This is the forty-third year of operation for the Danvers Archival Center, a department of the Peabody Institute Library of Danvers. The Danvers Archival Center, opened in 1972, was at first located in the basement of the brick and concrete “Memorial Hall,” designed by Lester Couch in 1930 for the Danvers Historical Society at 13 Page Street. The Historical Society loaned this space to the Town of Danvers’s public library free of charge for nine years. Finally, in 1981, the town completed the renovation and expansion of the Colonial Revival style Peabody Institute Library at 15 Sylvan Street. Through an all-volunteer effort, the contents of the Archival Center were moved to the newly created Archive rooms in the underground addition to the library, located on the Peabody Avenue side of the building. These new quarters included a large public research room, secure manuscript storage room, and a walk-in vault with a 6-hour fire rated door.
In the words of our collection policy: “The Danvers Archival Center is a repository for information relating to the history and development of the geographical area encompassing Salem Village and Danvers, Massachusetts. The Archival Center performs its mission by gathering and collecting flat, informational materials through gifts and purchases and through permanent deposits in cases where the material is owned by functioning corporate organizations. Among items collected by the Archival Center are books, pamphlets, monographs, manuscripts, broadsides, periodicals including newspapers, maps, architectural drawings, photographs, prints, audio and video tapes, films, CDs and microfilms.” These materials are stored in a secure and stable environment, and are available to all who wish to use them.
Our combined collections of gifted, purchased, and deposited collections make the Danvers Archival Center one of the largest and most important documentary resources of a community of its size in the entire country. Our commitment is to continually upgrade our collections through seeking gifts, deposits and purchases. Our multi-faceted collections remain a seldom-found mix of diverse municipal, corporate and private research materials gathered together through the cooperative pooling by many organizations that were willing to give up physical custody of their papers for their being conserved, preserved, properly stored, catalogued and accessible.
This report will summarize the operations of the Danvers Archival Center during fiscal year 2015, being from July 2014 through June 2015.
I want to thank Library Director Alan Thibeault, Assistant Director Suzanne MacLeod, Bookkeeper Susan Kontos and the nine-member Board of Library Trustees for their continued interest and support. Alan makes it a regular feature to visit the archives and discuss our operations and potential needs. Both he and Suzanne are always encouraging and willing to provide me with needed materials, technical support and advice. I also thank library assistant Rachel Alexander, who was assigned two hours per week for several months at the Archives as a research assistant.
Eva Veilleux has been my assistant for many years and is a good friend and a skilled professional. Her knowledge of secretarial skills, reference materials within the archives and patron services is extensive. Eva’s archival work amounts to approximately seven hours per week and when I am absent, she carries out the functions of the Archival Center.
This coming August Eva will be retiring. I will truly miss Eva’s skills and friendship, and wish her a happy retirement. We will be advertising for a new Archival Assistant position for 6 hours per week over two days.
Danvers resident Thomas Marsella has been volunteering at the Archival Center since 2003. He works about three hours each Wednesday morning researching, sorting and cataloguing part of our backlog collections or new acquisitions. I have generally liked to have one volunteer at a time who becomes familiar with our operations and enjoys the challenge of research in the Archives. Tom’s commitment has been long-term, and follows two remarkable ladies who independently worked at the Archives. Thelma Jenny had been a research assistant to historian and famed Salem News reporter Frank Damon during the 1930s. Miss Jenny began volunteering at the Archives in the 1970s through the 1980s. She was followed by Mrs. Madeline Crane of Manchester-By-The-Sea, who also volunteered multiple years at the Archives. My volunteers have always been remarkable people, who were also a joy to know.
This past fiscal year Tom volunteered 88 hours in the Archives. Several other days per week Tom works as a staff Library Page, though the Archives is fortunate to get his efforts for free!
In FY15 61 books were obtained, accessioned, processed, and catalogued for inclusion within our Public Reading Room book collections. Of this group, 11 were gifts to the Archival Center.
Our Brehaut Witchcraft collection is one of our most noteworthy assemblages of volumes, utilized by both local school kids and international scholars alike. The core collection was donated by local resident and noted bibliophile Ellerton J. Brehaut in the 1960s, and has been expanded since the creation of the Archival Center to now represent the largest collection of Salem witchcraft imprints in the nation. Prior to its being established as an independent “District of Danvers” in 1752, Danvers was known as “Salem Village” and the location for the world-known 1692 “Witch Hunt.”
Among books and monographs added to our “Ellerton J. Brehaut Witchcraft Collection” this past fiscal year were: Ebenezer Wheelwright, The Salem Belle (1842); Rory O’Brien, Gallows Hill (2014); Ann Leary, The Good House (2012); Katherine Howe, Conversion (2014), the archives being acknowledged in her notes; Edgar McManus, Law and Liberty in Early New England (1993); Pathways of the Puritans (1930); Emerson Baker, A Storm of Witchcraft (2015), in which Professor Baker used several illustrations and artifacts from our collections; Katherine Howe, ed., The Penguin Book of Witches (2014); Jakob Crane, Accused: Fairfield’s Witchcraft Trials (2014); Jeffrey Richards, The Cry at Salem (1992); Ralph Paine, Philip English and His Era (1924); Mari Botte, Arrested for Witchcraft (2014); Wolfgang Behringer, Witches and Witch-Hunts (2004); and Jackson Cope, Joseph Glanvill (1956). Many of these works are fiction, while several of those with a recent date are juvenile history, two of which are graphic novels.
