Last year a team of local scholars and researchers were able to confirm the location where the innocent victims of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 were executed. Following this discovery, the City of Salem has worked with a number of individuals and organizations to come up with plans for a permanent memorial at this site. The memorial will come to fruition with the help of landscape architect Martha Lyon, local historians, Salem residents, descendants of the victims involved in the Witch Trials, and organizations like the Salem Award Foundation and the Gallows Hill Project Team.
The intended completion of the project is the spring or summer of this year, in order to line up with the 325th commemoration of the Salem Witch Trials. The City of Salem is also currently working towards securing funding efforts for the building and upkeep of the memorial. The clean-up efforts on both Pope Street and Proctor Street along with the memorial’s configuration and building specs have been funded by a Community Preservation Act grant of $174,000.
On the importance of the site as a memorial, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll states, “Salem is constantly looking to the lessons of its past. Whether it was through the formation of our No Place for Hate Committee and our landmark non-discrimination ordinance, or through the good work of the Salem Award Foundation, the lessons we learn from our history directly inform the actions we take today. Having this site memorialized, especially as we prepared to mark the 325th anniversary of that tragic event, presents an opportunity for us to come together as a community, recognize the injustice perpetrated against those innocents in 1692, and recommit ourselves to the values of inclusivity and justice.”
The memorial’s design is set to feature a downward slope from the ledge where historians believe the executions took place. A stone wall will enclose a circular space towards Pope Street at the bottom of the hill, where the names of the victims will be engraved. Lights will also be projected up from the ground to illuminate each individual name, and an oak tree (symbolic of endurance and dignity) will mark the center of the memorial. Work has already begun on the Proctor Street side of the memorial’s site, where maintaining a safe traffic pattern for visitation has become a priority. Plans are also in development to continue the overall cleanup effort of the site, and devise a plan for the use of plants to create privacy while visiting the memorial.