In 1728, the first Congregational meeting house to be constructed in New Salem (a parish established in 1725 from sections of Lyme and Colchester; it is now the Town of Salem) was built on what is now called Music Vale Road. In 1763 the building was destroyed and a new one erected on the corner of what is now Witch Meadow Road and Route 85. Another building later replaced it on the same site. It was later demolished and the materials were reused in the construction of the current Congregational Church of Salem, built in 1838 and located on the Salem Town Green.
In 1851, Judge Austin O. Gallup (1828-1896) purchased the Greek Revival house and farm at 320 Hartford Road in Salem, where he lived until his death. In the 1860s, Gallup made two additions to the house, which had been built around 1840, by joining structures from other properties. He also added a carriage house in 1866 and a barn in 1867. Fred Washburn purchased the farm from Julia Raymond Douglas in 1915 and in 1919 passed it to Alice Mitchell and her husband Edward, who ran a small dairy farm. Alice served as Judge of Probate and Edward as First Selectman. The farm later passed to their daughter, Margaret Mitchell, who deeded it to her niece, Anne Duncan. Anne and her husband, Joe Duncan opened the Salem Herbfarm in 1997.
In the nineteenth century, Salem was home to what is considered to be the first music conservatory (the first degree-granting school of music, or at least music teaching certificate-granting school) in the United States. Founded around 1835 by Orramel Whittlesey, son of the local Methodist minister Rev. John Whittlesey, the school was first called Mr. Whittlesey’s School, later the Salem Normal Academy of Music, and eventually the Music Vale Seminary. Young women from all over the country came to attend the school. After its original rambling classroom building burned down in 1868, it was replaced by an elaborate Italianate structure. The school closed soon after Whittlesey’s death in 1876 and the main building was destroyed by fire in 1897. The school’s large barn, built c. 1849, does survive. It is typical of an “English barn,” a type also called a side-entry or eave entry barn, a “thirty by forty” (based on its dimensions), a “Yankee barn” or a “Connecticut Barn.” The school‘s farm played an important role for the institution, supplying animals and crops. The Bodman family later owned the Music Vale property and donated much of it to the Salem Land Trust. The barn is now part of what is known as Music Vale Farm. Read the rest of this entry »
Another notable building along Salem Green is the Town House. This structure was originally built in Norwich in 1749 on Washington Street as an Episcopal church, which later took the name of Christ Church. A new Christ Church was dedicated on Main Street in 1791. The current Christ Episcopal Church was built back on Washington Street in 1849. By that time, the original church on the site had been moved away. In 1829, this old building had been sold to the Episcopal Society in Salem. It was moved to Salem Green circa 1831 and reconstructed. It was at this time that the building’s lancet windows and columned portico were added, resulting in an unusual mix of Gothic and Greek Revival styles. By 1840 the church had closed and the building was acquired by the Town of Salem for general meetings. Since 1969, it has been the home of the Salem Historical Society.
Along the town Green in Salem are a number of historic buildings, one of which was built in 1885 as the Central district schoolhouse. In 1938, there were discussions about whether to add to rooms to the existing school or to construct a new building. The latter course was decided on and the nearby three-room Salem School was built in 1940. That building has since been much expanded. The former Center School was later used as a Grange Hall. Read the rest of this entry »
The Capt. Simon Ray House, on Hartford Road, at the corner of Round Hill Road, in Salem was built circa 1750. From April 11, 1899 until September 30, 1905, the Ray House served as the Salem Post Office. Donald McRae was the postmaster.