We also acquired two major witchcraft works added to the collection as rare books. Collection of Rare and Curious Tracts on Witchcraft was published by D. Webster (1820); while we also obtained the work Sadducismus Debellatus attributed to Sir Francis Grant and published in London by H. Newman (1698).
One item was added to our Witchcraft Rare Print Collection. A London engraving made by James Caulfield in 1794 and copied from an original woodcut depicts Elizabeth Sawyer, who was executed in England in 1621 for witchcraft.
Our local history books make up our other major book collection. The collection is shelved in the Public Reading Room, and includes Danvers history, family genealogies and biographies.
Gifts of books and pamphlets added to this collection included: Jonathan Twiss, The Descendants of Peter Twiss of Salem, Mass. (2014); Mary C. Crawford, Old New England Inns (1924); Abram Brown, Beneath Old Roof Trees (1896); Danvers Historical Society, 2014 Calendar (2013); Danvers Town Report (2014); Heritage (2014); 5 issues of the Spire, the St. John’s Preparatory School yearbook (2010-2014); and three separate books all relating to John Endecott and the Endecott family in England researched and written by Teddy H. Sanford (2015).
Purchased volumes added to the local history collection included: Walter Boreman, American Spring (2014); Essex Tech Yearbook (1989); Timothy Pickering, Report from the Department of War (1796); article by Frank Moynahan, “Danvers, Massachusetts” (1902); Timothy Pickering, Review of the Administration of Government (1797); Geoffrey Blodgett, The Gentle Reformer (1966); George Francis Dow, Every Day Life in the Massachusetts Bay (1935); Naumkeag Directory (1895-96); Peter Hoffer, Prelude to Revolution (2013); and James T. Adams, The History of New England (1927).
A group of fairly rare publications concerning the life and times of George Peabody were also acquired through purchase including: Letter from George Peabody (1857); Mr. Peabody’s Gift to the Poor of London (1865); J. S. Bryant, The Life of the Late George Peabody (1914); and Robert C. Winthrop, Eulogy of George Peabody (1870).
We also received donated books from several sources that we already had within our catalogued collection. These copies we use as extra back-ups. These included: 17 volumes of the Historical Collections of the Danvers Historical Society; 22 copies of St. John’s Preparatory School yearbooks; and 31 local history books and pamphlets. These items were not part of our accessioned statistics.
New main entry, title and subject cards added to our union catalogue by subject include 522 in the Danvers History catalogue, and 285 in our Witchcraft catalogue.
Serially printed items including newspapers and magazines are a subcategory of printed materials, and are included in our History catalogue. Among items purchased in this category was an issue of Harper’s Weekly with a half-page illustration showing the militia group, Putnam Phalanx, at Israel Putnam’s tomb in Brooklyn, Connecticut (July 1860); and the Youth’s Companion, featuring an article on John G. Whittier (December 12, 1907). Deposit items within this category from the Danvers Historical Society are two issues of The Old Flag published in Plymouth, North Carolina in May 1865 by two members of the 2nd Mass. Volunteer Heavy Artillery, including Danvers native Arthur A. Putnam. Plymouth had been captured by Union forces in October 1864, and this newspaper was for both the occupying troops and the civilian population. These two issues include information on the assassination of President Lincoln and the capture of Jefferson Davis.
We have been continuing to have our backlog of Danvers Herald newspapers professionally microfilmed. About a decade ago the local microfilm lab we had been using for several decades closed down and it took a bit of time to find a new company that would film to our specifications. We now use Heritage Archives out of Iowa and California. We ship out our newspapers to them for filming. This past year we had the 2012 and 2013 issues of the Danvers Herald filmed, with 6 rolls of 35mm master silver negatives and 6 rolls of positive silver service copies, produced.
Broadsides are another class of printed historic documentation. Catalogue cards generated from these sheets are also kept within our History Catalogue. Our Archival Center deposit collections include many rare and valuable Town of Danvers Revolutionary War Broadsides, chiefly from Town of Danvers records, with a few coming from Historical Society deposit materials.
Among Revolutionary War broadsides catalogued this year were: a broadside from the Massachusetts legislature requesting much needed shoes for the soldiers in the Continental Army (1777); and another notice warning Massachusetts towns to keep watchful eyes on “tories and Ingrates and declared traitors.” (1783).
Two Danvers generated broadsides catalogued were: a notice for a Special Town Meeting, including a listing of the warrant articles (1919); and a notice requesting volunteers to form a State Guard in Danvers at the outbreak of World War I (1917).
