Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Essex Heritage Explorers and Photo Safari Programs, Ames Hall Restoration, Salem State University Staus, and a St John's Prep State Title



If you are a member of the Essex Heritage Explorers Program it is not too late to sign up for a visit the Salem Athenaeum. This wonderful literary and cultural center that is located on upper Essex Street in Salem is this year celebrating its 200th anniversary as a place where readers, writers and life long learners have visited for the last two centuries. The present location has only been in use since 1907 but the Explorers tour later this week will include visits to both the public and private spaces in this facility. A special showing of the current exhibit called Delights and Curiosities will be available to the Explorers that day. Please call Elizabeth Rankin at 978 740 0444 to make your reservation. You will certainly be glad that you took the time to include this visit to this famous Salem institution.


Do not forget to sign up for the next Essex Heritage Photo Safari sponsored by Hunts Photo and Video of Melrose. These events have become very popular and the information and advice offered are most helpful to photography enthusiasts. The vents are usually filled to capacity but call today to see if there is space available for this event or for future presentations. The next event is co sponsored by Cannon will be held on Saturday, June 24, 2010 and the Stevens-Coolidge Place in North Andover, MA. To sign up and to get more information on the event contact Emily Levin at the Essex Heritage office by calling 978 740 0444 or by e-mail at emilyl@essexheritage.org.


A couple of weeks ago I missed the opportunity to comment on an important restoration project in Salem, but it is not too late to take note of the project. The Salem YMCA has undertaken a project to restore the historic Ames Hall portion of their building. The Ames hall restoration project is intended to make this century old hall into a modern performing arts facility. For all of us who grew up in Salem in the period just after World War 11, Ames Hall at the Salem YMCA was the site where a Salem institution called Teen Town was held on Saturday evenings. I would suspect that if you asked Salem residents and people of my generation about how they spent their Saturday evenings in the 1950’ s, Teen Town and Ames Hall would be consistent answer. The hall was used as a gathering place for teens of that decade and later into the 1960’s. The events held each Saturday evening was inexpensive and safe and was widely attended by teens from all across the city. This weekend gathering in downtown Salem took place a little before automobiles became prevalent and attendees walked from all over the City to attend the evenings where dancing, bowling and games like ping-pong and pool kept us interested and coming back each week for more. Ames Hall and Teen Town was the primary citywide gathering spot for young people of my generation.

The YMCA has certainly recruited the right co-chairs to bring attention to the need to raise resources to complete this rehabilitation project. Dr, Nancy Harrington, the former President of Salem State College and David Ives the CEO of North Shore International Insurance will do a wonderful job leading this effort. Their reputation in the City will bring attention to the project and the need for a new Performing Arts facility that could serve the entire region seems well outlined. It is certainly clear that Salem could use a performing arts facility like the one planned for the Ames Hall restoration and let’s hope that this initiative becomes a reality.


In the previous note, I mentioned the former President of Salem State College, and in this next issue, her influence is once again front and center. Now that the Massachusetts State Legislature has almost completed much of their annual budget deliberations they are turning their attention to issues like gaming and a change of status for the 150 plus year old college on Lafayette Street in Salem. Dr. Harrington during her term as President of the College long advocated for the change that would grant University status to Salem State. It seems likely that Salem State and many of its sister institutions in the Commonwealth might finally get that long-term wish of Nancy Harrington. The tradition of strong leadership has been continued with Dr. Patricia Messerey at the helm of the college and she has continued to carry the message of University status to our elected officials on Beacon Hill in Boston.

It seems that now with the complete support of Senator Fred Berry and Representative John Keenan that the change might be on the near horizon. The graduates of the college have traditionally stayed in this region after graduation, and they represent in many cases the current leadership of the region. There is certainly a strong alumni base of support in the region for the proposed change, and I am sure that group of supporters continues to weigh in on this issue. In the event that you see one of our local elected officials and you believe that University status for Salem State would be positive for this region, let them know of your support. Salem State College has been a strong and committed partner of Essex Heritage since our inception and we value the wonderful relationship we continue to have with the soon to be Salem State University.


It certainly appears that the North Shore Medical Center Cancer Walk on Father’s Day was both a social and financial success. From what I could see from my vantage point as an early morning walker, the crowds were large. My wife Marge and I began out effort at about 7:15 am to avoid some of the later day heat. Since the walk begins early for many like us that want to beat and the fact that the crowds are spread out over a six-mile journey, it is hard for me to estimate a total attendance at the walk. Marge and I walked with a group of Salem Five Bank employees that had gathered as they have done since the inception of the walk as supporters of this great charitable event. Let’s hope that the financial contributions on Sunday matched the large crowds. Marge has two appointments this week at the Cancer Center on Endicott Street in Danvers and walking in the Sunday event had special meaning for both of us.

St John’s Prep Wins State Title in Lacrosse

Congratulations to the Lacrosse program at St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers as they won an exciting overtime victory to claim their first ever State title in Lacrosse. The win over defending state titlist Duxbury was hard earned and will be relished by the Danvers school for years to come. I know that there were several other local programs that did quite well in State athletic events this spring and the St. Mary’s of Lynn girls softball team also won a state title, and Masconomet baseball team fell just one victory short of a title.

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts or any questions you may have at www.essexheritage.org. We are always striving to make Essex Heritage work as effectively as possible and your input and suggestions are always welcome. We can always provide more information and better communication, and one of the goals of these postings on Essex happenings is to provide that opportunity. Thank You. Tom Leonard

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