Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Sad State of Affairs

After a 5-year-long hiatus from blogging about Pioneer Village, I felt compelled to make one last, follow-up entry. I recently made a trip to the village, to see how it was doing. After Gordon College gave up managing the village, management fell back to the city of Salem. They appointed Elizabeth Peterson, manager of the Jonathan Corwin House (Witch House) to oversee it's continuing operation and maintenance. She did a pretty good job of it considering the city gave her very little money to work with, and the place was in dire need of some very expensive capital repairs. They did some events there, such as the Salem Spice Festival which were moderately successful, and it continued to be a venue for film companies and other activities. But, lacking any major funding, the property itself continued to languish, which brings me to the latest.

A city engineering project that is supposed to resolve major flooding issues plaguing Canal Street is doing so by redirecting the water through the area of Forest River Park, and specifically, right through Pioneer Village.

These images were taken on February 23rd of this year.  As you can see, the fence which surrounded the Village has been taken down. There is some kind of dam-like structure where the entry path used to be. The main structures are visibly run-down and need of repair. the back field (which held the dugouts), appears to have been completely dug up and the structures removed or destroyed. Frankly it all looks a bit sad.

It is not clear when this construction will be completed, or what the village will look like when it is.
With the threat of rising sea levels and recent storm surges, I have to wonder if the Village will ever re-open. There has been some rumors of relocating the Village somewhere else in Salem, but this has so far been talk-only.
The Village has always had the potential to be a major tourist attraction, showcasing early Puritan colonial history, but it has been plagued by neglect, lack of promotion, uneven management, and poor-to-nonexistent  funding. Salem seems to have a love-hate relationship with the village; they seem to like having it, but don't want to pay for it, or know what to do with it.

Unless the City of Salem gets serious about saving Pioneer Village, and most importantly, commits to securing funds to support it's restoration and ongoing maintenance, this could be the end. It would be a shame if this is the end of Pioneer Village after 88 years as a Salem attraction.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The New England Pirate Faire and Pioneer Village: Salem 1630 Bid Farewell to Gordon College


Pastimes’ beloved family-friendly show returns to Salem June 29 & 30

Pastimes Entertainment of Revere returns to Pioneer Village: Salem 1630 for the New England Pirate Faire, the most popular event in the historical attraction’s 83-year history.

Families traveled from across New England to attend the 2012 Pirate Faire, a swashbuckling adventure that took place within the charming recreation of a 17th Century Salem settlement and became the most successful event for Gordon College’s Department of Public History, which this month ends its stewardship of the site.

“We want to send Gordon College off in grand style,” said David Stickney, executive producer of Pastimes Entertainment of Revere. The department’s management of the village ends on June 30, and on July 1 the City of Salem assumes management duties.

Pastimes will present the original adventure, “Felicity Dane and the Diamond in the Rough.” In this family-friendly interactive adventure, a plucky young girl finds herself an unlikely ally to Captain Anne Bonney as she searches for the legendary Windjammer Diamond. Unfortunately for them both, several other pirates are also hunting for the lost treasure -- among them, none other than Blackbeard himself.

In addition to the thrilling story, the day will feature interactive scenes that will make the audience part of the adventure, black powder and cannon demonstrations, pirate games, the unique merchants that make up the Tortuga Marketplace, food and refreshments, and live music.

The New England Pirate Faire will be held on Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30 from 10 AM to 6 PM both days. General admission is $14 ages 12 and up, youth admission is $10 for children ages 4 to 11, and children 3 and under are free. Members of the military and seniors receive a $2 discount at the box office with proper ID. Free on-site parking is available.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

End of the Road?

The 2013 season at Pioneer Village may be the last one and this may be my last post for this blog. Below is an article that appeared in the Salem Evening News this week.

Ken Yuszkus/Staff photo Cheri and Alexei Grishin and their 10-year-old daughter, Natalia, walk among the buildings at Salem Pioneer Village, a living history museum that has been maintained and run by Gordon College for the past four years. The school has announced that it will not renew its agreement with the city to manage the site.

