, Salem, MA

January 24, 2014

A peek inside the St. Joseph development


---- — SALEM — If you’re interested in urban transformations, you might want to attend Sunday’s open house at 135 Lafayette St.

That’s the new apartment building where St. Joseph Church used to be. It has 51 apartments and space for a retail store and community room.

The open house is from noon to 2 p.m., and anyone who goes will get a chance to look inside a model apartment and tour the building.

If you venture out back by the parking lot, you will notice an old cornerstone with 1911 inscribed on it, which means it’s from the magnificent church destroyed in the Great Fire of 1914.

The open house is free and open to all.

Funeral today

You might not have known Russ Kiernan, but he was quite an important person in the downtown.

He and his brother, Donald, founded the Marine Arts Gallery on Essex Street more than 40 years ago. It grew into one of the city’s best-known galleries, filled with magnificent seascapes and other paintings sold to art collectors far and wide.

Russ maintained a relatively low profile until Peabody Essex Museum launched its $125 million expansion a decade ago. The gallery was right where the museum wanted to build, at the corner of a city street that the museum later acquired.

Try as he might, PEM Executive Director Dan Monroe couldn’t get the gallery to budge from its prime spot. The battle grew acrimonious, with lawsuits filed and Monroe even going public about offering the Kiernans more than $1 million to relocate.

The gallery never moved, and today sits at the best location imaginable — right at the main entrance to the museum.

We write all this because Russ died last weekend at the age of 86. His large family and friends gather today for a funeral Mass at Immaculate Conception Church.

North Shore legend

The late Beverly Seamans was a local treasure.

Her sculptures are at the American Cathedral in Paris, the Museum of Science in Boston and at the entrances to Salem Hospital and Marblehead High.

Her yard at the edge of Marblehead Harbor was one of the wonders of the world, filled with many of her sculptures.

If you get up out of your chair and hurry, you can see some of her work in an exhibit at The House of the Seven Gables that runs through the end of the month. The exhibit also includes her paintings, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Her great-uncle was Frank Benson, the noted American Impressionist and subject of a PEM show a few years ago, and her grandfather was John Benson, a terrific marine artist.

Do yourself a favor and check out this show from the Beverly Seamans collection. For more information, go to

Pesky Pole II

Here’s a follow-up to our story on the missing Pesky Pole at the Salem Diner.

Howard Graves, a retired Raytheon employee from Salem, wrote us to say he was the guy who attached a printed label with the lettering “Pesky Pole” to the coat rack at The Salem Diner that became known as the Pesky Pole.

“It took Johnny almost a week before noticing the name on the pole,” Graves said. “He enjoyed it immensely and pointed to it often.”

Graves, by the way, called the late Pesky a real gentleman.


School Superintendent Stephen Russell peered into his crystal ball Tuesday night, saw a snowstorm coming and called off school on Wednesday.

Imagine his surprise when he rolled out of bed Wednesday morning, raced out into his yard and couldn’t find enough snow to make a snowball. OK, maybe an inch or two fell, but that was about it.

In Russell’s defense — and we are all about fair play here — he wasn’t the only school superintendent to make the wrong call. But he has less of an excuse. With so many psychics at his beck and call, how could he get it so wrong?

We think Lorelei of Crow Haven Corner should be put in charge of calling off school in the future.

Naked city

We get sent ridiculous items all the time. Here’s the latest and most ridiculous.

Somebody sent us something purportedly from Reader’s Digest citing “13 Surprising Marriage Laws.”

Here’s what it says: “It may have moved past the whole witch thing, but the town of Salem, Massachusetts, has retained its prudishness; it’s illegal for a married couple to sleep nude in a rented room.”

This was a serious enough issue to wake our Flashlight team from its slumber and put them to work. They did exhaustive research and made two phone calls.

“I’m not aware of any (such) ordinances,” said City Solicitor Beth Rennard, who politely answered our question and silently prayed we never call her again.

The Flashlight team was not able to reach Juli Lederhaus, general manager of Hawthorne Hotel.

Lucky for her.

Tom Dalton can be reached at