Another class of printed items we collect is known as “Ephemera.” These revealing point-in-time printed items generally do not warrant individual cataloguing, though to have them available in a logical manner, these items are collected in subject files and stored in a series of vertical metal file cabinets. Among ephemeral items acquired this past year were: a catalogue from the Deerskin Trading Post on Route One which sold leather goods (1960s); a commemorative postal cover of the meeting between Abraham Lincoln and Grenville Dodge in the 1850s; a seed package of Danvers Half Long carrots from the Fiske Seed Company (1915); a trade card of the Boston Shoe Repairing Company (1950s); catalogue of Craig Machine, Inc. (1950); a Gibbons pull tab beer can featuring Israel Putnam (1960s); Albert Merrill horse sale catalogue (1907); 5 John G. Whittier First Day Covers (1940); Bicentennial Showcase 1776-1976, printed by the Danvers Savings Bank (1976); Danvers High School annual spring concert program (1965); silver jubilee commemorative card of Rev. Francis P. Sullivan of St. Mary’s (1962); shoe guide by Miss Day’s Ideal Baby Shoe Company (1950); typescript article “The Brooks Family Scholarship” (2014); playbill for Danvers High School play Arsenic and Old Lace (1963); a menu from a private tea house located on upper Locust Street (c 1930s); fire alarm box location card (1971); and a postcard printed notice of movies appearing at the Orpheum Theatre (March 1950).
Gift acknowledgement forms were drawn up, signed, and sealed with an old Library blind stamp, and sent to 24 individuals and institutions; these forms reflect gifts to the Archives of from one to hundreds of items each. The forms acknowledge the items given to the Archival Center as unconditional gifts.
When we find items within our collections that, due to their point of origin or content actually belong elsewhere, we send off such items to appropriate sister institutions. This past year we have sent off such items to the following institutions: Peabody Historical Society; Middleton Historical Society; Beverly Historical Society; and the Wenham Historical Association.
Hardly a week goes by without a request from an author for an interview for assistance on a book, or from an institution requesting information or materials. Among some of these contacts this past year were: historian and author Ray Raphael asking if I would read over for accuracy two chapters relating the Essex County from his forthcoming book on the beginning of the American Revolution; a group of 15 Massachusetts Public Defenders visiting the Archives for a discussion on 1692 judicial procedures; speaking with “New World” producer Mark Kamine, a location scout, and other staff of HBO Cable Network in preparation for filming a pilot project “The Devil You Know,” generally about the Salem witchcraft events (HBO quietly filmed in Danvers, primarily at the Nurse Homestead during several weeks in March); in conjunction with the Peabody Institute Library of Peabody, Alan, Suzanne MacCleod and I put together a tour and reception for Mr. & Mrs. Stephen Howlett, at the Library and Archives. Mr. Howlett is Chief Executive of the vast Peabody Trust of London, the descendant of the fund George Peabody gave to the poor of London for proper housing. Following Suzanne’s tour of the Library, I showed the guests, including several of our Trustees, the Archival Center and some of its treasures, followed by a small reception of tea, goodies and interesting remarks by Mr. Howlett; by request, I gave a detailed tour of the Archives, followed by an hour of discussion with representatives of the Town of Marblehead. In attendance were Marblehead Town Librarian Patricia Rogers, the Town Clerk, Selectmen and Historical Commission members, who are contemplating the establishment of a municipal archive in Marblehead.
Local and national media and broadcasts in which I was invited to participate included: a second visit to the Danvers Cable Television series “Talk of the Town,” with Mark Zuberek interviewing me on a number of local history topics; a visit to the Archives and audio taped interview by Silvia Lohner on witchcraft sites in Danvers for broadcast on her program Ambiente-The Art of Traveling, which is sponsored by Osterreichischer Rundfunk, Austrian Broadcasting Corporation; a visit in October by reporter Hayoun Massoud of Al Jazeera America’s News website, which resulted in an interesting article with illustrations on the Al Jazeera website; and an interview of me primarily at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead, but also with views of the Parsonage Archaeological Site and the Witchcraft Victims’ Memorial which was taped in October 2014. The program is the creation of my nephew, Gregory Boghosian, who works for CBS in California and has independently developed a program series, The New England Traveler, which appears on the New England Sports Network. First aired in March 2015, the program, including visits in Danvers and Salem, is repeated on a regular basis. I am proud of Greg’s work and that he would incorporate a segment on Danvers history.
In 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning author Stacy Schiff first contacted me for assistance in researching a new book she wanted to write concerning the 1692 witchcraft trials. Thus began a multi-year connection between Stacy Schiff and the Danvers Archival Center, and a very satisfying friendship. At various times throughout this fiscal year, I have been able to give assistance to Stacy on reference questions and fact-checking. During the past few months this has broadened to include assisting the art designer with the dust jacket cover and map for the book, and with the picture editor with a selection of images. Several illustrations from our collections were chosen to use, with an appropriate fee provided to the Archives. I also assisted Stacy with fact checking and cut lines for the illustrations. The project should be completed soon, with publication in early fall.
Another major area of collecting within the Archival Center are pictorial images, including photographs, prints, and artwork, as well as audio-visual media such as films, videotapes, DVDs and CDs. This year we brought into our pictorial collection 818 items. Of this group 749 were donations, 40 were deposit items from the Danvers Historical Society and 29 were purchased items.
