Pioneer Village has a long and interesting history. Built at Forest River Park in 1930 for the tercentennial celebration of Salem's founding in 1630, it was host to a day-long reenactment of the arrival of Governor John Winthrop, which included a replica of his ship the Arbella (seen in an old postcard below) arriving in the harbor. The re-enactment showed the Governor's arrival, the transfer of authority from Roger Conant to Winthrop and the pageantry of daily activities in a Puritan village.
Originally built like a stage set (the reason the cottages and Governor's house have no windows on their backside) the village was scheduled to be torn down after the pageant, however a Salem commission decided that it might serve well as a permanent attraction.
Pioneer Village was the first living history museum in America, and served as a model for other museums such as Plymouth plantation, which it preceded by almost 20 years. The village has been in almost continuous use since June 1930.
Very popular until the 1960's, the village started falling into disrepair in the 1970's for various reasons including declining attendance, a fire, and escalating costs.
By 1985, the City of Salem Park Commission voted to raze the village. However within the year the Commission signed a contract with Pioneer Village Associates, headed by Peter LaChapelle of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site and David Goss of the House of the Seven Gables, to restore and manage the once-popular site. Through their fundraising and restoration efforts the Village was refurbished and re-opened in 1988. A grand reopening of Pioneer Village was held in June, 1990.
The museum underwent another renovation under the supervision of Salem Preservation, Inc. from 2003 until Spring 2008 when Gordon College took over its management along with the Old Town Hall. The Gordon College Institute for Public History and their theater group History Alive! stages performances of their popular re-enactment of the Salem Witch Trials Cry Innocent at the Old Town Hall and manages the village's use as a set for hire for special events, festivals, television shows and movies.