Tunnels of Salem on Kitchen Expedition

Watch Chris Dowgin (author of Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City and Sub Rosa) walk Robert Irvine through the tunnels under Salem and explain how they smuggled cinnamon through them to create vast empires of wealth. Dowgin also explains the complicity in which the Custom House and other government officials found themselves within fostering this behavior.

America’s first Millionaires

Robert learns how these tunnels and the spice he uses daily affected the early machinations within our national capital. For instance, they might have led to presidents being elected and being assassinated by America’s first millionaires  Who knew the course of a simple spice could have that much impact on history? The rise of The 1%! Did you? Learn what Robert did by hitting play below.

For more information check out past posts on the Salem Tunnel Report and Sub Rosa on this blog. Above all buy the books Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City and Sub Rosa to find out more! That is to say if you want to learn the real history of America…

Salem Tunnel Report Stuck in Whiting NJ

Well, I was traveling where I found tunnels in Washington DC and Baltimore and Frederick MD. Then the virus put us into shutdown and traveling ended. So my parents’ house in Whiting NJ was a better bet for isolation than my bipolar roommate with a gun for a few months…

While I am here I remember that I have always been interested in tunnels. I have met my old friend Shawn Wirth on that trip to Moneta VA. He recently texted me recalling our trips under Pershing Ave in the storm drain as kids watching out for snakes. Then in my teens, I would head for the Pasadena Terracotta Factory and climb through their air vent tunnels and those in which the fires were lit for the kilns above.

Now the strangest things about tunnels here is, in the middle of nowhere you can find them too! Now when we would walk from fallen cedar tree to tree trying to cross the swamp in between Fox Hollow and Roosevelt City, we would find PVC pipes coming out of the swamp. We used to joke that there were underground military bases there. Now Shawn’s father was a Liteneut Colonel… Did he know something? Who knows.

Today they stick PVC pipes in the ground near swamps to take frog samples, but I believe this is a current means of research not invented until a few years ago.

So here I am 40 years later back in the village. I am heading up Lake Road and I stop at what I always thought was a siding for the old train that used to run in the middle of the road heading to Tuckerton NJ. This was the first time I looked at it. It was a concrete slab with different PVC pipes going deep into the ground through it. One looked like a plumbing stack and the others were white PVC Pipes about 6″ in diameter. Above the slab was a post with two modern electric meters on it? On the other side of the slab was another PVC pipe going into the ground. Then on either end, the two closest telephone poles had two 6″ PVC pipes, each, going into the ground. All of the pipes were open. So naturally, I start remembering the stories me and Shawn made up as kids about the PVC pipes in the swamp. Were these means of supplying air to tunnels or even an underground base?

Did I mention that the main military communication center for the east coast is in town? Plus a few miles down the road is an old Nike silo site which was leaking since 1960?

Back up in Massachusetts in Reading is a National Guard base. My friend had mentioned that during a war game exercise he found a tunnel and had his battalion enter it in hopes of surprising the other team. They thought it might go a 100 yards or so, but they ended up walking a couple of towns away. It connected that base to another Nike silo, the National Guard base in Danvers, and they found themselves exiting on Tremont and School Street in Salem MA. They almost got court marshaled for going AWOL.

So was this a popular trend during the cold war? There are rumors that the communication center on St. Mary’s Ave which is built on a paved octagon is mostly underground.

Then today I found another strange hole. It might just be a place to fix some electrical apparatus for the hot dog hut at Harry Wright Lake, but who knows. It didn’t have a meter, but two switches sticking out of boxes above the large circular metal plate with the trapdoor.

Whiting NJ might be a sleepy hamlet at the northern end of the Pine Barrens, but we have a colorful history!