Among photographic items purchased for our collections were: a stereograph photograph of the George Peabody funeral at Portland, Maine, showing the catafalque in the snowy street with a crowd observing the procession; a 12” x 16” oil-on-board painting by Danvers artist Charles F. Whitney showing the famed “Great Oak Tree” located off Pickering Street and the inspiration for naming the new elementary school in the early 1950s (c 1944); an Associated Press wire photo of an Essex County Court official looking at legal documents created during the 1692 witchcraft cases (1973); a trade card featuring John G. Whittier (c 1890s); eight 10¼” x 8¼” mounted albumen photographs of Danvers houses and sites taken by Frank Cousins (c 1890); a color newspaper comic strip panel from the series “America’s Greatest Heroes,” featuring Israel Putnam (June 14, 1936); an engraving of General Thomas Gage (1857); 8 snapshot photos of the 175th Danvers anniversary parade (July 1927); and a 15” x 19” framed and mounted watercolor and gauche painting of the Jesse Putnam House off Maple Street painted by Richard Ellery (1946).
Photographic items donated included: 12 photos of the Israel Hutchinson house on Centre Street; 10 color photos of the Nurse Homestead (1997); a portrait of Professor Charles Whitney; a sketch of the Methodist Church on Holten Street (c 1968); 19 photos of Danvers Town Hall shot by police officer Roger Cyr (1966); a mounted photo of janitor John H. Wiggs in his basement office at the Maple Street School (c 1910); photo of Town Manager Dan McFadden (c 1960); and 2 roll photographs of Danvers High School graduates (1963).
A major addition to our photograph collection this year was the ROBERT G. OSGOOD POSTCARD COLLECTION. A subcategory within our Danvers photographic collection are postcards published beginning in the 1890s. These cards were created as inexpensive souvenirs, or to be sent through the U.S mail bearing brief messages.
Osgood, a well known former Danvers firefighter, long-serving Town Meeting Member, Citizen of the Year, and active member of the community, was also a serious collector of area postcards. Over many years Bob bought at antique meets, purchased from eBay auctions, and swapped with other local postcard aficionados, until his accumulated collection filled six large albums. Interspersed with the postcard gift were other Danvers items of ephemera, including business trade cards, and 19th century envelopes with various Danvers postmarks, and stereoviews.
Osgood’s Danvers postcards include some rare 1890s views including of the Endecott Pear Tree, short-run “real photo postcards” of lesser known Danvers houses, colorful German and American published cards of the early 1900s, and 1950s black & white views of Danvers Square. Among postcard themes are 26 different images of the Israel Putnam birthplace, 12 of Danvers railroad stations, 28 of St. John’s Preparatory School, 22 of John Greenleaf Whittier’s residence at Oak Knoll, and 23 of the Jeremiah Page House.
Osgood himself is featured in one color postcard dressed in colonial clothing, along with myself. The 1980s card features members of the Danvers Alarm List Company at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead.
Thanks to Bob’s generosity in donating almost 600 items, we now have what is probably the most complete collection of Danvers Postcards ever brought together.” In honor of such a large and generous donation, this subcategory has been officially designated as the “Robert G. Osgood Postcard Collection.”
Audio-visual materials donated to the Archives included: three DVDs of a fictional series called Salem, about the witchcraft era produced by WGN America and broadcast on cable television. The programs are a combination of the television series Dark Shadows & Peyton Place, wrapped in 21st century gore and sex (2014); a cassette audio tape of a talk of Dr. John L. George to the Friends of the Library on the subject of “Danvers Development” (1970s); a DVD produced by Steve Crowe titled Answering the Call: Patriots’ Day, in which the journalist followed the activities of the Danvers Alarm List Company during the state holiday (c 1999); and a DVD of the Danvers Local Access Television program “Topics of the Town” with hosts Mark Zuberek and John Zaviglia interviewing me concerning various local history topics (January 2015).
A number of years back we began a preservation process of re-boxing our photographic collection in new Hollinger photo-neutral boxes and folders, and placing fragile or important images in clear inert plastic sleeves within these folders. Among photo collections completely accessioned individually and placed within protective sleeves were: the Israel Hutchinson House; Danvers celebrating Christmas; and the Samuel Fowler House.
Though we do not collect objects within our collection, an exception to this are commemorative objects relating to our founder, George Peabody, and souvenir items concerning the Peabody Institute Library. This year we were fortunate to acquire a Peabody medal style previously unknown to us. The hefty 2 3/8” diameter bronze medal was issued by the Trustees of the Peabody Education Fund and presented in 1895 to a student in New Orleans.
Manuscripts are the raw material of history and the type of primary source documentation that is most revealing of the past. Manuscripts and public documents make up the largest part of our collections. Added to the “Manuscript” card catalogue this fiscal year were 285 cards.
Each year we continue to catalogue the backlog of Danvers Historical Society manuscripts on deposit at the Archival Center. Tom Marsella does a good amount of researching and cataloguing of this material. Among Historical Society papers processed and catalogued this past year included: military commissions and letters of Dr. Ebenezer Hunt (1864-1870); an arbitration finding relating to property belonging to Joseph Prince (1814); a list of men drafted from Danvers to serve in the military (1863); Police Department records on the appointment of special police officers (1897-1943); a statement from a Lynn constable concerning John Collins paying taxes (1771); militia division orders posted by Adjutant Ebenezer Sutton regarding a court martial (1824); a letter to the Society from William W. Silvester concerning the New England baked bean (1893); an enlistment roll of volunteer Danvers men (1862); an Essex Agricultural Society membership certificate issued to Israel Herbert Putnam (1855); military papers of William W. Gould (1861, 1864, 1912); a deed from Michael Cross (1783); six diaries of Frank E. Sweetser (1916-1945); pension examinations made by Dr. Ebenezer Hunt (1866-1873); a deed granted to Eleazer Pope (1730); Danvers Building Association canceled checks (1885-1886); a receipt for foodstuffs purchased of Archelaus Putnam (1815); a monograph about the acquisition of a town clock in 1853 (n.d.); notes on the construction of the Newburyport Turnpike (c 1890); and a military draft notice to Moses N. Hunt (1863).
