Salem Tunnel Report~ Benjamin Webb House

Have a Drink on Me and a Powder for the Morning…

Benjamin Webb Jr. was a tavern keeper and Apothecary. He had an apothecary on Herbert and Essex Streets. His tavern was on the site of the Salem Five Bank on Essex Street. When William Gray bought the property, he tore down the tavern and it opened in a new location where the Bowker Block is now used as the Peabody Essex Museum’s offices on the corner of Liberty and Essex Streets. His son Jonathan continued the tavern in the new location. It was originally called the King’s Arm and after the Revolutionary War, it became the Sun Tavern. It was in this tavern that Richard Crowninshield Sr. insulted Joseph White upon their mutual loss of 3 ship in Naples at the removal of the Embargo Act he favored; this would cost his son his life in an elaborate murder plot implicating his son Richard in the murder of Joseph White for revenge of this insult. Richard Crowninshield Jr. was found hanging in his cell from a low window with his knees almost touching the ground, the jailers slit his throat to see if he was alive, and he died from exsanguination. This murder is the murder behind the Parker Brothers Clue.

His home here was at 98-100 Bridge Street. Later he would own the Sage-Webb-Wilkins House across from Daniels Street at 52 Essex Street. Both homes are connected to tunnels.

He was a member of the Salem Common Improvement Fund which disguised the tunnel project behind a large public work. They filled in 5 ponds and a river in the Common to hide tunnel dirt. He also was an incorporator with many of subscribers in the Merchant Bank and the Salem Savings Bank. John Hodges, also a subscriber, shared many ships with him and George Hodges marries his daughter Elizabeth. George Hodges was surveyor of the port of Salem from 1809 to 1817. The Custom House where he worked also has tunnels leading from it. The Hodges were the founders of the East India Marine Society who founded the Peabody Essex Museum. Every location the museum was in was connected to the tunnels as well.

Benjamin was a fireman who drove the engine Reliance which was housed at the corner of Hardy and Derby Streets.  His grandfather John Bray and his uncle Daniel Bray were also subscribers. The father was a shoemaker with his shop on Hardy opposite Essex Street. Bray was a consultant to the Salem Savings Bank.

Benjamin was connected in many ways…

Take a look at the tunnels:

You can see the Basement entrance from outside. At the time when the house was built, they had no use for an external entrance. These come later by taking the roof off the tunnel and putting a staircase to block the tunnel from entering the house. The idea was to use a hole in the foundation that exists already. You can see the long hall leading from that entrance which was part of the tunnel. The tunnel might have actually turned to the right across the back of the house also.

There was another entrance through the floor of what could have later been used as a place to store coal. The house was built prior to coal furnaces. In fact, only smugglers had full basement in Salem. You only needed a full basement after boilers were made. Also, later furnaces would utilize spots the tunnel was connected to. You can see the difference in brick between this spot and the rest of the foundation.

Keep coming back to find more tunnels in Salem and how this all shaped American history!

Also, read Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City and Sub Rosa to get all the dirt that is under the streets of Salem available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com; and in Salem at Remeber Salem, Jolie Tea, The Witch House, and Artemesia Botanicals.

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Salem Tunnel Report~Thomas Brown House

Still, need to look this gentleman up, but I got to go into the basement and open the trapdoor and take a flexible camera and look at the roof of this tunnel. There were metal strapping holding up the brick floor in the roof of the tunnel. Further in there where mysterious gears; More to come later.

Above you can see the basement entrance converted from an old tunnel. These entrances were not historical and just utilized the entrance the tunnel used instead of poking a new hole in the foundation. For years I have been looking at elaborate sump holes in basements that were all brick lined and finished, this is the first one that proved there were tunnel entrances. You seen pictures of that as well above

For now check out Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City which is in its third edition! Available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and your local booksellers. In Salem, it is available at Remember Salem, Jolie Tea, The Witch House, and Artemesia Botanaicals.

