The Salem Maritime NHS was the first National Historic Site in the United States (1938.) Salem is well known for the Witch Trials, but it was one of the most important seaports in American history. Salem was settled by Europeans in 1626 at the mouth of the Naumkeag river. It was the site of an ancient Native American village. By 1790, Salem had become the sixth largest city in the country, and was a world-famous seaport. There used to be 50 ports in Salem at one time. Now there are 3 remaining. Ships came back from sailing the world with sugar, rum, silks, oranges and even exotic animals. The animals were kept in the basement of the Custom House while awaiting sale to zoos, circuses and collectors.
The Visitors Center is a great place to start your visit. There are bathrooms, a film, a gift shop and lots of local info and brochures. You can also get your National Park passports stamped here!
“The site includes the Custom House, Public Stores, Scale House, Hawkes House, Derby House, West India Goods Store, Pedricks Store House, a lighthouse and three historic wharves. The park also maintains and operates a replica tallship, the Friendship of Salem.” (NPS) There are different tours during the day, so you may want to check in before you go to see what is being offered. If you can tour the Friendship do it! You can go above and below deck and see the captain’s quarters.
If you are interested in Maritime history- Boston, the North Shore and the Cape Ann areas of Massachusetts are wonderful places to come visit! Here is a great list of maritime museums you may want to add to your trip. We have been to Boston National Historic Park, The Essex Shipbuilding Museum, Gloucester, Marblehead, Lowell’s Boat Shop, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Peabody Essex Museum many times. They all are worth seeing. The fall is an amazing time in Salem and Labor Day weekend/September Gloucester has their beautiful Schooner Fest.