May 13, 2013

Back to the drawing board

Gordon College will no longer
manage Salem Pioneer Village

SALEM — The future of Salem Pioneer Village is up in the air as Gordon College announced this month that it will not renew its agreement to manage the city-owned living history site.
The Wenham college will continue programming and school tours at the village through June.
Mayor Kim Driscoll said she has begun to “explore options” for Salem Pioneer Village — both to keep the site open through the remainder of the summer season and to maintain it long-term.
“I’d hate to see it move backwards, because (Gordon College) has done so much work there,” Driscoll said. “I wouldn’t say anything is off the table. I’m trying to understand what all our options are right now.”
The 5-acre Salem Pioneer Village, off West Avenue, was built in 1930 as a stage set for a city-organized pageant to mark the 300th anniversary of the arrival of Gov. John Winthrop to Massachusetts’ shores. With a blacksmith’s shop, wigwam and thatched-roof cottages, the site is meant to depict Salem as it would have appeared to settlers arriving in the 1630s.
Gordon College has managed the pioneer village and Salem’s Old Town Hall on Essex Street since 2008.
The college will drop Salem Pioneer Village this year in order to focus its efforts and resources on Old Town Hall, said David Goss, professor of public history and director of Gordon’s Institute for Public History.
“We had to sit down and say, ‘We only have so many resources, so many people. Where can we do our best job?’ ” Goss said. “It was a very difficult decision because I love the village. From a realistic point of view, we can only spread ourselves so thin.”
Making the village work, financially, has always been a struggle and has even caused the site to close in the past, Driscoll said. It’s located outside of downtown and is not within walking distance of the city’s other tourist attractions.
“(Gordon) was terrific in terms of bringing it back to life, but it’s really hard financially to make it work for them,” Driscoll said. “We’re glad to be keeping them at Old Town Hall.”
“We’re not in any way divorcing ourselves from our commitment to the city of Salem. We’re just trying to have a more realistic and doable agenda,” Goss said. “Running two historic sites was a pretty ambitious undertaking. It finally reached a point where we had to decide where to place our greatest effort.”
Despite its location, attendance at the village has risen steadily in recent years, Goss said. The village saw 12,000 visitors last year — half of whom came during the Halloween season.
Since 2008, Gordon College opened the village to the public on weekends through the summer and fall; ran living history programs and special events, such as a pirate-themed day; and did educational programming for school, Scout and other youth groups.
Gordon College had signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the city, Driscoll said — the city did not pay Gordon to manage the property or receive any revenue from its operation.
Last week, upon learning of the college’s decision, Driscoll said her “initial reaction” is that the city would not run the village itself.
“We’d like to find a way to make it work,” Driscoll said. “It would be great to have another nonprofit running it, managing it. Initially, our priority is short-term, something for the summer.”
“My preference is to keep it open this summer, but it’s not lost on me how hard that is,” she said.
Any long-term contract to run the village would have to go out to bid, she said. The issue will be discussed at a meeting of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission later this month.
Salem Pioneer Village is an extension of Forest River Park.
Numerous improvements have been made at Salem Pioneer Village during Gordon College’s tenure, including replacing broken windows, re-thatching roofs, reconstructing the fences around the property, building bridges over two brooks at the site and replanting gardens.
The wigwam has been rebuilt from the ground up, and the blacksmith’s forge has been restored and is once again functional, Goss said.
Gordon College ran the village with a staff of six, plus volunteers, he said. The site has 12 buildings, including five Colonial houses, two dugout structures with log roofs, the wigwam and the blacksmith’s shop.
“I’m very hopeful there will be a successor that will step in and continue these programs,” Goss said. “...The village is in pretty good shape and whoever takes it over will benefit from that.”
At Old Town Hall, the college will continue to run its first-floor museum devoted to Salem history and the “Cry Innocent” seasonal drama production.
The Salem Museum saw 30,000 visitors last year, Goss said.
They’re repainting Old Town Hall’s interior this month and opening a new exhibit this spring on Parker Brothers games, he said.
“We’re very committed to trying to tell the story of Salem,” Goss said. “(The decision to leave Salem Pioneer Village) is not a turning away from Salem, or in any way lessening our commitment to Salem.”
Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.

Monday, December 3, 2012

BMW, “New Broom”

As we have mentioned here before, Pioneer Village has served as location for several movies, television series and documentaries. Add to that list web commercial. Below is a link for the director's cut of BMW web commercial made for the Halloween season. It was written and Directed by Chad Carlberg, a Salem resident, and also stars several familiar faces from Salem.

Friday, November 16, 2012

2012 Season Concludes

The regular tourist and post-season school tours at Pioneer Village have ended, and the Village is closed for the winter. The Village officially closed on November 16 and will re-open in the spring.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day Weekend Potluck

Friday September 31st marked the occasion of the first Pioneer Village/History Alive! staff potluck.
 Administrators, directors, historical interpreters and their families and friends all gathered for an evening of period food, drink and music. There were several 17th-century Puritan delicacies to be enjoyed including a cucumber sallet, sweet chicken stew, beans and sausages, pumpkin pie, and roasted pork.

Village blacksmith Mr. Snitch (Kevin Sternweiss) and Director of Museum Studies and Scholar-in-Residence with the Institute for Public History, David Goss, provided period sea-chantys on the guitar.

The event was organized by Pioneer Village site director, Marc Ewart. Hopefully this will become an annual tradition!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New England Pirate Faire Draws Record Crowds

The New England Pirate Faire which ran last weekend (August 11-12), drew some of the largest crowds in the park's 82-year history with well over 1,000 people in attendance over the two-day weekend, according to David Goss, Director of Museum Studies and Scholar-in-Residence with the Institute for Public History at Gordon College. This in spite of the somewhat dodgy weather forecasts for both days.
Crowds of people, many of them families with young children, came from as far away as New Jersey to celebrate all things piratical. The combination of scripted scenario, variety acts, merchants and food vendors, plus the historical setting of Pioneer Village itself, helped to make the weekend a success.
Talks are already underway for a 2013 show.