SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

February 26, 2014

City to continue operating Pioneer Village

SALEM — After Gordon College dropped out of managing Salem Pioneer Village last year, there was some concern that local officials wouldn’t be able to find another group to take over the lease — or even that the site could close.

But as it turns out, the city was so successful in operating the tourist draw by itself last year that it intends to do so again this year, and possibly the next. Officials say that means there’s no immediate need for another group to come in and take over the site’s management.

Elizabeth Peterson, who has managed Pioneer Village since last June, said she was able to recoup all of her operating costs last year with money collected from admissions — $6 per adult and $4 per child. The site averaged 70 to 80 visitors each week last summer.

“We did end up coming into the black each month last year, as amazing as that sounds,” Peterson said. “And not by a huge amount, but enough.”

Located in Forest River Park, Pioneer Village was built in 1930. Its 5-acre grounds feature a depiction of 1630s Salem, including a blacksmith’s shop, cottages with thatched roofs and a wigwam.

Gordon College had managed the living-history museum since 2008 but ended the agreement last year in order to focus more on Old Town Hall.

Peterson said that Gordon had been turning a profit by the end of its run. By keeping the admission prices the same — and careful scheduling — she was able to meet all expenses.

“I was surprised; it was great,” Peterson said.

Peterson said the biggest expense the site faces is paying for its seven tour guides, though some of them volunteer their time.

Karen Partanen, director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, said she was proposing in her 2015 budget that the city keep Peterson in control of the site’s operations and that no outside group be solicited to take on a new lease. She confirmed that Pioneer Village used no city funds last year.

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