Salem is a city rich in American History. It is located on the Salem River and was founded by John Fenwick in 1673. The Old Salem County Courthouse is the second oldest courthouse in the United States; the oldest is King William County Courthouse in Virginia. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Salem was an important port engaged in shipbuilding and trade.
Maybe the most famous tree in America is the Salem Oak, a lone survivor of the original forest, over 500 years old and ninety feet high covering more than a quarter acre of ground. It is believed John Fenwick signed a treaty with the Lenape Indians under this magnificent tree in 1675 when he bought the land for a reported sum of about 20 gallons (2 ankers) of rum, 8 knives and 3 pairs of scissors. The tree stands at the Friends Burial Ground on West Broadway.
The first two Quaker meeting houses were built on this lot. One was a log house built by Samuuel Nicholson who sold it and the land to the Quakers in 1681. The second is a brick meeting house located between the Salem Oak and the Salem City Library, built in 1700. A third meeting house was built in 1772 on three acres of land on East Broadway with the date written in vitrified bricks on the west side of the building . Some interesting features of this third meeting house are the building's fine proportions and 12 over 12 windows with Wistarburg glass panes.
Salem has retained historical interest and importance with both Broadway and Market Street listed on the New Jersey State and National Registers as historic districts. The original Old Salem Courthouse, located at the corner of East Broadway and Market Street, was planned by John Fenwick as a courthouse and jail and constructed in 1692. The present structure was built in 1735 using brick manufactured in Salem County. Starting with the court house a visitor can walk the town and see 24 buildings listed in the Salem City Heritage Trail with each having descriptions of their historical and architectural importance.
The Salem County Clerk's Office, located in the Salem Court House, features an archives room with archival volumes and documents dating from the late 1600's and newspapers dating back to the early 1800's. The archives houses indexes for marriages, Civil War soldiers and more - these archives are of great interest to anyone researching the history of Salem County.
Today Salem City is undergoing revitalization with plans to become a major tourism center; the business district has been preserved with the whole area filled with architecturally impressive buildings. Visitors can spend an enjoyable day shopping, dining, visiting and viewing the buildings, store fronts and homes listed in Salem City Heritage Trail.
East Broadway Trail (historic) brochure - PDF
For more information about Salem City NJ, please visit: http://www.salemcitynj.com