Introduction

Salem Willows Waterfront Park
Salem Willows Waterfront Park

Salem Willows Yacht Club
The Yacht Club

Beautiful shaded seaside grounds, scenic ocean views, public pier, bandstand for concerts, picnic areas, beaches, children's rides, activities and many eateries. One of Salem's treasures, this park has a fascinating history that is described briefly in Salem Tales. For a look at the park, see the pictures in our image gallery, and visit the Salem Willows web site for more information.

Salem Willows is renowned for the European white willow trees planted here in 1801 to form a shaded walk for patients convalescing at the old smallpox hospital. Later the area became a park. During the first half of the 20th century, Restaurant Row on the park's north shore served fresh seafood favored by locals and visitors alike. The last of these once popular restaurants was closed in the late 1940's. A carousel with carved flying horses was another special attraction at Salem Willows which then, as now, operated as an entertainment center. Although the entertainment and flying horses are gone, visitors still flock here during the summer to enjoy the sunshine, the arcade and the park's ample picnic grounds and recreational facilities.

The expanse of Salem Sound is dotted with numerous islands belonging to the city. The largest is Baker's Island, which boasts a sizable summer community and has been the site of a navigational beacon since 1798. To the south of Salem Willows, across the entrance to Salem Harbor, lie the headlands of Marblehead. To the north, across Beverly Harbor, the shore stretches toward the rugged coast of Gloucester and the rest of Cape Ann.

Salem Willows provides a seaside promenade popular throughout Essex County, Boston and beyond. The area also possesses residential and historical importance. A "tenting ground" established in the mid 19th century gave way to summer cottages which are now the center of a distinctive year-round neighborhood.

Beyond this neighborhood, across a causeway, lies Winter Island. Over the years it has served a multitude of purposes including fish drying, shipbuilding, and public recreation. Since the 1640's a fort there -- now known as Fort Pickering -- has defended the mouth of Salem Harbor. From the Civil War until 1971 most of Winter Island was under Federal authority. It was used most recently as a Coast Guard base.

Fort Lee Marker with plaque missing.
Fort Lee, a star-shaped mound of earth, was designed to be used
as a lookout to guard against coastal attack.
Photo, early 1900's

Inland on the high ground in the center of Salem Neck, lies Fort Lee. Originally built in the 1740's, Fort Lee protected Salem's sea approaches during the war of 1812 and athe Civil War. In September 2001, Historic Salem, Inc. added Fort Lee to its list of Most Endangered Historic Resources. The fort once had a commanding view of Salem Willows, the harbor entrances and Winter Island, but is now overgrown and neglected. It was also known as Cannon Hill as it had four Civil War cannons on the embankment at one time.