Oliver Cromwell’s Chaplin and his First Church and Robert Irvine’s New Show

Hugh Peter’s Could of Kept his Head if he Stuck to this Church…

Hugh Peters was the fourth priest at the First Church. Peters may have been the first to propose the trial and execution of Charles I and was believed to have assisted at the beheading. This would loose him his head when Charles II regained the throne and executed him for regicide. Above is the building he would of preached in, on its third location where it was used by John Proctor’s son as a tavern and a horse stable. For it is safe to say the first church in America was full of horse shit.

This location is on the same property that John Proctor was hanged on just outside of the photo to the left.

Below are the tunnels under the original location of the First Church and the building above. These tunnels have been used in the filming of Robert Irvine’s new show for the Discovery Channel.

Movie scouts looking for Boston and North Shore locations to film; check out these tunnels! Visit the Salem Smugglers’ Tour to contact Chris Dowgin to make arrangements. Authors who want more information on the tunnels and Salem history are welcome to take the tour .

For more information on the tunnels read Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and other great booksellers like Wicked Good Books, Jolie Tea, The Witch House, and Remember Salem in town. Support local businesses!!!

An Original Tour of Salem, MA Beyond the Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692

 

 

 

What fun stuff will you learn about Salem, MA?

 

All this and more you will find on the Salem Smugglers’ Tour! Tuesdays at 8PM and Thursdays through Sundays at 3PM and 8PM. Buy your tickets online! Tickets are $18. Meets on the Salem Common by the Hawthorne Hotel.

Horace Mann Laboratory School Closing and the Fate of their Tunnels

A School House Rocks now Closing

The Horace Mann Laboratory School is now closing. In the years past, this building had open access for children to walk from the school to the University to access their gym and cafeteria. Many fond memories, including first kisses, has been had in this tunnel of early love lined with asbestos.

I almost got this location to be filmed in the Flatliners remake when I gave a tour to movie scouts. It also almost made it into Robert Irvine’s new show on the Discovery Channel, but they did not grant permission in time… We did film the episode in Rockefeller’s tunnel instead.

So how will these tunnels be used by the new occupants of the building. Time will only tell? Maybe it will make it into a TV show or movie?

For more information on the tunnels read Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and other great booksellers like Wicked Good Books, Jolie Tea, The Witch House, and Remember Salem in town. Support local businesses!!! Also if you are a TV or movie scout looking for tunnel locations to film contact Chris Dowgin at the Salem Smugglers’ Tour.

Salem Fagin and the First Boy’s Club in America

The First Boy’s Club and Tunnels…

The First Boy’s Club in the country was held in a building attached to this tunnel. In fact the three locations that the club first resided in were all attached to the smuggling tunnels in Salem MA. The first was the Downing Block next to the Peabody Essex Museum. The second location was in the Salem Lyceum that previous housed a lecture series where Alexander Graham Bell introduced his phone publicly at. The third location was in the old Essex County Bank building built by Charles Bulfinch who became the Architect of D.C. who built all the tunnels under our capitol.

The Boy’s Club learned an important early lesson; keep the kids in a brick building. For the one time they were housed in a wooden building, the Lyceum, they burned it down.  The location where James Russell Lowell introduced the Dante Club’s translation of The Inferno was burned to the ground by these children.

So why was it so important to have these economically challenged children in building attached to the tunnels? Were they helping the sailors and captains smuggle in town? Were they assisting in the runaway slaves attempts at gaining freedom? Or were they run by a Salem Fagin who had them act like the Artful Dodger and break into the homes that also were attached to the tunnels?

Who is to say, but it makes you think…

For more info read Sub Rosa to find out how Salem shaped America and your lives! Available at Remember Salem, Jolie Tea, Wicked Good Books, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com. Also to learn more stories like this first hand, book a tour with the Salem Smugglers’ Tour!

Salem House Press
http://www.salemhousepress.com

Tunnels Under the Old Almy’s and it’s Connection to the Salem Witch Hysteria and More!

