SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

July 20, 2013

Salem keeps Pioneer Village open

Weekend tours began this month

SALEM — More than 60 people visited Pioneer Village last weekend, the first run for city-led tours of the living history site.

Gordon College decided this spring not to renew its lease to manage the site, leaving the city to take over operations at the village in Forest River Park.

Numbers the first weekend “exceeded my expectations,” said Elizabeth Peterson, who also manages the city-owned Witch House.

Costumed guides are now leading three tours each Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Tour tickets will be sold at the Witch House; those who tour both the Witch House and Pioneer Village will receive $2 off Witch House admission.

Peterson has written a tour script based on the 17th century journals of John Winthrop, Massachusetts’ first Colonial governor, and has negotiated with the Salem Trolley to operate a shuttle to Pioneer Village at 2:30 p.m. on tour days.

“It’s a critical site to maintain and dignify with the proper upkeep and attention it deserves,” Peterson said.

Said to be America’s first living history site, the 5-acre Salem Pioneer Village was built in 1930 as a stage set for a city pageant marking 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 had managed the village and Salem’s Old Town Hall on Essex Street since 2008, but decided this spring to focus its efforts and resources on Old Town Hall. The Wenham college ran programming at the village through June.

Over the last six weeks, Peterson, Mayor Kim Driscoll’s office and Karen Partanen, director of parks, recreation and community services, worked on plans to keep the village from closing.

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