Part of our township had seen the crash of the Hindenburg that was blamed on our moonshiners trying to shoot down revenue agents (at least that was what New York newspapers thought and the 1975 movie). Our most famous mayor (Harry Wright that the lake is named after) got elected by handing out moonshine off the back of a truck during Prohibition. Our most infamous made precedent in the Supreme Court that evidence used to convict another can not be used against you (he robbed us of 20 million dollars in 20 years and faked his death in Maine; closed casket, death certificate signed by a veterinarian, he was Stephen King’s neighbor, and his twin brother still walks around that town.). We probably had the first elected Black judge in the state because the election was held during deer season. The year I moved off to college and the mayor died… below the hill I was partying on a serial killer was depositing one of many dismembered bodies he was leaving behind during his 20-year spree. Since Whiting sits at the confluence of RT#70, RT#539, and RT#530 (which leads to Philadelphia, New York, the Jersey Shore, and Atlantic City) our various pizza shops owned by Lisanti Foods were a distribution hub for cocaine. It didn’t hurt to have the Chief of Police’s son at the time work with the mob selling it. My housing development was created on December 24th, 1924 by Joseph Parisi of Brooklyn. He planned to make a new city with a rich neighborhood, poor neighborhood,  a church on Block 66 lot 6 behind the town hall, train station, hospital, utility alleys, and all. He thought our town with the train station with three rails was a desired location. He sold 4 houses after cutting all the roads out. One of those was a 24-acre lot to his masseur friends who ran a nudist colony next to my parents’ house. Parisi was head of Teamster local Union 27 who killed other union leaders, was a member of Al Capone’s (Who had a pink concrete castle with tunnels and a murder hut the next town over) Murder Inc., and owned the Arsarco’s mineral pit where the mob disposed of its bodies (One road leading to the mineral pit is called Bone Hill Road)  with the owners of the nudist colony. Supposedly, we have the Jersey Devil running through our woods too…

So military tunnels in Whiting? Who knows.

To read more about tunnels in Salem MA, check out Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City.

 

Finding Community in Frederick Maryland

In our world where there are reports that 70% of the nation report they are lonely, I have left the Witch City to find people who still value each other’s time. I had been living in Salem for almost 30 years and made over 5,000 friends and had some great times with all of them. It used to be a great walking city where a 10-minute walk would take an hour due to all of the conversations you had on the way. Within the last ten years, that has all changed. Now, four days out of the week my only conversation is while one of the great staff at Jolie Tea Co. pours me my Lapsang Souchong. So I am on the hunt for a town where Barney and Fred still see each other daily, even if they get on each other nerves…

So what happened? Is it the 5am alarm, the hour each way commute, the 6 day work week, or the ease of social contact through social media? What drove us apart and what has taken its place. Is it Netflix binging or video games. Or are people just working, sleeping, and running errands on the one day off they get. Is it the belief we have to spend money to socialize…

So I’m on the hunt. On my latest journey through the south, I stopped off at Frederick MD. Frederick was the home of Francis Scott Key. The ninth president of the United States, John Hanson, lived here. If you will remember there were 14 presidents prior to the forming of the Constitution. John Hancock was the 4th president when he signed the Declaration of Independence. Yes George Washington was not the first, but he did travel through this town during the French and Indian War. During the Revolutionary War, Hessians were garrisoned here to block the crossroads from the Patriots’ usage.   Roger B. Taney was also found here, he was the 5th Superior Court Justice that became infamous for his Dread Scott decision. Also, It was a crossroads during the Civil War with one day having Union troops marching through with the next Confederates. To prevent Confederate sympathies, President Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus and arrested local politicians. Also, they had a Civil War hospital museum where they treated troops from both sides of the Civil War. Plus, it had many shops on two long streets, Patrick and Market, filled with good people and even greater items for sale.  The first I entered was The Spice & Tea Exchange where Keith made me a very nice Lapsang Souchong blended tea to start off my journey after he gave me a little history of the town and told me about the big social events they hold down on the river filled with music and people.

