Salem Public Library, 370 Essex St.

  • Salem Public Library, 370 Essex St.
  • The Moulton-Erickson Photo Co.
  • The Salem Public Library was originally built as a home for Captain John Bertram and his family. In 1855, the Bertram family moved from their smaller house at 24 Winter Street and took up residence in their new High Style Italianate brick and brownstone mansion at 370 Essex Street. After his death, in a letter dated December 1, 1887, Bertram’s widow and daughters offered the mansion on Essex Street to the City of Salem for use as a Public Library. The offer was accepted and the Salem Public Library opened its doors on July 8, 1889. The mansion was immediately refurbished to include a main hall, public reading room, trustees' room, reference room and book-stacks. In 1911, Boston architect Clarence H. Blackall appended a four-story fireproof book stack ell, a one-story reference room wing, and a corresponding office.

    In the early 1980's, director Patrick Cloherty pushed for much needed repairs to the library's structure and basic upgrades to the 1850's era building. The renovation was undertaken in two phases. The first phase began in 1986 which established the children's room in the basement and added an elevator and ramp for handicapped accessibility. This phase was complete in June 1987. The second phase renovated the main floor and stack area, and moved the reference room to the third floor. Tiled ceilings were removed and paint stripped to restore its 1912 look. The second phase was completed by June 1990. In 2016, CPA grant money was used to repair the elegant stone brownstone facade of the library.

    The water fountain in the side yard is a fine example of a Victorian Garden ornament. Cast by Robert Wood & Co. of Philadelphia in the 1850's it was one of the few Victorian fountains to survive the scrap drives of World War II. The Greek god Poseidon (known to the Romans as Neptune) stands in the middle holding a trident with a dolphin underfoot. This is a nod to Bertram's seafaring past. Some repairs were made to the fountain following the building's renovation in 1987. The approximate date of casting is between 1850-1857.

    The Bertram Elm in the yard of the Salem Public Library was said to be close to 100 years old in 1912. The tree's circumference measured at 18 feet and 6 inches in 1912 and reaching to 70 feet high, with gracefully spreading branches. In 1909 the tree was treated for 'interior tree cancer.' Cement was used to fill its cavity after hollowing out the cancerous spots. Iron rods were also used to hold the great limbs in place. The elm is documented up to the year 1919, but no one is sure when the great tree came down.
  • 1891-1901
  • Frank Cousins' Bee-Hive
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The Moulton-Erickson Photo Co., “Salem Public Library, 370 Essex St.,” Salem Public Library, accessed August 14, 2022,


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