Monday, August 23, 2010

Death of a Ships Captain, NE Harvest Newsletter, Danvers Swamp Walk and Part One of the Essex Heritage History


Death of a Ship Captain

I begin today’s entry on a sad note. During the last week the first volunteer captain of the National Park Service’s ship Friendship passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer at the Hospice Center in Danvers. After the National Park Service with the unwavering support of the Essex Heritage received authorization to build the Friendship. Jim Fox was one the very first volunteers to offer his services to help. During some of the very earliest meetings when the planning for how the ship would be used to help relate Salem’s maritime history, Jim Fox was one of the most active participants. His knowledge of the sea and the history of the maritime service were invaluable as we all tried to chart a course for the Friendship in her earliest days. It seems ironic that just weeks before the Friendship embarks on its first commercial sails over Labor Day weekend 2010, Jim Fox her first captain would pass away. The crew that he sailed and planned with, as the ship became a reality, will truly miss him. Over the past weekend the National Park Service provided a fitting memorial to Captain Fox when they tilted the lower yards of the Friendship and flew a black banner from the ships main mast in his memory.

Jim Fox was a man of many talents and his accomplishments at Massachusetts Maritime Academy were legendary. After his graduation in 19664 with an undergraduate degree he was awarded an honorary Doctorate later in life. He also served as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the school, and also served as the President of the Academy’s Alumni Association and the Chairman of the Foundation that raised funds for the school. He will truly be missed in Salem at the Friendship and at his beloved Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

Northeast Harvest Newsletter

This month’s Northeast Harvest Newsletter brought to you by an association with Essex Heritage and the Essex Agricultural Society has been published and can be accessed by contacting Essex Heritage at our web site, This month’s edition of the newsletter is filled with fun and educational facts about the most popular New England crop, corn. There is information about the history of the crop in this region and how important corn was to the first inhabitants of this region. There are articles on both how to pick corn and the best ways to cook and serve this crop. In addition to information about this major vegetable grown in this region the farms in the region that offer corn mazes are identified. Mazes can be found in both Essex and Middlesex Counties at Marini Farm in Ipswich, Connors Farm in Danvers, Honey Pot Orchards in Stow, Kimball farm in Haverhill, and Hansons farm in Framingham. The mazes in these locations can be great fun for the entire family and we encourage you to visit these locations this fall. In this edition there is also a listing of the agricultural resources in Essex County where Essex Heritage Trails and Sails events will be held on the last two weekends in September. Now is the time to make your reservations for Essex Heritage’s Trails and Sails event.

Town of Danvers Swamp Walk Project

Congratulations to the volunteers on the project team that are helping to build the Swamp Walk in the Northern end of Danvers and the Town Planning Department for the recent financial award granted to the project. Work on the walks and observation platforms that are being built in the Choate Recreation Area have been underway for some time now, and the recent grant will allow work to continue starting again in October 2010. The Town and the project is the recipient of a grant in the amount of $26,659.78 from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation Trails Program that was applied for by the Town’s Planning Department. When completed this project will allow residents of this region wonderful opportunities to view an area of the region not previously accessible.

Essex Heritage History

I have always enjoyed the process of recording the history of organizations where I have played a role. Just before I retired from the Salem Five, I provided the bank with my recollections of the history of the bank as I viewed those events, and I expect that the history can still be found in the banks achieves. Then on the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Salem Partnership, the public-private association that played a prominent role in the development of Salem in the 1990’s, I also provided that organization with a history for their records. That record is still intact at the offices of the Salem Partnership. Now in 2010 I have outlined my thoughts and recollections of the first dozen or so years in the life of the Essex National Heritage Area and the Commission that manages the area.

For those of you who are readers of these weekly postings that are not aware of the history of this organization over the next several weeks I plan to end these twice a week postings with a continuing relating of that history. I intend to offer this history in chronological order over the next several weeks a bit at a time, until we arrive back in 2010. I hope that you will rejoin me twice a week as I relate the story of Essex Heritage and hope that you will enjoy the history. Part ONE of the ESESX HERITAGE HISTORY follows:

A Brief History of the Essex National Heritage Commission From 1990-2010


Thomas M. Leonard, President Emeritus

In this report, I will briefly try to outline the history of the ENHC for the past two decades that I have served as President and now President Emeritus of since the time that the Commission was first contemplated in 1990. The history is certainly written from my perspective, and I am certain that my recollections of the work of the Commission may be different from others that participated in this initiative.

Many activists from Salem that were involved in the work of the Salem Partnership and were focusing on how it could grow and sustain itself, looked at the emerging model of National Heritage Areas as a natural way to sustain and carry on the work that the Partnership had already accomplished. As the process developed, The National Park Service and most particularly the Salem Maritime National Historic Site undertook a comprehensive “Study of Alternatives” to try to determine a course of action for the Park Service to undertake. The membership of the Salem Partnership and others in the region who had an interest in the economic future of the region was also offered the opportunity to participate in this initiative. There were several alternatives explored and outlined, and one of those alternatives called for the establishment of a Heritage Area proposal for just the City of Salem. This alternative had supporters as it was originally anticipated that the establishment of a “Salem Only” Heritage Area would allow for the continuance of the flow of federal funding that had been finding its way to Salem, to restore the wharves, build a visitor center, build and promote the Friendship and other activities. It was thought that some of the funding that might be obtained could be used to help fund the Salem Partnership, expand its staff and provide support for its other community activities.

A cursory investigation of the possibilities of establishing a “Salem only” heritage area was outlined and discussed in some detail with Nick Mavroules the then sitting Congressman representing this region and he appeared very lukewarm to the concept. He convinced the Partnership leadership that the United States Congress would be much more likely to look favorably on a proposal that included the entire region. He pointed out the political reality that a City with 38,000 residents would not mean as much to the US Congress as an area that included 750,000 residents. He also pointed out that support from the rest of the Massachusetts congressional delegation would be easier to obtain if the plan was regional in nature. After several long discussions and the examination of all of the pros and cons of the various plans, the area that was ultimately identified was the entire Essex County region. At that time the county and its 500 square miles of land closely mirrored the area that made up the Massachusetts Sixth Congressional District that was represented by Congressman Mavroules , so the Congressman favored this solution.

ENHC History to be continued in the next Essex Happenings BLOG posting

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 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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