, Salem, MA

November 25, 2013

Letter: The story behind Stodder Place

The Salem News

---- — To the editor

When it comes to streets, what exactly is the difference between a court and a place?

According to the research of a diligent city worker, a court is a short street, especially a wide alley, walled by buildings on three sides. A place, on the other hand, is a public square or street with houses in a town.

Stodder Place was formerly Union Place, first listed in 1855 from 102 North St. In that year, there were four residents: Josephus Ashby, a carpenter; Joseph Farmer, a mason; James Harvey, whose occupation was not given; and John Warren, who worked at the laboratory.

In 1918, the name was changed to Stodder Place in honor of Capt. Simon Stodder, who had lived adjacent to Union Place at his home on North Street.

Capt. Simon Stodder of Salem was born Oct. 11, 1822, into a seafaring family. His father died at sea the following year on the brig Jones.

Like many of his contemporaries, Stodder was drawn at an early age to the life of adventure at sea, working his way up to shipmaster. His first voyage as captain was no doubt made in 1846 when he took command of the brig Tigris for Capt. Fiske, who had died in Africa.

Stodder made subsequent voyages in the Tigris to the coast of Africa, where he engaged in trading for his employer, Robert Brookhouse. He also commanded the barques Catherine and Goldfinch. It appears from his correspondence that he acted as agent to individual area merchants in Luanda, Angola.

After contracting an illness from his trips to Africa, he retired from the sea and ran a grocery store on North Street. In 1863, he was elected member of the common council and in 1865 to the board of aldermen. He was a member of the Salem Marine Society, where his portrait is held in the society’s album of photographs.

There are four houses that comprise Stodder Place, numbered 1, 3, 4, and 5. The oldest, number 5, was built about 1800 and is owned by Christopher Matton. Tracing its history would be an interesting project — it has had many residents with occupations that range from shoe cutter to architect.

I was pleased to discover that the large house once owned by Simon Stodder is still standing. For 40 years, it was the Spychalski Funeral Home.

Today, the 10 rooms are divided into two units. The roof is surmounted by a cupola that in former days must have served as a lookout. In looking over the facts, I believe that the house was built at a date earlier than 1870 as recorded on the city assessor’s record.

Jeanne Stella