The Point (Salem, MA)

Date Of Visit: February 2, 2019

Location: The Point, Salem, MA

Cost: Free

Parking: Street parking is available in the area and the closest parking garage is at 10 Congress St

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Summary: Rich in history and art, The Point neighborhood is one of the less noticed areas of Salem, MA.

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Salem isn’t just about witches and ghost tours.

Cackling witches, costumed partiers and other tourists flock to the downtown historical Salem area every Halloween.  But, they often drive or walk past one of the more interesting parts of Salem.

The interesting thing about The Point, besides its history and the street art that is scattered throughout the neighborhood, is that is a mere half a mile (give or take) south of the bustling Essex Street and other commercial areas of Salem.

Located off Congress St, The Point encompasses mostly Peabody and Ward Streets.  It is a short walk or drive from the intersection of Congress and Hawthorne streets.  One landmark to look for is Shetland Industrial Park.  You can easily spot the area of Congress St by the murals that are visible from the street.

But, The Point area wasn’t always known for street art.  Once the main area for fish drying along the peninsula, The Point was the center for Salem’s early maritime business and played a critical role in the economic development of the area.  These wooden fish drying “stages” gave the area its original name of Stage Point. Once the peninsula was filled in, the mostly French-Canadian mill workers adopted the name “La Pointe” for the area.

The Point would later become a hub for leather and shoe workshops in the early 19th century, The Point utilized its proximity to the harbor to take in imports such as coal and cotton.  One of the chief companies in this trade was a company founded by several Salem merchants called the Naumkeag Steam Cotton Company (there’s that name again – see previous Facebook post if you’re scratching your head right now).

As the area attracted more and more immigrant workers to the growing industries, boarding houses and company owned tenements (with modest rents I’m sure) were built to accommodate the growing population.

Sadly, the area would be destroyed by the “Great Fire of 1914” which destroyed 1,376 buildings and made over 18,000 people homeless or jobless.  Naumkeag Steam Cotton Company remained there, though.  At least until a wildcat strike in 1933 which highlighted the tensions between management and the workers.

Eventually, the Naumkeag business began to move their production to South Carolina in the 1940s and the company closed in 1953.  I’ve always found it interesting how the demographics of the various areas in New England (and the country) shift with the changing business landscapes.  As the Naumkeag company began to close mills, the French-Canadian people began to migrate.  In their place, new immigrants, chiefly from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.  This diverse community exists largely in the area.  The name of the area changed yet again to “El Punto.”

Murals and street art are spread throughout the “El Punto” area.  One of the first works of art you may notice is this mural on the side of a business.

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From the Congress St entrance to The Point, there are two streets.  Most of the art is on these two streets.  On Peabody Street there is a series of works of art along a fence created by artists in the area.  Unfortunately, the shadows were a little tough to work around and I was working on a tight schedule so I wouldn’t wait for better light.  This is a prime example of why mid day light is one of the worst times to photograph, although it is a common time for people to go out and photograph because you can’t always shoot during the blue or golden hours.  So, you work around the elements.  Luckily, I did have some cloud cover for some of the shoot which helped.  Also, the streets are very busy with traffic, so do take care if you go and parking is tight on this street.  I love how many of the murals look like art you might see in a museum or in a book.

I had to take some of the photos from unusual angles due to the parked cars on the streets and because of the areas where some of the murals were located.  For instance, this work of art of a woman with a chicken was located at the corner of a building which didn’t have a wide enough walkway to photograph from.  There were actually many murals on the buildings on Peabody and Ward streets.

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There were several spots on the buildings like this.

These murals on the apartment buildings in the aea and businesses were easier to photograph from the street.  I especially like the art that has a three dimensional feel to them.

The murals are not just on Peabody and Ward streets though.  In fact, you have to hunt for a few of the street art (some of which may technically not be in The Point area).

These works of art were located in an alleyway off Lafayette St.  There were lights strung up between the buildings in this alley.  I can only imagine they look even prettier, and are more fun to photograph, during the evening hours.  Mental note, come back for some evening photography another time.

And this lone mural was located on an unnamed (or at least there wasn’t a sign for the street) adjacent to Ward St.  Sometimes I wonder how annoying it must be for people who live in these buildings or in the area to have people stop by to take photographs.  But, I will also mention how on my many excursions to this area I have never been bothered.  People are both friendly and, I assume, used to seeing people in their neighborhood taking photos.  Naturally, I do try to be respectful and not spend too much time taking shots.  Despite the good nature of the people there I can’t help but feel like an intruder of sorts.

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The Point is not just a place for art, though.  There is also a park at The Point, logically called Peabody Street Park (15 Peabody Street).  The park has trees, benches, a jungle gym and some pretty views from the Salem Harbor Walk.

There are also ceramic works of art from that appear to have been made by children that line the walls in the park.

Birdhouses are placed in some of the trees at the park.

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There is also a mural from the downtown Salem area across the river which is visible from the Salem Harbor Walk.

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This mural is on a business located on Derby St not far from the Point.  It shows just how close the busy tourist area is to the largely unnoticed Point area.

With its beautiful works of art, pretty views and charm, The Point is definitely one of New England’s hidden gems.

Similar Places I Have Visited:

Cat Alley (Manchester, NH)

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Founders Park(Hingham, MA)

Date Of Visit: January 12, 2019

Location: intersection of South Street and North Street, Hingham, MA (about 30 mins southeast of Boston, MA and about 1 hour northeast of Providence, RI)

Hours: Accessible 24 hours a day

Cost: Free

Parking: There is parking available at on the streets and a parking area near the park

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: benches to sit on, sculpture, plants and flowers

Summary: Founders Park in Hingham, MA, is a small sitting area with flowers and a sculpture

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Sometimes “hidden gems” are in plain sight.

While driving to Hull (more from that visit to be posted later), I almost drove right past this little park. But, eventually, I found it.

What the park lacks in size it makes up for in charm. With its benches and trees, plants and flowers this park is a wonderful place to sit and rest or contemplate.

Dedicated in 2008, Founder’s Park, Founder’s Park was constructed without the use of tax payer funds. After the MBTA Commuter Rail Tunnel that runs behind the area where the park is located, the the Garden Club of Hingham raised funds for the creation of the park. The Garden Club continues to care for the park.

The highlight of the park is the sculpture “A Bale of Turtles, a Croak of Frogs” by David Phillips. One of the details I noticed is that some turtles are bronze colored while others are green. I also like the little turtle trying to climb up the side of the rock.

Born on January 8, 1944 in Flint, Michigan, Phillips relocated to Cambridge MA in 1970. He has been an active participant in the New England art scene ever since. According to Phillips’s website, he has 13 sculptures dedicated to different parks and spaces in New England including this one. He has several more sculptures displayed throughout the states and abroad.

The one downside to the location of this park is the lack of parking. In fact, parking in general is fairly scarce in this area. Due to the narrow size of the road, there isn’t any street park allowed on South Street (the most direct route to the park) and, while there is parking allowed on some of the streets nearby it is sparse. There is a small parking area for patrons of a nearby shop (which is where I parked since I was only going to be there a short time). But, if you live nearby it would be a very good place to walk to and maybe take your pup.

Similar Places I’ve Visited:

911 Memorial Park (Westfield, MA)

Rotary Common Park (Nashua, NH)