Now there were many similarities between Salem MA and Frederick MD; except one has the ocean while the other has the Appalachians. Both had a majority of architecture from the 19th century, but I must say Frederick’s shopping community was larger and much more varied. I believe Frederick did have a psychic, but the most magical place was Smoke Signals. A slight throwback to an old headshop from the 70s. There I met Niko, a fellow Thelemite. We had a good conversation on history, Masons, and magic. 93 and 42 to you Niko! They also had their own Record Exchange. Sam who owned the one in Frederick was probably the friendliest and happiest soul I met in town. He had an eclectic and rare selection of some fine punk and obscure Soul and R&B. Many rare vinyl prints I had seen on his shelf. Now Salem has their own Record Exchange as well with Barrence Whitfield and his large soul and his encyclopedic knowledge of music. Maybe Sam while visiting his son in Boston might just one day step in and meet Barrence when the worlds collide…

 

Another strange coincidence was, tunnels. Now nobody I talked to knew if there were any in town or not, but I had seen many signs. There were many service entrances in the sidewalk. Within Salem, these would be locations where they took the roof off the tunnel and opened up a small section in front of the tunnel entrance to the basement. Why make a second hole in your foundation and why waste a great resource. Very similar to them are basement addresses accessible from the sidewalk. They take the roof off the tunnel once more and utilize a staircase to block the tunnel from going the other direction and use the preexisting door from the tunnel into the basement. Plus they had scores of buildings with exterior chimneys. Exterior chimneys were utilized when central chimneys were more economical because it proved a better way to connect a home to a tunnel. The tunnel would enter through the fireplace arch in the basement allowing the tunnel to exit 3 feet to 6 feet within the basement. This alleviated flashing problems and created a draw system up through the flu to provide fresh air for the tunnel system. Frederick was on a river and was a hub on the railroad. Monocacy River runs into the Potomac and leads to the sea. Within Salem, they were used for smuggling to avoid paying duties, the Underground Railroad, and transportation during inclement weather.  A quick search shows no history of smuggling in Frederick, but most smuggling activities do not show up within public records… Some finds I did come across were that Confederate sympathizers would smuggle goods like quinine and clothing to help out the South.  Also, it would be useful for these sympathizers to meet in private once Lincoln started arresting them.

 

Very much like Salem, walking through Frederick was like walking back in time. A rough estimate I would say there were about 20 square blocks of 19th-century brick homes. A majority of them were attached row houses. Outside of old town was modern communities and the usual cluster of strip malls with major outlets with a very extensive series of bus routes to get back and forth. Their transit center had links to Amtrak and Greyhound.

Good tip. While traveling I have found a black membership at Gold’s Gym for $29.99 a month will get you a locker to store a duffel bag, a shower, and a massage bed to take a nap on.

While I was waiting for that bus to get me to Planet Fitness to drop off my duffel, I stopped in at the Curious Iguana where Elna sold me a book to read while I waited for the bus. The Curious Iguana owners are also the owners of the Dancing Bear where I met Kevin who I kept bumping into as I traveled through town. Now the owners Marlene and Tom England give a portion of the store’s sales each year to international non-profits (more than $51,850 as of December 2018), which is quite impressive! So support them so they can support many others. I also found an old The Darkness comic at Brainstorm Comics and Gaming which Brendan sold me. It was an issue my friend Matt Maguire worked on. Matt’s story also appears in our Winter issue of Arkham: Tales from the Flipside. Hopefully Brendan will be able to buy that house!

Later that night I walked up Market Street and found many street performers. The first I played some flute with was Arthur Harrison from The Cassettes on Theremin, Brady Danger on guitar (Instagram @bradydangermusic), and @eltheviolinist on Instagram. Later I played a little with Myle Voorhees on banjo. We might even get him to write a story for Arkham; Tales from the Flipside

 

Alyssa HardThen  I got to hear Alyssa Hard at Cafe-Nola. She originally sat and listened to me play my flute on the steps of an old bank that closed years ago. I owe her a better performance since my amp was dying…but her performance was top notch. I hope she enjoyed some Robin Ella & the CC String Band, I think it would be up her alley along with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. I sort of like this; I got to listen and play music on the street. I’m used to walking into a bar for 30 years to hear music, but here it was outside. I got into some great conversations with Myle about banjo, community, and friends. I got to talk to a lovely songstress and had Arthur teach me a thing or two. Arthur was kind enough also to give me a ride back to Planet Fitness to get my duffel. We talked about history, electronics, music, and the CIA. He probably gave me the best conversation on my journey.

