Boston (October 25, 2022) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today joined Representative Seth Moulton (MA-06) in announcing legislation to redesignate Salem Maritime, the nation’s first National Historic Site, as a National Historical Park.
“Salem Maritime is one of the Commonwealth’s key historical landmarks—it documents American slavery, maritime history, and the fight for freedom,” said Senator Markey. “Redesignating Salem Maritime as a National Historical Park will reflect its place in our nation’s history, preserve its many resources, and help bring more visitors in the future to learn from Salem’s past. This will improve our cultural and historical understanding and bolster Massachusetts’s tourism economy. By re-designating and supporting this park, we can support Black voices and tell Salem’s full story.”
“Salem Maritime contains more than a single historical feature. In fact, the stories at Salem Maritime span more than four centuries of American history with recent scholarship uncovering significant connections related to slavery, emancipation, Black activism, and entrepreneurship,” said Rep. Moulton. “Increasing visitation to Salem Maritime is important to supporting Salem's tourism economy, especially since the historical themes of Salem Maritime encourage people to visit beyond just the month of October.”
Salem Maritime in Salem, Massachusetts was established in 1938 as the first National Historic Site to be in the National Park System. The site has nine acres of land and twelve historic structures on Salem harbor. It also contains a downtown visitor center that encourages thousands of visitors to explore the local community, including the park, the city, and the Essex National Heritage Area. Redrawing Salem Maritime’s boundary to include the city’s downtown visitor center will encourage more visitors to explore the local community and boost Massachusetts’s tourist economy.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said, “Changing the name of Salem Maritime fits with our city’s goal to raise the profile of Salem’s important maritime history. This is especially important as we look to commemorate the 400th anniversary of European arrival in Salem and the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution in just a few years in 2026. This legislation will also help the City in our applications for funding for improvements and interpretive opportunities at key historic sites, including Fort Pickering and Fort Lee.”
“Historical parks are perceived by the public as more interesting and significant,” said Annie Harris, CEO of Essex Heritage, the regional non-profit that partners with the National Park Service on programs and visitor services in Salem and Saugus. “Paul DePrey, the former superintendent at Salem Maritime, frequently stated that national historic sites, which were redesignated as national historical parks, typically experienced a 20-25% increase in visitation.”
In addition to the redesignation, Senator Markey and Representative Moulton’s legislation would require the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a Special Resource Study of sites and resources associated with maritime history and coastal defense in and around Salem, which provides opportunity for Salem to receive federal grant funding.