Town Clerk deposits of town records catalogued this year included: Town Treasurer’s account book (1752-1783); juror selection record books (1829-1921); School Committee records (1914-1920); a militia company order to muster (1830); and Town Treasurer checks (1857-1860).
A large collection of deposit records came to us this year from the newly established All Saints Episcopal Church on Holten Street, previously known as the Calvary Episcopal Church. The Danvers church merged with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Peabody. Most of the Calvary Church records were deposited with us years ago, though new deposits include: marriage register (1916-1968); and 8 volumes of register of church services (1948-2012). Along with these came St. Paul’s Church records including: six volumes of church registers (1875-1959); 3 volumes of church record books (1886-1966); church register (1928-1969); marriage register (1914-1918); constitution and by-laws (1903); vestry record book (1960-1965); and treasurers’ account books (1876-1907).
From the Danvers Preservation Commission files we were given a deposit of correspondence concerning the request for a U.S. postage commemorative stamp commemorating the witchcraft events, including letters from Rev. Howard O. Stearns and various politicians, including senators Leveret Saltonstall and Edward M. Kennedy. A library deposit of photocopies made in the 1970s of the military letters of Elbridge H. Gilford (1861-1864), was also added to our catalogue. We also re-catalogued a very important deposit deed from the First Church, Congregational from 1974 and restored in 1983. The deed is for 5 acres sold by Joseph Holten, Sr., to Salem Village in 1681 and reconfirmed and filed in 1695 for use of the ministry. Signers include Nathanial Ingersoll, John Putnam and Jonathan Corwin.
Manuscripts donated to the Archival Center this past year included: Endicott Park Study Committee papers (1989-1992); photocopies of records of the Rebecca Nurse Homestead when owned by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (1929-1973); a letter by Ezra Putnam (1793); and a 6-page color copy of the Articles of Confederation (1777) given to us by the National Archives.
Purchased manuscript items, a number acquired from checking items for sale through the eBay on-line web site each week, included: a letter of condolence from Sarah B. Bates (1908); the will of Samuel Flint written as he was going into military service for an expedition to Crown Point, New York (1755); a letter from John Waters Proctor (1847); an invitation and calling card from George Peabody for a London dinner (1851); a stampless folded letter by Edith Hutchinson (1847); a coroner’s commission to Josiah Bachelder signed by 15 members of the Council of the Province, including Samuel Holten, at a period just after the Massachusetts revolt against England had begun (September 1775); and a letter sent to Susan Putnam (1843).
Two Whittier manuscript items, purchased for inclusion in our Dr. Richard P. Zollo Whittier Collection, were purchased. One item is an A.L.S. by Whittier at Danvers (1888); while the other is a check made out and endorsed by Whittier from his publisher Ticknor and Fields, possibly as a payment for his famous publication, Snowbound.
The Archival Center also has a significant collection of maps and plans which are catalogued separately. A wonderful collection of plans deposited this year was through the Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church. The 10 sheets of inked plans date to 1869 when created for the construction of the new Unity Chapel of the Unitarian Church on what is now Porter Street. These plans of this Gothic Revival building were drawn by famed New York architect and Danvers-born Samuel Fowler Eveleth. They include foundation plan, principal floor plan, elevations, cross sections and framing plans. When deposited there, the fragile plans were rolled up. We unrolled and weighted down the plans for several months and then put them in specially procured plastic pockets.
Our website www.danverslibrary.org/archive continues to expand. I write new text and articles, which Eva inputs and Jim Riordan uploads to the website with appropriately sized illustrations. This past fiscal year we added: the Archive Annual Report for 2014; an article titled “Historian on the Set” concerning the 1985 shooting of the film, Three Sovereigns for Sarah, along with a photo gallery about the shoot; an article on “The Meetinghouse at Salem Village”; articles on the history of two endangered houses in Danvers, “The Albion F. Welch House” and “The Porter-Bradstreet Homestead,” an article about “Help Save The Peabody Urn!” and an article on the life of “Grenville M. Dodge,” chief engineer of the Union Pacific Railroad.
A video program was also added to our site titled, Answering the Call: The True Meaning of Patriots’ Day. In 1998, the activities of the town’s recreated 18th century militia unit, the Danvers Alarm List Company, were recorded by North Shore journalist Stephen Crowe for a graduate course at Boston University. Video was taken in Danvers, Lexington, Concord, and Arlington, and later edited into a 3.5-minute “enterprise piece” suitable for an evening news program. Shot in Hi8 video format, the piece was created in VHS format and later re-edited in Final Cut Pro. This short but succinct broadcast piece captures the spirit of the commemoration of Patriots’ Day in Danvers and Massachusetts.