From my questions, it does seem there is a community in Frederick. Keith informed me about the community that comes out for town events down at the river, Sam says he still is able to see his friends weekly, Myle gets to work and play with his, and Arthur just seems to take out his Theremin out and people just gather to say hello. This might just be a town I might have to return to and find a Couchsurfing host to check it out further. They might of found a way to combat the 70% within a metropolitan area. The houses are said to be in the $350,000 range, with a seedy side coming back into vogue with homes around $150,000.On the other hand, those walking through the bar scenes, did seem younger. It would have been a good indicator if a mix aged population walked by to see if people deep in their careers still have time for each other. So who knows, but it is worth a second look.

Maybe Barney and Fred were just around the corner…

 

 

 

Salem Tunnel Report in Baltimore and Washington DC

George Peabody, Alexander Brown, and Charles Bulfinch

So on my travels looking for community in America, I stumbled on some possible tunnels; well I knew they had to be there, but I still had to find them. Well, at least I found the tell-tale signs; everywhere but Washington D.C. There I walked into a new one.

It all starts in 1795 when Harrison Gray Otis gives architect Charles Bulfinch the contract to build a new statehouse in Boston in the pasture of John Hancock’s house. This was most likely in the area that the tunnels extended from Hancock’s wine cellar. They just had to tap into an old tunnel system and stretch it through the Beacon Hill neighborhood they just purchased from the painter John Singleton Copley who was living in England at the time. The governor and Bulfinch saw the lack of proximity to their advantage and refused to pay the painter for years. To prepare the ground for the new State House Bulfinch erected a funicular railroad to take down the Tremont Hill and dump the dirt within Mill Pond and the mudflats of the Charles River.  While he was doing this, he was digging new tunnels and connecting them to the new manors he was building also. All he had to do was sneak the tunnel dirt into the dirt coming down from the hill.

Did you know Hancock was our 4th and 13th president? Both terms he served before Washington…He was president when he signed the Declaration.

He copied this plan in Salem MA, Newburyport MA, and Washington D.C. The difference in Washington was that there was no water to hide the dirt in front of the Capitol he was hired by President Monroe to rebuild after the War of 1812. So they dug a canal leading to the Capitol so he could hide the dirt in the piles being carted away, then filled in the ditch with water. The canal has since been removed. Maybe while they were creating new tunnels.

Now did you know, that between the Jefferson and Adams wings of the Library of Congress there are 4 layers of tunnels the public is welcome to walk through? Also, you can leave the Library of Congress and head to the Capitol. Once in the Capitol, you can continue to the Hart Senate Office Building. Here are some pictures.

 

Now besides Bulfinch who resided in Salem for a period, there was George Peabody. He and his brother utilized tunnels in Newburyport, MA that Bulfinch built for their dry good store. Then George followed an uncle to the Georgetown section of Washington. Another location rumored to have tunnels. Then Peabody followed a friend he served with during the War of 1812 to Baltimore in 1816 moving their company Riggs& Peabody they formed a year prior in Georgetown.  They moved to Baltimore because it was closer to the slave and cotton markets they were participating in.  In 1829 Riggs retired to NYC and in time his home was incorporated into the US Customs House. The Customs House in Salem Ma was connected to the tunnels, and I will assume the one in NYC was too.

Before moving to New York, Elisha funded the bank of Corcoran & Riggs in Washington, DC, which was organized by his son George Washington Riggs. When the United States sought a loan to finance the Mexican–American War, the Riggs bank was the only institution to bid for the full amount and lent the government $34 million in 1847 and 1848. After the retirement of William Corcoran, Elisha’s son George Washington Riggs and his grandson Elisha Francis Riggs took over the business as Riggs & Co. in Washington. It was successfully run as such until July 1896 when it assumed its present name as the Riggs National Bank. The bank still stands at its original location as PNC Bank. Riggs Bank was the bank of choice for the CIA and the dictators they supported. Corcoran & Riggs had many US politicians and presidents under their influence through their time in operation. Peabody kept close ties to his business partner’s son’s bank.

