Salem Willows Arcade sign

Travel Guide: Massachusetts, Salem Willows, and Historic North Shore Region

Being from New England, especially being from the Greater Boston area of Massachusetts. However, I tend to forget about the abundance of history in the area. Often, I think of Western Europe as having a monopoly on world history. Due to its history spans centuries. However, I forget about all of the history of New England. Also, I tend to neglect the historic North Shore region of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts is known as the da facto capital of New England. However, the city of Boston is the official capital, and largest city, of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Additionally, Boston was the county seat of Suffolk County, Massachusetts. Regardless, most county boards of commissioners were abolished in 1998, 1998, and 2000 in Massachusetts.

Only a few counties still hold a board of commissioners in the Commonwealth, such as Plymouth County. Furthermore, the County District Attorney’s office, Sheriff’s Department, Commissioners of Deeds, and County Treasurers office remain. There is just not a commission that they report to. Regardless, they report to the Governor’s office on Beacon Hill instead.

During its day, the Suffolk County Commission granted executive authority to the Boston City Council. However, the only other three cities in the county are Revere, Chelsea, and the town of Winthrop. Additionally, the latter has actually been a city since 2004.

Chelsea was governed as a strong mayor and city council form of local government throughout most of its history. Although, for a brief period of time in the early 20th century the city was run by a city council and manager. The time period was after the first Great Chelsea Fire.

However, it would then permanently switch back to a City Council and Manager form of local government. It was then after the city came out of receivership in 1996.

History of Boston, Massachusetts

Boston's Defense Industry Corridor near Essex, Middlesex, and Norfolk

Revere is a ran by a strong mayor and city council form of local government, as is Boston. However, the Boston City Council has recently issued a motion to change the city charter again. The most recent change was in the early 1980s. The potential future change would vest more power into the legislative branch. It would then remove it from the executive branch.

When the general population thinks of New England or Massachusetts, Boston is usually the first municipality that comes to their minds. However, a lot has happened in the surrounding regions or suburbs.

Initially, the suburban cities and towns of Boston were tiny farming communities or booming mills town. Furthermore, in Post World War II, years highways were built, which was during the urban exodus. Also, the surrounding regions opened up with massive developments and urban sprawl. Rt 128 became a high-tech corridor and Rt. 495 became a Defense Industry Corridor. The surrounding counties became more populated, such as Essex (north of Boston), Middlesex (west of Boston), and Norfolk (south of Boston).

The North Shore Region

Essex County, and the region, are known to be very historic. Salem is best known as the historic city of Salem, especially the downtown, Pickering Wharf, the Salem Willows, and Winter Island neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Cape Ann, which consists of Gloucester, Rockport, and Essex is historic. Additionally, Ipswich is noted for the birth, and perfection, of fried clams. Also, Saugus is known as Iron Town, because of the Saugus Iron Works.

As noted at the beginning of the article, I tend to overlook history in New England and Massachusetts. However, I especially overlook history in the North Shore of Massachusetts. The region is my home town of Revere’s direct neighbor. Although, the 2010s Great Recession Years and the early 2020s Pandemic has changed my view on the historical value of the North Shore. I would like to share the historical value of the North Shore with my readers, which is a diamond in the rough.

North Shore Region of Massachusetts

I will begin the article with a general description of Greater Boston’s North Shore. North of Boston reported that the North Shore region is approximately 30 minutes from Boston and Suffolk County, or the hub. The area ranges from small inns to large hotels, which includes more than 5,000 rooms or spaces, as well. Additionally, the area includes lighthouses, museums, historic homes, and beaches along the Atlantic Coast of the United States.

Essex County, Massachusetts is the radius that travels from Boston, or the Hub, and Southern New Hampshire. Another name for the region is the North Shore of Massachusetts.

The municipality of Lawrence is a former mill city, which was an early New England industrial center. Ipswich is known for the Ipswich fried clam. In addition, Salem is known for the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. All three cities are well-known cities and towns that are located on the North Shore.

Another North Shore community is Marblehead, which is the Yachting capital of the world. In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy were born within the concentration.

Within Essex County

Essex County

NewEnglandTravelPlanner reported that some of the highlights within the region include

Manchester By the Sea, Rockport, Gloucester, Ipswich, Essex, Marblehead, and Historic Salem, Massachusetts. In addition, Manchester By the Sea is a quaint and historic beachfront community. Rockport is a concert town and a well-renowned artist colony. Ipswich is known for being the birthplace, which perfected, the fried clam. Essex is known for its 35 antique shops and its past colonial trade with Africa and Asia. Marblehead is known for its yachts that dock at its historic harbor. Finally, the lore of witchcraft draws flocks of tourists to the Witch City at Halloween.

The golden age of the Salem Willows

Salem Willows Arcade

The Salem Willows Arcade reported that the Salem Willows is 35 acres of a pristine and historic waterfront park. Moreover, the park itself is named after white willow trees. The trees were planted in richness in the radius. They were planted in 1801. Patients from a nearby smallpox hospital could then visit a shaded walk.