Our website has an active use in Danvers, in the US, and even around the world. During the week of July 6-15 the following countries were represented: Canada (10), United Kingdom (7), France (3), Mexico (3), South Africa (2), Philippines, Romania, China, Spain, Russian Federation, Italy, Israel, and Ireland. Many of our illustrations can also be found in numerous Google illustration searches.
We were open for 45 weeks this past fiscal year, not keeping statistics for 7 weeks during which we were closed due to illness or vacation. During the 45 weeks we were able to keep statistics, 1011 patrons visited the Archives to use our resources, while 675 telephone calls were answered, and 919 letters and emails sent out in response to patron queries. Twelve talks were given to civic, town, and school groups, with a combined audience of about 865 people.
We received as a gift from a local business of a pristine Kodak Carousel 5200 Projector with a 102mm lens and extra carousel slide trays. This is similar to a unit we already have, and though the technology is a bit dated, it’s the finest method to project 35mm transparencies, of which we have thousands in our collection.
Supplies purchased for our use this year included a humidity and temperature meter for the vault, blank DVD and CD disks, acid free letter and legal file folders, polyester sleeves of various sizes for photographic and manuscript storage, large format acid free map folders, and acid-free letter-size paper for copying.
We subscribe to a number of popular preservation periodicals including: Early American Life, and Preservation News, as well as some genealogical subscriptions that help or reflect local families, including Essex Society of Genealogy, New England Historical Genealogical Register, New England Archivist, American Archivist, The Manuscript Society, About Towne, and the Endecott-Endicott Family Association. As courtesy storage we give space to the Towne Family Association for their four-drawer file storing the records of this genealogical organization.
This has been another frustrating year in implementing a new fire suppression system for the Archive area.
Back in 2010, on two separate occasions, sprinkler heads within the Library’s water sprinkler system failed for no apparent reason and seriously damaged library equipment and collections. Seeing this as a potential devastating situation if it ever occurred in the Archival Center area with our valuable collection of manuscripts and rare books, it was determined to seek an alternative system. At the May 2011 Danvers Annual Town Meeting, it was voted to fund $18,000 toward this project. Unfortunately, the town did not quickly follow-through on the project. In 2012 our old Haylon gas system, originally installed in 1981 in the Archive Walk-In-Vault, was declared in need of replacement, while Haylon itself was no longer allowed for such application. This project could be incorporated into the major fire suppression project, but at an increase in cost.
Following meetings with DPW representatives and the Danvers Fire Chief, research, and a November 2013 consulting report by Firepro, Inc. commissioned by the Library Board of Trustees, we were able to recommend that the two Archive rooms and the Walk-In-Vault be installed with a Novec 1230 Fire Suppression System composed of gas canisters which, if set off, would suppress a fire, but not produce by-products of decomposition that could damage our historic records. This would also alleviate the water damage associated with an accidental fire-suppression discharge of the water-charged sprinklers.
Meanwhile the original heating system for the library as a whole completely broke down. As part of a total replacement of the Library environmental system, article 21 of the May 2014 Danvers Annual Town Meeting requested $2.1 million for the replacement of the Library HVAC system, and updating the “fire suppression system for the archive section.” When the bids for the project came back, the project was found to be under-funded. The DPW decided, against my strong objection, to break off the Archive Fire Suppression System implementation, and pursue this project after the other library work is accomplished, though it appears that to obtain new funds, a new approval process will need to be pursued.
It has now been five years since the initial crisis and as Town Archivist, responsible for the care and protection of our Town and community historical records, I am extremely uncomfortable that the Town is not rectifying this potential extreme danger to our heritage, let alone the huge monetary value of the historic records themselves that could be obliterated by a sprinkler accident.
On a more positive note, the vandalized Peabody Memorial Urn is being restored! On July 30, 2010, a local thief knocked the massive bronze George A. Peabody Memorial Urn, fabricated in 1895 by J. L. Mott Iron Works of New York City off its granite pedestal. He then secreted away this public art-work to sell for scrap metal. Several days later an employee at an area scrap metal yard called Danvers police concerning several suspicious items brought there. The perpetrator was subsequently arrested and served a term in jail, but with no recompense given the Library. The broken Urn was brought back to Danvers. It was severely damaged, being cracked, stove-in on one side, missing rivets, and with one of two handles broken off. The Urn itself has an interesting story which you can access by looking at the home page of the Archive website.
This past year the Peabody Institute Library Board of Trustees, after all avenues of acquiring restitution were exhausted, decided to take on the project of restoring and placing the memorial urn in a new location and appropriately marking it as to its significance. Trustee Charles Desmond was made chairman of the sub-committee, with President Michael Hagen and member Julie Curtis also serving. I was also asked to serve.
Craftsmen at Cassidy Bros. Forge in Rowley, Massachusetts committed to be able to carefully restore the urn at an estimated cost of $16,880, with an additional $2,400 for its reinstallation with the use of a crane. They will also secure it from future theft.
Through the George Peabody Society, $10,000 was initially pledged for the work, while all the trustees and some of the Library staff have donated over $2,000 to the fund. Charles drew up the application for matching funds through the Danvers Cultural Council, and I represented the Library at two Council meetings explaining the project. We were very pleased that the Danvers Cultural Council gave a $1,000 matching grant for the Urn’s restoration, the largest grant given by them.