Peabody also was close to Alexander Brown who founded the B&O railroad in Baltimore. Peabody secured loans from Joshua Bates of Baring Brothers Bank for the railroad. Bates was from Salem as well and his uncle was Thomas Perkins who started the opium empire that grew the Forbes fortune. Baring Brother’s was one of the English banks that profited from loans it secured for the First and Second National Bank after the Revolutionary War and The War of 1812. After both wars with the English, we sold 70% of the debt we incurred to the enemy.

Alexander and Henry Baring married the daughters of William Bingham. William Bingham married Thomas Willing’s daughter. Willing was president of The First National Bank. Bingham was the man who Alexander Hamilton sought advice from to make the First National Bank. The First National Bank lost its charter in 1811 for selling the majority of the loans that congress needed to the British who we defeated in a war. Samuel Ward was Baring’s agent who secured several bribes to many of Salem’s wealthy and politicians so that at the close of The War of 1812 they would ensure a Second National Bank. In which they did and they all became directors of the new bank. So in 1836 Jackson closes the bank for selling 70% of Congress’ debt to England once more after a war with them. So when Peabody secured the loan for B&O, two of Thomas Perkins’ nephews were controlling partners in Baring Brothers Bank.

Also in response to Jackson’s Bank Wars Peabody engineered the 1837 Panic with Lionel Rothschild and created the first bank bailout when he bailed out the Brown Brothers Bank in Liverpool, Alexander’s son’s bank. This was the first of a series of panics, depressions, and great recessions that happen on a 20-year timetable. Peabody & Co. Bank is now known as JP Morgan Bank. JP Morgan and Morgan Stanely were fined for creating the 2008 Finacial Collapse.

Now when I walked around Brown’s Wharf in Baltimore I had seen plenty of tell-tale signs of tunnel activity. First, there were delivery entrances in the sidewalk everywhere in the area. These are created when you remove the roof of a section of a tunnel to give access through the foundation to the basement. Then you block off the tunnel from going any further. Tunnels usually run in front of a store under the sidewalks. Also in the Hats in the Belfry shop, they had a trapdoor. Many times that was an access point to get into those smuggling tunnels. Also, there were locations where they had steps leading to doors under the sidewalk. In some places, these are points in which the tunnel ran into the building that was later converted to a basement entrance by removing the top of the tunnel and blocking it by a staircase and utilizing the tunnel entrance to the basement. Why put a second hole in your foundation if you do not need to?

Peabody and Baltimore are also connected by the library he built which is now part of John Hopkins Univesity. There are many stories of tunnels under the university. Also, there is Hutzler’s department store shoppers’ tunnel under Saratoga Street. It linked the main store with another set of buildings that housed the toy department, garage, and a soda fountain. It is similar to Daniel Low in Salem that has a tunnel that led to its warehouse. Another passage under Calvert Street at Lexington connected the old Federal Reserve Bank with the old Post Office. Through Peabody’s bank, JP Morgan was able to create the Federal Reserve, The Third National Bank. Then there was the tunnel under Federal Hill. Rumors of tunnels exist under Salem’s Colonial hill fort as well. Plus many of the B&O trains had tunnels to run through hiding them from those walking through the city. Then a quick search found tunnels under Lexington Market, The Washington Monument, Westminister Hall, and the Baltimore Basilica.  Here are a few pictures I had found online.

So there are a few connections between Salem and Baltimore that run deep below the surface. Some of them appear even in the game Monopoly that was developed in Salem. Because of George Peabody, Rich Uncle Pennybags is modeled after JP Morgan and the game reflects Peabody’s investment in the B&O Railroad and the Boston and Maine which bought his Eastern Railroad. Also, Peabody dug the first train tunnel in the nation that was attached to an underground train station used by the smugglers in Salem. Alexander Brown seemed to be a good student of his.

If you have any information about the tunnels in Baltimore let us know below in the comment section. If you want to find out more about the tunnels in Salem MA read Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in Salem and Sub Rosa.

 

 

Oliver Cromwell’s Chaplin and his First Church and Robert Irvine’s New Show

Hugh Peter’s Could of Kept his Head if he Stuck to this Church…

Hugh Peters was the fourth priest at the First Church. Peters may have been the first to propose the trial and execution of Charles I and was believed to have assisted at the beheading. This would loose him his head when Charles II regained the throne and executed him for regicide. Above is the building he would of preached in, on its third location where it was used by John Proctor’s son as a tavern and a horse stable. For it is safe to say the first church in America was full of horse shit.