However, in the 20th century, the area became glamorous and glitzy. Many residents of Boston then flocked to the area to escape the congested area in the summer heat. Newly created streetcars took the urbanites to the area of Essex County. Revere Beach was a similar concept, which is a section of nearby Suffolk County.

The neighborhood is linked to the Jazz Age. The jazz age occurred in the first half of the 20th century. Once a young Duke Ellington performed at the Charleshurst Ball Room in 1923However, the area’s fame in the era would be cemented. Also, Louis Armstrong and Count Basie performed at the venue. The former venue is now the Willows Casino Arcade.

In the year 2021, the Salem Willows Park is still a perfect summer refuge for families, locals, and tourists that seek to escape modern-day life and pressures. In addition to its history, the Salem Willows offers tourists the chance to experience many picnic grounds, views of the coast of the North Shore, and the Historic Salem Harbor, Tennis or Basketball courts, a public pier where boats can temporarily dock, and a bandshell which is a performance area. Moreover, the city of Salem owns and operated the historic 35-acre waterfront park.

Nostalgic memories of the North Shore and the Salem Willows

Salem Willows

In the summer of 2007, which was right before I attended my first semester of college at North Shore Community College in Lynn, I first discovered the Salem Willows. At the time the Salem Willows, or just the Willows, was hosting the Salem Jazz and Soul Festival at their bandshell. Also, a ferry would sail from the pier and travel to the Boston Harbor Islands at least one night during the Summer.

I clearly remember walking the Willows boards walk one night during the Salem Jazz and Soul Festival. Hobbs’s Ice Cream Parlor is located at the end of the strip, which initially opened at the close of the 19th century. However, it is not the oldest ice cream parlor in Massachusetts. Richardson’s has been in existence since the 17th century when the New England Dominion was an administrative union of British colonies under the royal crown.

When the Salem Willows sand Essex County was in vogue

In its heyday, the Willows was a pristine and fashionable part of the City of Salem, and Essex County, Massachusetts. The boardwalk was a prestigious restaurant row in the region, much like Hanover street, Newbury Street or Tremont are in the Hub region of Massachusetts, or Suffolk County, today.

However, in the 1980s the area lost its glamour, prestige, and allure. Crime rates rose, property values declined, and the area became dangerous or unsafe, much like the neighboring cities of Lynn, and the Methuen, Lawrence, and Haverhill area of the Bay State region and county.

Regardless, much like Revere Beach in Suffolk County, or Coney Island in Brooklyn. The area was rediscovered by the younger generations after the turn of the Millennium Renaissance. Life would then become economically rejuvenated in the Salem Willows. The new patrons could not afford the high hotel room prices in Cape Cod and the islands. Meanwhile, a similar trend occurred in other parts of the county and region in the commonwealth, such as Gloucester in Cape Ann.

The diamond in the rough

As I stated at the beginning of the article, I am from the Greater Boston area of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Hence, I tend to forget about the history of the metropolitan region. In addition, Greater Boston spans from Rhode Island to Southern New Hampshire, and Suffolk County to Worcester County, Massachusetts.

Also, I realize that Suffolk County does not have a monopoly of early U.S. history. Nor does it have a monopoly over all periods of New England history. Some of the historic places and events that I did not mention in the article were in the regions surrounding Boston, or the Greater Boston suburbs. For example, the Battle of Chelsea Creek (the first naval victory of the American Revolutionary War) occurred in the adjusted city of Revere.

Additionally, the first public beach in the United States of America is located in the waterfront suburb of Revere, which is in the northern region of Suffolk County. Moreover, Lynn is the largest city in Essex County. Additionally, it is known for its former downtown textile district that was largely engulfed in flames in 1982.

Also, a similar district of junkyards was known as the Rag Shop District. However, it went up in flames twice in the early 20th century and again in the early 1970s. I did not have time to explain these places and events further in the article. However, I will further describe them in future articles.

Evolution of Essex County and the North Shore Region of Massachusetts

The county in the commonwealth that I focused on most was Essex County. Cape Ann, Historic Salem, Saugus, and Ipswich are a few very historic communities in the North Shore region. Additionally, the Salem Willows is an especially historic neighborhood in an especially historical city and county or region of Massachusetts.

I have never realized how fortunate I am to live in a direct radius from a historic concentration. The North Shore is a region, county, and collection of many historic communities that form a very broad and wide array and corridor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

History of Boston, Massachusetts

Boston interferes with Essex County, and the North Shore interferes with Suffolk County. In the early 1960s, during the urban exodus, many Bostonians migrated to the North and South Shores of Massachusetts. In addition, the exodus was the result of the automobile, and the advent of the highways.

Prior to the exodus, the North and South Shore were mostly small farming communities. However, there was a civilization, and a history of human settlement, in the North Shore before the early 1960s. In essence, the 1692 Salem Witch Trials, the Saugus Iron Works, and the invention and perfection of the Ipswich fried clam were created and pioneered in the historic North Shore, generations before the mid – 20th century. In conclusion, the communities to the north of Boston, and south of Southern New Hampshire, are diamonds in the rough.

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