Almy, Bigelow, & Washburn

The company was a town favorite in downtown Salem, operating on Essex Street in Salem from 1862 to 1985. Many fond memories are still recalled by locals who grew up shopping there with their parents. Could this famous store at its beginnings have received smuggled goods through the tunnels of Salem from Boston, Lowell, and Lawrence? Was this the first time this location was used for smuggling? First a little history of the famous store and the property’s history.

According to Helen Butler, who married a grandson of Almy’s founder recalls how the store began, “James Fergus Almy was a Quaker who came to Salem from North Adams and started a little store. Meanwhile, from Stowe, Vermont came Lurana Bigelow to Salem and she opened a millinery store. He fell in love with her and when he wanted money for the store, she had capital to give him. The union of Almy and Bigelow was forged when they married.”

Then Walter K. Bigelow became Almy’s business partner and the firm changed its name to James F. Almy & Co. Then around 1869, William G. Webber also became a partner and they renamed the store Almy, Bigelow & Webber, which it remained until Webber’s retirement in 1885. Then followed Calvin R. Annable and E. Augustus Washburn who worked their way up to become partners to make Almy, Bigelow & Washburn. The firm incorporated after the death of James F. Almy in April 1899, with Almy’s wife and daughter serving on the board.

The store was  sold it in 1951 to the Gorin family.

 

Almy’s opened with four employees in 1858 originally at 156 Essex St., then 2 years later moved to 188 Essex St. When they closed they had 75 employees. The Salem store was one of five Almy’s outlets that were closed following the sale of the Almy’s chain to the Stop and Shop Corporation on March 16th, 1985.

The business’ second location was within the West Block. Nathaniel West bought the John Turner III mansion that was built in 1748 next to the Peter Palfrey House, opposite Central Street in 1833. Turner was the one in the family who lost the House of 7 Gables to the Ingersolls in 1782. West bought the property from Judge Oliver. Judge Andrew Oliver (1731-1799) was a judge and scientist who corresponded with Benjamin Franklin and authored numerous scientific essays. His son Peter Oliver was a subscriber to the Salem Common Improvement Fund and one of the subscriber’s who went deranged before 1821. The Salem Common Improvement Fund was a ruse behind a public work project to extend tunnels throughout town and hide the dirt in the Common which had five ponds and a river running to the sea. In April 11, 1817 Peter Oliver went into his house on the corner of Liberty and Essex Street and set it on fire with himself inside, but he lived. I think only a hole remained called “Oliver’s Hole” remained for years in which children played in. It reminds me of the failed RCG Hotel on the corner of Washington and Dodge Streets. Nathaniel West opened the old Turner mansion as a tavern called “The Mansion house” in time for President Andrew Jackson’s visit.  West also bought the Gardener-Pingree House which is famous for the murder of Captain Joseph White in 1830 that inspired the game Clue and the story The Tell-Tale Heart. He had also owned the estate where the North Shore Mall resides now that he lost in a bloody divorce.

Jackson was in town in 1833 to meet with Stephen White on the Common in his home he bought in 1811. The house along with his uncle Joseph White’s home , the Gardner-Pingree House that Nathaniel West acquired, were bought from bribes from Baring Brothers Bank (working for the Bank of England) to create the Second Bank of the United States. Jackson was on a northern tour looking for support for his Bank War which would refuse an early renewal of the bank. The White’s held considerable shares in the bank and were going to suffer a loss; Jackson suffered from stomach ailments (Typhoid) and had to return to Washington early. James Knox Polk would suffer similar ailments as Speaker of the House under Jackson defending his stance on the future of the bank. Later Polk would die from Typhoid 3 months after leaving his tenure as president.

Later the Mansion House would be called the “West Block”. Jabez Baldwin, a Jeweler, who was also a Salem Common Improvement Subscriber had a business in the West Block.  In around 1850 the building burns down. Maybe in 1860 it was a new building ready for Almy’s to move in. In the picture above it looks like the building was made in 1859.

