I believe the original impetus for Salem’s Pioneer Village was the Naumkeag Steam Cotton Co. (aka Pequot Mills), which made and donated all of the fabric for Salem’s many housewives who made the costumes worn during the Tercentenary. It also built a replica of the governor’s house on its property, where the fabric and patterns in every style were available. (It is still there on Congress Street, its brown stain now changed to a painted sage green.)
I wore a purple dress, just like my mother and all the women’s costumes, with unbleached muslin collars and cuffs, and matching cap (still in my possession). My father and the men wore gray pantaloon-style outfits. My role in the tableau was to sit with other students, all of us supplied with tablets and markers, in an outdoor classroom. I also remember going with my parents down to the shore to greet the Arbella as it arrived from England bearing Governor Winthrop to the village of Salem. Unfortunately, the Naumkeag Steam Cotton Co. moved its textile-making skills to a Southern textile mill in the mid-’50s, and support for the project diminished thereafter.
The question remains, what organization can now take on the financial burden of maintaining this important tribute and resource to Salem’s past? Salem State University has been suggested. However, this is not a state responsibility, but the City of Salem’s. Certainly deep pockets are needed to put Pioneer Village back on its feet, and to develop an endowment to keep it there. Where can this be found?
Could the Peabody Essex provide the needed stewardship? Its Yin Yu Tang project has similar overtones of showing how people of the past lived. Might the Salem Marine Society be interested? Or could the City of Salem include it in its annual budget?
The Salem News has interesting information today about its Park and Recreation Commission’s short-term proposal for a summer program to bring back vestiges of re-enactment and for using the Salem Trolley to shuttle tourists to the village. Commissioner Callahan said, “The proposal is a good opportunity to try managing the site itself.” This gives me some hope. At 88 years, hope is good!
Barbara Pattee Healey