This location is on the same property that John Proctor was hanged on just outside of the photo to the left.

Below are the tunnels under the original location of the First Church and the building above. These tunnels have been used in the filming of Robert Irvine’s new show for the Discovery Channel.

Movie scouts looking for Boston and North Shore locations to film; check out these tunnels! Visit the Salem Smugglers’ Tour to contact Chris Dowgin to make arrangements. Authors who want more information on the tunnels and Salem history are welcome to take the tour .

For more information on the tunnels read Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and other great booksellers like Wicked Good Books, Jolie Tea, The Witch House, and Remember Salem in town. Support local businesses!!!

Horace Mann Laboratory School Closing and the Fate of their Tunnels

A School House Rocks now Closing

The Horace Mann Laboratory School is now closing. In the years past, this building had open access for children to walk from the school to the University to access their gym and cafeteria. Many fond memories, including first kisses, has been had in this tunnel of early love lined with asbestos.

I almost got this location to be filmed in the Flatliners remake when I gave a tour to movie scouts. It also almost made it into Robert Irvine’s new show on the Discovery Channel, but they did not grant permission in time… We did film the episode in Rockefeller’s tunnel instead.

So how will these tunnels be used by the new occupants of the building. Time will only tell? Maybe it will make it into a TV show or movie?

For more information on the tunnels read Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and other great booksellers like Wicked Good Books, Jolie Tea, The Witch House, and Remember Salem in town. Support local businesses!!! Also if you are a TV or movie scout looking for tunnel locations to film contact Chris Dowgin at the Salem Smugglers’ Tour.

Downing Block Tunnel added to Peabody Essex Museum

One of the Country’ Oldest Museums and it Smuggling Tunnels

Here are some of the pictures of the tunnels being connected to the Peabody Essex Museum during their 20016- extension project.

Chris Dowgin sneaking into tunnel leaving Downing Block Tunnel
Back of Downing Block Tunnel facing Charter Street
A tunnel leaving the Downing Block to Essex Street
Yet another tunnel leaving the Downing Block
Heat from the tunnel entrances like this one in front of the old Bernard’s Jewelry Store melt the snow on the sidewalk from the heaters in the basement

For more information on the tunnels read Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and other great booksellers like Wicked Good Books, Jolie Tea, The Witch House, and Remember Salem in town. Support local businesses!!!

Salem Fagin and the First Boy’s Club in America

The First Boy’s Club and Tunnels…

The First Boy’s Club in the country was held in a building attached to this tunnel. In fact, the three locations that the club first resided in were all attached to the smuggling tunnels in Salem MA. The first was the Downing Block next to the Peabody Essex Museum. The second location was in the Salem Lyceum that previously housed a lecture series where Alexander Graham Bell introduced his phone publicly at. The third location was in the old Essex County Bank building built by Charles Bulfinch who became the Architect of D.C. who built all the tunnels under our capitol.

The Boy’s Club learned an important early lesson; keep the kids in a brick building. For the one time they were housed in a wooden building, the Lyceum, they burned it down.  The location where James Russell Lowell introduced the Dante Club’s translation of The Inferno was burned to the ground by these children.

So why was it so important to have these economically challenged children in the building attached to the tunnels? Were they helping the sailors and captains smuggle in town? Were they assisting in the runaway slaves’ attempts at gaining freedom? Or were they run by a Salem Fagin who had them act like the Artful Dodger and break into the homes that also were attached to the tunnels?

Who is to say, but it makes you think…

For more info read Sub Rosa to find out how Salem shaped America and your lives! Available at Remember Salem, Jolie Tea, Wicked Good Books, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com. Also to learn more stories like this first hand, book a tour with the Salem Smugglers’ Tour!

Salem House Press
http://www.salemhousepress.com

Tunnels Under the Old Almy’s and it’s Connection to the Salem Witch Hysteria and More!

