Salem Common

This eight-acre park was originally a swampy piece of land dotted by five ponds. Early English settlers in Salem drew upon English traditions by setting aside common land for collective use. In the 1600s and 1700s, they used this land as a grazing area for animals. It was also the site of a school and almshouse. The first muster of the East Regiment of the Massachusetts militia took place here in 1637, an event recognized today as the birth of the United States National Guard. In 1801, Elias Hasket Derby, Jr. oversaw efforts to level out the swampy terrain and plant trees. The improved public space was called “Washington Square,” and at its west gate stood an archway decorated with a carving of George Washington by noted woodcarver Samuel McIntire. A replica of this gate can be seen on the Common today. The intricate cast iron fence was commissioned in 1850 and the Colonial Revival bandstand was built in 1926 to celebrate Salem’s tercentenary. The fence and bandstand have been the focus of recent preservation efforts by the city of Salem.

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