Further in the past we learn more information on this location that Almy’s occupied. Charles Wentworth Upham’s book “Salem Witchcraft,” published in 1867 states,“The ‘Ship Tavern’ was on the ground the front of which is occupied, at present, by ‘West’s Block,’ nearly opposite of the head of Central Street. It had long been owned and kept by John Gedney, Sr….John died in 1685. His widow moved into the family of her father-in-law; and, after his death in 1688, continued to keep house…The tavern, in 1692, was known as ‘Widow Gedney’s.’ The estate had an extensive orchard in the rear, contiguous, along its northern boundary, to the orchard of Bridget Bishop, which occupied ground now covered by the Lyceum building, and one or two others to the east of it.” The Ship Tavern was the defacto town hall. It was where the town already met, provided food and alcohol, and had more firewood in the winter than town hall. The Ship tavern led to the first death during the Witch Hysteria because the owner died leaving the property to his wife.

Born Sarah Warren, she married a prominent man by the name of Robert Prince. He was the brother of a woman who married into the prominent Putnam family who started the Witch Hysteria. Then Robert Prince died in 1674 leaving the tavern to her and the 150 acre farm next to the Putnam’s. His sister believed it should of gone to her and her father-in-law would of loved that acquisition and the influence it would of brought him in town. The widow then married Alexander Osborne, her Irish indentured manservant (who paid off his debt) causing a scandal. Sarah Osborne would be the first to die in jail in Boston from the Witch Hysteria.

Bridget Bishop would inherit a tavern from her second of three husbands, Thomas Oliver, which is on the site of the Salem Five Bank on the corner of Washington and Church Streets. Her orchard was behind that building and ran behind the Ship Tavern, who used to own the orchard under John Gedney Sr., on Essex Street. Now Turner’s Seafood sits in that old orchard on the site of the Lyceum that burned down when the Salem Boy’s Fraternity resided in it.

During the time of the Witch madness, a man had swore bewilderment had happened in his home and looked out of the window seeing Bridget Bishop running away through her orchard. The tale was probably a lie, but today real magic happens on this site for now it is the location of Coven’s Cottage and Angelica of the Angels. Both are psychic parlors and one is owned by real witches. Something that could only be found in Boxford, Ma in 1692.

Now back to tunnels; in the picture below you will see the foundations of these buildings after Almy’s was razed to build the Essex Condominiums and the retail stores below them. In the picture you can see the various bricks used to build the foundations of the Ship Tavern, John Turner III Mansion, and the West Block. In between these bricks you can see sections of bricks no wider than a hallway created with different building materials. These are the sealed tunnels that had led to this important seat of the town at various times.

Tunnels existed in Salem as far back as 1662 at least and around the time in 1655 that John Gedney (another Quaker) built the Ship Tavern on this location; could it have had tunnels connected to it at that time as well? John Turner I house, House of 7 Gables, was connected to tunnels; why would not his grandson keep up the tradition in 1742 when he built his mansion? Could this be a selling point for Nathaniel West who had previously owned the Gardner-Pingree house which famously depicts its secret passages on the board of the game Clue? He also owned his father-in-law’s wharf, Derby Wharf,  and warehouse that was connected to tunnels; it might seem a new home must be connected as a priority before he purchased it. West was also a Salem Common Improvement Fund subscriber. Could of President Jackson in 1833 walked from the Pickering, Mack, Stone House at 21-23 Chestnut Street (he visited Robert Stone who Jackson sent the USS Potomac to blow up Sumatra/Indonesia for, after natives raided one of his ships in 1832) to the Mansion House through the tunnel? Could of Jackson walked to Stephen White’s House also through the tunnel from the Mansion House? In 1860 the Salem Wharf’s were only being used for coal and lumber, but could Almy’s have received smuggled goods from Boston, Lowell, and Lawrence through the train tunnel built by George Peabody, of JP Morgan Bank fame, through the underground train station where Opus Underground is now from Boston? I believe so… What do you think? Tell me below in the comments.

So there is the various history of the store Salem locals loved and the history of the property that was connected to the smuggling tunnel of Salem, MA.

For more information on the tunnels read Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and other great booksellers like Wicked Good Books, Jolie Tea, The Witch House, and Remember Salem in town. Support local businesses!!!