, Salem, MA


February 12, 2014

Mmmmm ... makeover

New family owners plan to bring candy, ice-cream making processes out into open


“The ice cream making will be in view of the public,” Eric Emerson said. “Ultimately, we want to open up the whole process from start to finish ... because, people are very interested. It’s kind of the Willie Wonka sensation. They like to see the chocolates marching toward the machine that coats them in chocolate.”

To say Putnam Pantry has a history as rich as its candies is an understatement. Not only has Putnam Pantry been a longtime roadside landmark, the property itself holds historic significance.

The core of the shop was constructed from a two-story barn that dates to the 1700s and was once used as a shoe factory. It is adjacent to a First Period house that was the birthplace of Israel Putnam, a Revolutionary War general who was born in 1781 in what was then Salem Village. The house, known as the Thomas Putnam house and built around 1648, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Gen. Putnam was a top commander during the first half of the Revolution, town archivist Richard Trask said, and was credited with uttering the famous phrase “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” during the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775. That is why Putnam Pantry features a “belly-buster” 19-scoop sundae called the Bunker Hill.

The home somehow managed to stay in the Putnam-Emerson family up until the Danvers Historical Society was given stewardship in 1991, Trask said.

Recently, the town rezoned a back acre of land to be conveyed to a nonprofit family trust dedicated to preserving historic elements of the home and the life of Israel Putnam. Eric Emerson, a 12th generation descendant of Putnam, lived there from the age of 5 until he went to college.

Galo Emerson Sr., Eric’s grandfather, opened Putnam Pantry in 1951 on what was then a remote stretch of Route 1.

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