SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

May 13, 2013

Back to the drawing board

Gordon College will no longer manage Salem Pioneer Village

SALEM — The future of Salem Pioneer Village is up in the air as Gordon College announced this month that it will not renew its agreement to manage the city-owned living history site.

The Wenham college will continue programming and school tours at the village through June.

Mayor Kim Driscoll said she has begun to “explore options” for Salem Pioneer Village — both to keep the site open through the remainder of the summer season and to maintain it long-term.

“I’d hate to see it move backwards, because (Gordon College) has done so much work there,” Driscoll said. “I wouldn’t say anything is off the table. I’m trying to understand what all our options are right now.”

The 5-acre Salem Pioneer Village, off West Avenue, was built in 1930 as a stage set for a city-organized pageant to mark 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 has managed the pioneer village and Salem’s Old Town Hall on Essex Street since 2008.

The college will drop Salem Pioneer Village this year in order to focus its efforts and resources on Old Town Hall, said David Goss, professor of public history and director of Gordon’s Institute for Public History.

“We had to sit down and say, ‘We only have so many resources, so many people. Where can we do our best job?’ ” Goss said. “It was a very difficult decision because I love the village. From a realistic point of view, we can only spread ourselves so thin.”

Making the village work, financially, has always been a struggle and has even caused the site to close in the past, Driscoll said. It’s located outside of downtown and is not within walking distance of the city’s other tourist attractions.

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