, Salem, MA

November 23, 2012

Letter: Examining Salem's Franklin Street

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

How many streets have been named for Benjamin Franklin is a question for anyone out there who wants to count them. Google wouldn’t give me an answer.

But one thing is certain: Franklin Street in Salem is one of them. The name of Franklin has become a place name in our society, with streets, buildings, ships, cities, counties, landmarks, businesses and more having been named to honor this founding father.

By 1837, Franklin Street in Salem was laid out from North Street east. The 1842 directory shows a dye house at No. 7 where you could get your clothes “dyed and cleansed without ripping.”

Special attention was given to mourning items (clothing and accessories worn during a period of mourning). Fabrics as delicate as crepe and lace veils were processed.

The career dyer in this business was Samuel Roles Jr., who expanded his clientele to include residents of other cities and towns. To accommodate these customers, he established receiving agents throughout the county. The Salem Dye-House operated on Franklin Street for about 30 years before relocating to North Street.

At No. 10, Joseph Putnam was a brick-maker. It was said that the flames from the kiln at night lit the neighborhood, that it was unforgettable.

Another industry of note was the Waters brass and copper foundry, begun in 1800 by John Waters, who, according to the family, learned the trade in the shop of Paul Revere where he was employed in Revere’s iron and brass foundry on Foster Street in Boston.

In 1800, Waters came to Salem and set up his own shop. For approximately 75 years, the foundry was located on Franklin Street, managed by four generations of the Waters family.

The company sold a wide variety of products and services from plumbing to shipwork to andirons and candlesticks. Under Andrew S. Waters Jr., plumbing contracts were made with Eastern Railroad. (This man’s interesting career included his earlier years in the Sumatra pepper trade. It is also worth noting that his daughter, Alice, became a librarian at the Essex Institute.)

Today, the industries that once lined Franklin Street are gone. Without a doubt, the most interesting feature of the street today is Furlong Park, created in 1926 by the city as Franklin Street Playground, and later renamed in honor of William P. Furlong, a member of the Salem Fire Department and friend to the children of Salem.

It fronts the rehabilitated North River with a picturesque view of the condos (site of the former Parker Brothers) on the opposite shore.

Signs posted in the park outline the area’s history, industries and the parkland’s former use as a river dump site. Old bottles and leather trimmings can still be found there along the beach.

Jeanne Stella