Almy, Bigelow, & Washburn

The company was a town favorite in downtown Salem, operating on Essex Street in Salem from 1862 to 1985. Many fond memories are still recalled by locals who grew up shopping there with their parents. Could this famous store at its beginnings have received smuggled goods through the tunnels of Salem from Boston, Lowell, and Lawrence? Was this the first time this location was used for smuggling? First a little history of the famous store and the property’s history.

According to Helen Butler, who married a grandson of Almy’s founder recalls how the store began, “James Fergus Almy was a Quaker who came to Salem from North Adams and started a little store. Meanwhile, from Stowe, Vermont came Lurana Bigelow to Salem and she opened a millinery store. He fell in love with her and when he wanted money for the store, she had capital to give him. The union of Almy and Bigelow was forged when they married.”

Then Walter K. Bigelow became Almy’s business partner and the firm changed its name to James F. Almy & Co. Then around 1869, William G. Webber also became a partner and they renamed the store Almy, Bigelow & Webber, which it remained until Webber’s retirement in 1885. Then followed Calvin R. Annable and E. Augustus Washburn who worked their way up to become partners to make Almy, Bigelow & Washburn. The firm incorporated after the death of James F. Almy in April 1899, with Almy’s wife and daughter serving on the board.

The store was  sold it in 1951 to the Gorin family.

 

Almy’s opened with four employees in 1858 originally at 156 Essex St., then 2 years later moved to 188 Essex St. When they closed they had 75 employees. The Salem store was one of five Almy’s outlets that were closed following the sale of the Almy’s chain to the Stop and Shop Corporation on March 16th, 1985.

The business’ second location was within the West Block. Nathaniel West bought the John Turner III mansion that was built in 1748 next to the Peter Palfrey House, opposite Central Street in 1833. Turner was the one in the family who lost the House of 7 Gables to the Ingersolls in 1782. West bought the property from Judge Oliver. Judge Andrew Oliver (1731-1799) was a judge and scientist who corresponded with Benjamin Franklin and authored numerous scientific essays. His son Peter Oliver was a subscriber to the Salem Common Improvement Fund and one of the subscriber’s who went deranged before 1821. The Salem Common Improvement Fund was a ruse behind a public work project to extend tunnels throughout town and hide the dirt in the Common which had five ponds and a river running to the sea. In April 11, 1817 Peter Oliver went into his house on the corner of Liberty and Essex Street and set it on fire with himself inside, but he lived. I think only a hole remained called “Oliver’s Hole” remained for years in which children played in. It reminds me of the failed RCG Hotel on the corner of Washington and Dodge Streets. Nathaniel West opened the old Turner mansion as a tavern called “The Mansion house” in time for President Andrew Jackson’s visit.  West also bought the Gardener-Pingree House which is famous for the murder of Captain Joseph White in 1830 that inspired the game Clue and the story The Tell-Tale Heart. He had also owned the estate where the North Shore Mall resides now that he lost in a bloody divorce.

Jackson was in town in 1833 to meet with Stephen White on the Common in his home he bought in 1811. The house along with his uncle Joseph White’s home , the Gardner-Pingree House that Nathaniel West acquired, were bought from bribes from Baring Brothers Bank (working for the Bank of England) to create the Second Bank of the United States. Jackson was on a northern tour looking for support for his Bank War which would refuse an early renewal of the bank. The White’s held considerable shares in the bank and were going to suffer a loss; Jackson suffered from stomach ailments (Typhoid) and had to return to Washington early. James Knox Polk would suffer similar ailments as Speaker of the House under Jackson defending his stance on the future of the bank. Later Polk would die from Typhoid 3 months after leaving his tenure as president.

Later the Mansion House would be called the “West Block”. Jabez Baldwin, a Jeweler, who was also a Salem Common Improvement Subscriber had a business in the West Block.  In around 1850 the building burns down. Maybe in 1860 it was a new building ready for Almy’s to move in. In the picture above it looks like the building was made in 1859.

