SALEM — A new restaurant opens today on hallowed ground.
Turner’s Seafood at Lyceum Hall is located in the same Church Street building where, for two decades, George Harrington ran The Lyceum restaurant, a North Shore dining landmark long before the recent restaurant boom.
This is also the spot where Bridget Bishop, the first victim of the Salem Witch Trials, had her apple orchard, according to local legend.
And this is where Alexander Graham Bell gave the first public demonstration of a long-distance telephone conversation, as is noted on a plaque outside.
But, maybe most famously, this is the site of the old Salem Lyceum, a historic lecture hall where Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, John Quincy Adams and other luminaries of the 19th century spoke to packed houses.
Turner’s Seafood, of course, has its own proud history, which began more than a half-century ago on Boston’s Fish Pier and continues today with a restaurant in Melrose and a seafood processing plant and fish market in Gloucester.
Jim Turner, one of four Turner brothers (along with wives) involved in the family business, thought about calling this new restaurant simply Turner’s Seafood — but not for long. Wherever he went over the past year, Turner said he was greeted warmly and then told directly how much the “lyceum” name means to the city.
“I can’t tell you how many times I heard that suggestion — or threat,” he said with a grin.
Rinus Oosthoek, executive director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce, called Turner’s Seafood at Lyceum Hall a “great name.” Even Mayor Kim Driscoll weighed in on the subject.
“There is such strong affection for the Lyceum in Salem, given the history of the building and the fact that it has long been such a prominent gathering spot in our community,” Driscoll said.