Almshouse Burial Ground Memorial - Salem, Massachusetts

Salem, MA, USA
Collins Cove
Salem, Massachusetts

Today, at last, we bring honor and dignity to the hundreds of souls that were laid to rest along Collins Cove, once residents of Salem's Almshouse and Hospital for Contagious Diseases.

I want to express my deep gratitude to those who helped me give this voice to the voiceless and believed in the importance of recognizing those buried here.

The memorial reads:


Almshouse Burial Ground Memorial
Salem, Massachusetts

This stone represents years of research and advocacy. I've wondered what I would say if this moment arrived and today, like so many things about this project, the words found me.

    “The optimist in me always thought that the ultimate purpose of memorials was that they were dress rehearsals for our collective memory, that in the course of building a shrine to the fallen, we remind ourselves of our broader obligations to the vulnerable. You give the benefit of your empathy and generosity to the memory of someone… and then it becomes easier to extend that empathy and generosity to the lonely and the suffering who are still among us. You get good at meaningful adjacency for the dead, and that makes you better at practicing it on the living.

    But that's not what happens, is it? We go to any length, any length to commemorate one person's death, deploy armies of architects and engineers, then in the same breath look the other way as we step over someone lying on the street.” – Malcolm Gladwell


Our work is not done. May this memorial serve as a reminder to extend our empathy and generosity to the lonely and the suffering among us.

Read More

Salem's Forgotten Almshouse Burial Ground

Frank Cousins, Almshouse on Salem Neck, c. 1890. Digital Commonwealth, Phillips Library.
 Frank Cousins, Almshouse on Salem Neck, c. 1890. Digital Commonwealth, Phillips Library.

Jen Ratliff: Unheralded and Unknown, They Sleep
Salem's Forgotten Almshouse Burial Ground

Salem is often celebrated for its history of millionaire merchants and their mansions, but there is another side to the city’s past, that of Salem’s poorest residents: the aged, disabled, ill, or transient, that were relegated to a harsh life at the City Almshouse.

The last almshouse built in Salem, opened in 1816 on Collins Cove to provide housing and support for the city’s impoverished, many of whom were expected to work the adjacent City Farm to offset the cost of their stay. This site was active for over a century and included a small burial ground which would have served as the only option for those who were unable to afford a funeral or that had no family to claim their remains.

Unfortunately, few know of this land’s former purpose and significance, as there is very little evidence of the Almshouse or its burial ground. Join us to learn more about the important history of this site and how we can preserve its memory.

The Pickering House | March 14, 2021

Jen Ratliff (Archivist and Historian) has dedicated herself to uncovering and sharing the forgotten stories of our collective past. While earning a B.A. from Salem State University in Public History, she created multiple exhibits and digital projects for both Salem Maritime National Historic Site and Salem State University, spotlighting items from their archives and the unique stories behind them. In 2020, she was appointed to the Salem Cemetery Commission, following exhaustive research and advocacy for the memorialization of Salem's unmarked Almshouse Burial Ground. She was recognized for these efforts by Historic Salem, Inc. with their Preservation Award in 2021 and was presented with the City of Salem Seal by the City Council in 2022. Jen received an MLIS in Archives Management from Simmons University in 2022 and returned to her hometown, where she launched Historic Cape Cod, which promotes local history and cultural heritage as a form of preservation advocacy.

(Updated May 2022)

Holiday Gift Guide #2

Salem, MA, USA

Shopping small this holiday season is a great way to support local businesses and find that perfect gift for  the history lover in your life. Salem is filled with shops, museums, and restaurants that all add to the city's unique and magical character. Here are few picks to help you check off your list or treat yourself, while helping our community.

1. The Woman's Friend Society has been supporting and empowering women since 1876. This year they are offering a beautiful limited edition ornament of their famed Emmerton House to new or renewing members that make an end of year donation before December 15th. Don't miss out on this stunning gift and opportunity to continue this impactful mission! 

2. Historic Salem, Inc's annual Christmas in Salem house tours have gone virtual this year! Stay warm and cozy while getting an inside look at the city's most stunning and unique homes and get a little gift while you're at it. Once again HSI has partnered with Black and Brindle to create these adorable mini house plaque ornaments. The perfect present for the history lover or new home owner on your list.

3. Speaking of Christmas in Salem, History by the Sea and Herbal Candle Co. partnered with Historc Salem, Inc. to create a deliciously fragrant candle inspired by this annual Salem tradition. The scent takes cues from the classic holiday orange pomander and has an all-natural essential oil blend of orange, clove, cinnamon, and chamomile.  It’s an uplifting aroma that will keep your holiday season bright and merry! (Psst. Salem residents, use code: SALEMFREE for free Etsy shipping) Bonus: a portion of the proceeds are donated directly to Historic Salem to support their mission. The History by the Sea candle collection is also available at Moody's Home + Gifts

4. Salem has an incredibly rich history with roots in the spice trade. Past centuries saw the city's wharves brimming with exotic spices. Salem Spice on Pickering Wharf helps keep this tradition alive, offering a large assortment of spices. herbs, and blends that you can't help but love. My pantry is filled with their jars but my must-have is their Hawaiian Alaea Salt, once you try it, you'll never want to use another salt again. Get a few for yourself and the cooks in your life.

5. There are so many amazing artists capturing this city's charm but one of my favorite pieces are the historic house paintings on natural wood by Lucia Loveless at Coon's Card and Gift Shop. The amount of detail in each painting is incredible and the resin finish makes them extra durable, so you or your loved one can enjoy them anywhere! Also, did you know Coon's dates back to 1953? You're not only shopping small but supporting a part of Salem's history!

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