem, Inc. In 2008 the Emmerton House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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


Walter George Whitman

Courtesy of  Science Education 
(Volume 37, Issue 1 - February 1953)

On May 4, 1874, Walter George Whitman was born in Norway, Maine to George Washington Whitman and Eliza Jane Davis Whitman. Following his graduation from Norway High School, he attended Tufts College, where in 1898; he received an A.B. degree (artium baccalaureus) and began teaching at Goddard Seminary in Barre, Vermont and later at high schools in Gloucester and Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1906, he received a M.A. degree at Columbia University, while teaching at New York City’s Ethical Culture School. On August 20, 1912, he married Grace Bates. Together, the couple had three children, George B. Whitman, who became the eccentric owner of the bookstore, Shakespeare and Company in Paris, France, Mary C. Whitman and H. Carlton Whitman. Whitman continued to teach at a number of universities and secondary schools. His longest tenure was at State Normal School, Salem Massachusetts, where he taught Practical Science and served as Head of the Science Department. 

While teaching, he also established and served on boards of numerous science-based organizations, becoming the founder of General Science Quarterly in 1916. In 1925, Whitman took a yearlong sabbatical from Salem Normal School and along with his family, moved to China, where he taught physics at Nanking University. While living in China, Whitman chose to live among the Chinese instead of the homes provided for Americans. While there, Whitman took a number of photographs and lantern slides, chronicling the everyday life of the Chinese people. While in Asia, Whitman traveled to multiple countries including Japan, India and Egypt, also making stops in Europe. Keeping records and taking souvenirs of his trips. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Whitman authored and co-authored a number of science textbooks that included lesson plans and exams. These textbooks were widely used across the country and abroad, they remained relevant for many decades.

Walter George Whitman died in his Orlando, Florida home at age 78 on November 2, 1952, following a heart attack. He is largely recognized as a pioneer and leading force in general science and science education in the first half of the 20th century. 

View Salem State University Archives' collection of postcards belonging to
Walter George Whitman 

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