Charles had also applied to Danversbank Charitable Foundation for a grant, and was successful in receiving confirmation that the DanversBank Foundation committed $3,000 to the Urn restoration in March.
The Archives donated a number of extra copy books to the Friends of the Library annual book sale in June. We placed our books on a separate book cart with a sign “Danvers History & Witchcraft Books,” and priced them individually by means of round yellow labels. Sale of 14 of these archive extra items brought in $75, which the Friends turned over to the Urn Fund.
Likewise, with the approval of Alan and the Board of Trustees, $1,033 in my budget earmarked to preservation of materials from the Lig/Meg account was transferred for use of the Urn Fund.
Tentative location for the restored urn will be near one of the Library entrances, with a plaque mounted to the granite base. The Danvers Garden Club has committed to care for plantings in and around the Urn. Our library patrons and the public are urged to assist in the preservation of this public work-of-art through a tax-deductible donation to the George Peabody Society Urn Fund.
This monumental and artistically significant 700-pound bronze piece has served generations as a silent tribute to longtime Library Trustee President and donor George Augustus Peabody, as well as a lovely public ornamental art work to be enjoyed on the grounds of Peabody Park. The forces of darkness should not be allowed to get away with destroying our heritage, our art, and our memorials.
This past spring Alan made arrangements with Maury Cassidy for the various urn parts to be picked up. At present the urn is undergoing repair and restoration at Cassidy Brothers looking towards a rededication of the urn at the Library this fall.
As Town Archivist I serve as a commissioner for the Essex County National Heritage Area. Since its inception in 1973, I have been a member of the Salem Village Historic District Commission. The Commission holds its public meetings and hearings here or in the Gordon Room a number of times a year.
Relations between the Archival Center and the Danvers Historical Society have always been close. I serve in the Society as a member of its Executive Board and as its Honorary Historian. Reference questions to the Society are typically sent along to me at the Archives for answering, and I am pleased to serve as a resource to the Society wherever needed.
In my capacity as Town Archivist, I also serve as a resource for the Danvers Preservation Commission, particularly in regard to researching structures as part of the Danvers Demolition Delay By-Law. This year saw the demolition request of two very important houses to the history and development of Danvers. On July 24, 2014, a local lawyer representing owners of both the 1894 Albion Welch House at 22 Conant Street, and the ca. 1665 Porter-Bradstreet House at 487 Locust Street submitted applications for their demolition.
The dwelling and land at 487 Locust Street comprises the last surviving private, rural colonial homestead in the Town of Danvers. The home, known historically as the Porter-Bradstreet House, has a traditional date of ca. 1665, and is authentically one of the rarest American architectural style structures in the entire United States. Known as a “First Period” building which term indicates a date of between the mid 1600s up to 1725, this dwelling is one of less than an estimated 400 surviving buildings of its type in all of the United States. It was the home of many important local personages, including Lieutenant Joseph Porter, a hero of the Battle of Saratoga in 1777.
The Albion Welch house is a beautifully original, well kept, and stand-out structure located at 22 Conant Street, and a familiar site to all local citizens. It is positioned at what is now the residential head of Conant Street. The house is one of the few late 19th century high style dwellings still surviving upon a main thoroughfare within the Danvers business district. It situates well with the fine Romanesque style Saint Mary of the Annunciation Church located next door, and with several other late 19th century houses located further down the street. As it stands today, this 1894 dwelling is a wonderful example of the Queen Anne Revival architectural style popular in the United States between about 1875 and 1900. Elements of the Stick Style are also incorporated within the house design.
From the outset I notified the Preservation Commission that these two buildings were extremely important structures to the history, architecture and culture of Danvers, Essex County, and as regards the Porter House, to the nation. One lawyer represented the two separate owners, one a local family who had run a private school on the Porter-Bradstreet Homestead, the other dwelling on Conant Street soon sold to the Archdiocese of Boston, through the local St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish, which wanted to demolish the house for a 22-space parking lot.
During the next many months, as Town Archivist and a committed preservationist, I attempted to assist in the finding of alternative solutions for the saving of these buildings. Scores of private citizens of Danvers and the region, as well as numerous local organizations, also actively worked to preserve these historic buildings, including through petitions, newspaper letters-to-the-editor, and other means. The two houses had to go through the Town of Danvers Preservation Commission Demolition Delay By-Law. At the Commission’s request, I researched the two properties. Unlike my typical one or two-page report, these two dwellings needed a more in-depth report. The resulting report, with illustrations, was later included on the Archive website (which see) due to much local interest.
On August 12 I spoke at the first public hearing concerning both houses, and attended a house visit to the Welch House on Conant Street on September 22. I was disallowed by the owner from attending a house visit to the Porter House. At the final Preservation Commission Public Hearing on October 29, 2014, I spoke again about both houses and offered a parking report and considerations for preserving 22 Conant Street, including taking off the rear 32 feet of the structure built post 1894, to provide for at least 16 of the sought-after parking spots.
