Salem-French and Indian War soldiers, James Turner and Joshua Conkey, returning home in 1761, passed through land that would become known as Salem. Impressed with the land’s natural resources, they applied for a land grant, and in 1764, fellow pioneers from Pelham, Massachusetts settled on Turner’s Patent, the land to become known as the Village of Peace.
In 1803 a village corporation law was enacted, governing the administration of village life in the population center with its 18th and 19th century buildings. The village corporation ended in 2016, when the village citizens voted to disband in deference to town government. Nevertheless, the history and architecture of the old village remains. A walking tour of the former village will reveal the beauty and of the National Historic District, primarily found on East and West Broadway, and North and South Main Street.
Following are descriptions of some of the district’s most notable buildings.
Historical Structures and Sites: Walking
New England Presbyterian Church. 11 East Broadway. Built out of brick in 1836, he church was organized and built by New England pioneers in 1774 as a wooden structure. In 1777, the unfinished wooden church as incorporated into a fort, called Fort Salem, as a protection for the women and children during the Revolutionary War. The fort was burned in 1777 by Tories and Indians. The Greek Revival style building now serves as the Fort Salem Theater.
Audonbon-McClellan-Lewis House. 22 East Broadway. Built ca.1810. Occupied from 1880 to 1925 by the daughter-in-law and grandchildren of the ornithologist John James Audubon. Federal style house has oval dining room and bedroom above. Interesting fire places, mottoes on mantels as well as expansive lawns and gardens reaching to White Creek make it distinctive. Later owners have kept it beautifully unchanged.
Blanchard -McClellan-Gariepy Funeral Home. 19 East Broadway. One of the best examples in Washington County of late Georgian period architecture with Palladian window and front door. It was built in 1796 by Revolutionary War General John Williams or his daughter, Maria. The right front parlor has delicate Adam style carved ornaments on the woodwork. A stone seat where unruly slaves were held is in the cellar.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. 32 East Broadway. The church was built in 160, later offering private school education in adjoining buildings. The church contains a valuable Tracker organ build by E. & G. Hook of Boston, and Tiffany glass windows.
Washington County Courthouse and Jail. 58 East Broadway. Now known as the Salem Courthouse Community Center, the building serves the needs of the community under a not-for-profit organization. Architect M. J. Cummings designed the structure in 1869, replacing the original Main Street Courthouse wooden building. Conspicuous features of the building include decorative brickwork on the facade, arches, semicircular stained glass windows, broad stairways with curved arch motif throughout the court chambers. Featured is the original 1869 courtroom.
Proudfit-Sherman-Wilkins House. 180 South Main Street. First built in 1800, and remodeled after 1840 fire, it is a fine example of Greek Revival style with five fluted columns.
Fairchild-Cormier-Driver Home. 177 South Main Street. The house was built between 1830 and 1840. Marinus Fairchild was a practicing attorney, president of the Salem Village Corporation and a trustee of Salem Washington Academy. The house contains fifteen rooms with a curved staircase at the entrance. A single large marble stone doorstep welcomes visitors. while a backyard contains gardens, shrubs and flowering trees.
Manhattan Shirt Shop. Corner of South Main Street and 5 Park Place. In 1899, John M. Williams built for the Manhattan Shirt Company the large brick structure for shirt production. By 1940 the C. A. Baltz Company took over the building and produced shirts and pajamas with upwards of a hundred workers at a time. In the late 1970’s C.A.Baltz sold the building to C.B. Vaughn, a manufacturer of ski and sports clothing. Youngest son, Albert Baltz, stayed on as manager to operate the C. B. Vaughn business until 1989, when Vaughn moved his business out of town and sold the building. Locally the building continues to be referred to as the “shirt shop or pajama factory”. Its condition is a testimony to the fine engineering of the late 1800’s.
Revolutionary War Cemetery. Corner of South Main Street and Archibald Street. This is Salem’s first burial ground; the earliest recorded burial is 1769. Buried here are 105 Revolutionary War soldiers and five War of 1812 soldiers.
Gibson-Lundgren House. 8 West Broadway. This house was built in the early 1800’s in the Federal Period style. It was once the residence of Dr. George Allen and later Judge Hames Gibson.
First United Presbyterian Church. 13 West Broadway. The church was built in 1797 and is one of the oldest churches north of Albany. The church was founded by Rev. Thomas Clark and his Scotch-Irish followers from Ireland.
Salem Methodist Church. 31 West Broadway. First built as a wood structure in 1841, replaced with another wooden building destroyed by fire in 1891. A new brick church was built in 1892 with a steeple and spire, the spire was destroyed by fire later.
Holy Cross Catholic Church. 247 North Main Street. The original wooden church was bu9ilt in 1859 and replaced with the existing Gothic style brick church and manse in 1890. The church is the center piece of the neighborhood called “Irish Town” populated by Irish immigrants arriving between the potato famine of 1842 and the building of the Troy to Rutland Railroad in 1852.
Evergreen Cemetery. Cemetery Road of County Rt. 30 East. Built in 1859 the Victorian Cemetery contains the Civil War monument surrounded by soldiers graves and the monuments of the Civil War General David Allen Russel, entomologist Dr. Asa Fitch Jr., and Florence, Caroline, Maria and Benjamin Audobon.
Rexleigh Covered Bridge. Rexleigh Road off State Rt. 22 South. The 107 feet Howe Truss bridge, built in 1874, is located 3 miles from the Salem business center. This bridge contains a combination of cast iron bearing plates and wood and is considered a transition bridge from wood to iron. R. Comings of Troy, NY manufactured the iron plate. The bridge crosses the Battenkill, a famous trout fishing stream.