Further in the past we learn more information on this location that Almy’s occupied. Charles Wentworth Upham’s book “Salem Witchcraft,” published in 1867 states,“The ‘Ship Tavern’ was on the ground the front of which is occupied, at present, by ‘West’s Block,’ nearly opposite of the head of Central Street. It had long been owned and kept by John Gedney, Sr….John died in 1685. His widow moved into the family of her father-in-law; and, after his death in 1688, continued to keep house…The tavern, in 1692, was known as ‘Widow Gedney’s.’ The estate had an extensive orchard in the rear, contiguous, along its northern boundary, to the orchard of Bridget Bishop, which occupied ground now covered by the Lyceum building, and one or two others to the east of it.” The Ship Tavern was the defacto town hall. It was where the town already met, provided food and alcohol, and had more firewood in the winter than town hall. The Ship tavern led to the first death during the Witch Hysteria because the owner died leaving the property to his wife.

Born Sarah Warren, she married a prominent man by the name of Robert Prince. He was the brother of a woman who married into the prominent Putnam family who started the Witch Hysteria. Then Robert Prince died in 1674 leaving the tavern to her and the 150 acre farm next to the Putnam’s. His sister believed it should of gone to her and her father-in-law would of loved that acquisition and the influence it would of brought him in town. The widow then married Alexander Osborne, her Irish indentured manservant (who paid off his debt) causing a scandal. Sarah Osborne would be the first to die in jail in Boston from the Witch Hysteria.

Bridget Bishop would inherit a tavern from her second of three husbands, Thomas Oliver, which is on the site of the Salem Five Bank on the corner of Washington and Church Streets. Her orchard was behind that building and ran behind the Ship Tavern, who used to own the orchard under John Gedney Sr., on Essex Street. Now Turner’s Seafood sits in that old orchard on the site of the Lyceum that burned down when the Salem Boy’s Fraternity resided in it.

During the time of the Witch madness, a man had swore bewilderment had happened in his home and looked out of the window seeing Bridget Bishop running away through her orchard. The tale was probably a lie, but today real magic happens on this site for now it is the location of Coven’s Cottage and Angelica of the Angels. Both are psychic parlors and one is owned by real witches. Something that could only be found in Boxford, Ma in 1692.

Now back to tunnels; in the picture below you will see the foundations of these buildings after Almy’s was razed to build the Essex Condominiums and the retail stores below them. In the picture you can see the various bricks used to build the foundations of the Ship Tavern, John Turner III Mansion, and the West Block. In between these bricks you can see sections of bricks no wider than a hallway created with different building materials. These are the sealed tunnels that had led to this important seat of the town at various times.

Tunnels existed in Salem as far back as 1662 at least and around the time in 1655 that John Gedney (another Quaker) built the Ship Tavern on this location; could it have had tunnels connected to it at that time as well? John Turner I house, House of 7 Gables, was connected to tunnels; why would not his grandson keep up the tradition in 1742 when he built his mansion? Could this be a selling point for Nathaniel West who had previously owned the Gardner-Pingree house which famously depicts its secret passages on the board of the game Clue? He also owned his father-in-law’s wharf, Derby Wharf,  and warehouse that was connected to tunnels; it might seem a new home must be connected as a priority before he purchased it. West was also a Salem Common Improvement Fund subscriber. Could of President Jackson in 1833 walked from the Pickering, Mack, Stone House at 21-23 Chestnut Street (he visited Robert Stone who Jackson sent the USS Potomac to blow up Sumatra/Indonesia for, after natives raided one of his ships in 1832) to the Mansion House through the tunnel? Could of Jackson walked to Stephen White’s House also through the tunnel from the Mansion House? In 1860 the Salem Wharf’s were only being used for coal and lumber, but could Almy’s have received smuggled goods from Boston, Lowell, and Lawrence through the train tunnel built by George Peabody, of JP Morgan Bank fame, through the underground train station where Opus Underground is now from Boston? I believe so… What do you think? Tell me below in the comments.

So there is the various history of the store Salem locals loved and the history of the property that was connected to the smuggling tunnel of Salem, MA.

For more information on the tunnels read Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and other great booksellers like Wicked Good Books, Jolie Tea, The Witch House, and Remember Salem in town. Support local businesses!!!