About

Salem Custom House

The Salem Heritage Trail guides visitors from around the corner and around the world through over 400 years of Salem history. The themes of the trail bridge connections from the land’s earliest settlement to the Salem we see today with focuses on local Indigenous Peoples, Colonial Salem and the Witch Trials, the Age of Sail, Industrial Heritage, Abolitionism and African American Stories, Immigrant Experiences, Religious Diversity, and Contemporary Salem.

Created in the 1980s, the Salem Heritage Trail was developed to be a self-guided walking trail to help visitors experience Salem’s historic sites and navigate the downtown district. Intended to evoke a brick line like Boston’s Freedom Trail, the Salem Heritage Trail was painted as a red line on the sidewalk. Over time, the trail became known as “The Red Line.”

Salem Lighthouse

Today, we recognize the phrase, “Red Line,” has a negative connotation and evokes a dark period in our history when redlining was a discriminatory practice that denied financial services to people based on race, ethnicity, or demographic. As a community that strives for inclusion, maintaining a component of our downtown that makes members of our community uncomfortable is not acceptable.

In 2020 the City of Salem, Destination Salem and partners in the community began a strategic revisioning of the Salem Heritage Trail that will include repainting the line in a new color, removing references to “The Red Line” from publications and digital media, and developing inclusive interpretation of sites along the Salem Heritage Trail. We believe the Trail is an excellent way to introduce visitors and residents to the many layers of Salem’s rich history and look forward to improving on the trail’s original goal: to help people experience and learn about Salem.

For more information, contact Destination Salem at info@salem.org

Historic Sites

The Salem Heritage Trail is a tool for exploration of historic Salem. Hop on the trail in the middle or on one of the ends, and follow it through historic downtown Salem to the edge of the McIntire Historic District and along the Essex Street Pedestrian Way to Derby Street and the Salem Waterfront District.

  • Charlotte Forten Park

    Built on land reclaimed from the South River, this plot has historically been the site of many wharves and warehouses,…

  • Salem Common

    This eight-acre park was originally a swampy piece of land dotted by five ponds. Early English settlers in Salem drew…

  • East India Marine Hall

    The venerable granite façade of the East India Marine Hall, erected in 1825, is the nucleus of the Peabody Essex…

  • Derby Square

    Old Town Hall, built in 1816 and 1817, is the oldest surviving municipal building in Salem. This desirable stretch of…

  • Salem Witch Museum

    During the Salem witchcraft trials in 1692, this site was home to Reverend John Higginson, the minister of Salem’s First…

  • Charter Street Cemetery

    The oldest settler cemetery in Salem, the Old Burying Ground was begun by 1637. The town selected a point that…

  • The House of The Seven Gables

    “Half-way down a by-street of one of our New England towns, stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely-peaked gables...”…

  • Corwin House

    Essex Street, which runs beside you, was once an indigenous pathway along the peninsula of Salem from the woods to…

  • Salem Maritime National Historic Site

    On March 17, 1938, Salem Maritime National Historic Site was the first national historic site established by the National Park…

  • Witch Dungeon Museum

    The English settlers knew that their presence in Salem immersed them in a web of global conflicts. Fearing reprisals from…

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