SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

February 4, 2014

Letter: A small street with an interesting history

To the editor:

Some of the smallest streets have the most interesting history. Walter Street is a good example:

According to Salem historian Sidney Perley, the street was laid out by Lydia Walter in 1801 through her land in North Salem. At first it was called Walter’s Road, changed in 1810 to Walter Street.

Although the street bears the name of Lydia’s husband, the Rev. William Walter, whose career spanned two of Boston’s churches, its ties to Salem history are strong: Lydia was a Salemite of the Lynde family, her grandfather having served as chief justice of Massachusetts from 1729 until he died in 1745.

As was customary, the land along Walter’s Road was divided into lots and sold. In 1807 an ad in the Salem Gazette announced “Two House and Garden Lots in the Northfields, being No. 6 and 7 on the west side of Walter’s Road . . . very eligible situations for house lots or garden grounds, for sale by Lynde or William Walter.”

Walter Street was first listed in the 1842 Salem directory. By the late 1800s it had acquired some unusual residents, notably the well-known Salem historian Sidney Perley — eminent lawyer, historical researcher, Essex County historian, genealogist, author and poet. Perley’s “History of Salem” in three volumes and “The Essex Antiquarian” are two of his major contributions to local history.

Perley was also active in community affairs, having been a candidate for mayor of Salem and a member of the Salem school board from 1900 to 1903. Both he and his wife attended the Tabernacle Church, where they had taken a turn as teachers in the Sunday school.

One of Perley’s neighbors on the street was William Downes, a tin peddler who lived at No. 41 for more than 30 years. According to directory listings, he peddled tinware for 24 years before becoming a traveling salesman in house furnishing goods.

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