By unanimous vote, the Preservation Commission determined that both structures were historically significant and placed a 6-month delay upon the owners wanting to tear them down. The delay affords the Commission and other interested parties time to find and present alternatives to persuade the owner to preserve the structure. In October 2014 the Massachusetts historic preservation advocacy organization, Preservation Massachusetts, placed the Porter house on the state’s Most Endangered Historic Resources List.
When appropriate I pursued the preservation of these houses in my capacity as Town Archivist, and at other times as a private citizen. Both local newspapers allowed me to publish as a guest columnist, a long letter about the Welch House, asking that the parish priest and Archdiocese meet to discuss possible options. Though written as a private citizen, it was published by both newspapers with the fact that I was Town Archivist.
In early February I was asked to speak before the Danvers Board of Selectmen along with several others concerning the Conant Street House. Subsequently the Selectmen sent a letter requesting the Archdiocese to meet with representatives of the preservation community. This never occurred. The Town of Danvers also pursued the possibility of obtaining a preservation restriction on the Porter house and immediate grounds, whereby the owner would receive money for the recording on the deed of a perpetual restriction of preserving the house. The Town paid for two appraisals, but near the conclusion of the process, the owners withdrew their original interest in pursuing this course. As there was some outside interest in possibly purchasing the lot upon which the house stood, the Town brought the idea of a preservation restriction to Danvers Town Meeting for its approval. I spoke at both the Danvers Finance Committee meeting on May 3 and at the annual Town Meeting on May 18 in favor of the warrant article, as did several others, and the article passed unanimously at Town Meeting, so that this potential Preservation Restriction Fund could be available to whoever purchased the Porter House.
At the end of April 2015, the demolition delay ran out for both houses. As it stands at this point in July 2015, the Porter-Bradstreet property was subdivided and the lot with the ancient house is under agreement subject to several stipulations. The Welch House at 22 Conant Street is threatened by destruction any day. Missives to the local parish priest, Archdiocese, and Cardinal O’Malley have been completely ignored or worse, even when a possible now-fallow lot near the house might be a location for the moving of and preserving the original house. At the least, the Town should change the time line for the demolition delay, by increasing it to one year or 18 months.
During this past fiscal year the Archival Center brought in $65 in reference fees and certified copies as part of my responsibilities as an Assistant Town Clerk. Five house markers were ordered by Danvers homeowners bringing in $225, executed by talented sign painter Robert Leonard of Maine.
Other monies were generated from the resale of several duplicate items and reproduction maps, donations to two talks I gave to visiting groups, use of images for a new commercially published book, and use of images by two local businesses for decorative purposes. These fees and donations amounted to $610, bringing our total of income this year for the Archival Special Fund to $900. This fund was established years ago in order to have money available in case important but expensive items came to our attention and would overwhelm our regular budget. The fund has been utilized several times in the past when there was not enough money in our budget to cover the cost. Our fund now stands beginning with a balance for the new FY2016 at $16,332.
Since its inception, the Archives has attempted to act as a resource for other town agencies needing information. Among town departments assisted in research this past year were the Town Clerk, Town Manager, Town Counsel, Preservation Commission, Police Department, Building Inspector, Historic District Commission, School Department, Public Works Department, and Planning Department.
Back in 1970 I took on a project to direct the hunt for and excavation of the 1681 Salem Village Parsonage archaeological site located somewhere behind 69 Centre Street. I invited archaeologist Roland Wells Robbins, who had uncovered the remains of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond, and excavated the Saugus Ironworks, among many successful excavations, to participate. With a wonderful group of volunteers, we were able to excavate the parsonage site and retrieve thousands of artifacts. The property owner, Alfred Hutchinson, Jr., allowed the site to remain exposed for visitation. In 1989 the Town purchased the site and executed a number of site improvements, plantings and signage to make this a mini town park.
Though maintenance has continued over the years, by this year the signage was much in need of repair and the greenery had overgrown the site. I contacted CenTec Cast Metal Products to replace the two original 15” x 18” aluminum plates with text and illustrations I had originally put together in 1989. The Preservation Commission and Historic District Commission paid for the signage and I remounted them on two large platens and in June reattached them to the posts at the site. Dave Kayser repainted the two cast aluminum blue and yellow signs at the site. This summer I will be meeting with Sue Fletcher and Bob Lee at the site to go over improvements, and changes to be made by the town at the site to bring it back to its original freshness, while also making it easier to maintain.
Our new Town Manager, Steve Bartha, took up his position in Danvers in early December 2014. In March I wrote Mr. Bartha offering my efforts in any aspect of town service the Town Archivist could provide and an invitation for him to visit the Archival Center when he had a chance. I was very pleased that within a few days he had arranged to visit the Center on March 23, and that with such a busy schedule, the Manager gave his full attention for an hour tour of the archives and our collections, followed up by another hour of our discussing preservation issues I thought were important for the town to consider and work upon. I was very impressed by the affable, easy, and informal manner of Steve, and of his obvious intellect, thoughtfulness, and interest. My opinion has only been strengthened by further contact with the Town Manager and his Executive Secretary, Ann Freitas.
The Danvers Archival Center takes seriously our role as being the institutional memory and manuscript repository of the history of Salem Village and Danvers, and those thousands of residents who have in large or small ways impacted our American society,culture and history.
Richard B. Trask