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The oldest living history museum in the country is located in Salem, Massachusetts, not far from the downtown area famous for its museums devoted to the sensational witchcraft trials of the late seventeenth century. The Pioneer Village opened in 1930, at the same time as the community was celebrating the 300th anniversary of the town’s first settlement. The museum provides its visitors with a glimpse into village life during the early colonial era.

  • A home and garden at the Salem Pioneer Village (Photo courtesy of Salem Tales)
  • Buildings and pathway at the Salem Pioneer Village (Photo Courtesy of Salem Tales)
  • One of the cottages at the Salem Pioneer Village (Photo Courtesy of Salem Tales)

The Pioneer Village near Forest Park in Salem, Massachusetts is considered the oldest living history museum in the country. It was built in 1930, in time for the celebration of the town’s 300th birthday. The small village is a collection of early-colonial era buildings located on a three-acre parcel of land. It was designed by George Francis Dow of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. All of the buildings were constructed using the techniques and materials available around 1630 when the land was first settled. There are dugouts, wigwams, thatched roof cottages, culinary and medicinal gardens, a blacksmith shop, and a recreation of the Governor’s Faire House for visitors to explore.

The colonists that first settled in the Salem area around 1630 were led by Richard Conant, formerly of London.  He was part of a larger group which first tried to establish a fishing village further north on Cape Ann, but that settlement failed.  Conant led a group south and founded a settlement at Naumkeag (Christianized to “Salem”). For the rest of his life, Conant devoted himself to the development of the town of Salem.

Management of the village museum was transferred to Gordon College in 2008.  Gordon College ran the city-owned Pioneer Village for five years, until the college decided to end its management agreement to concentrate its resources on Old Town Hall (they only held that contract for about one year).

Tours are available on weekends during the summer months (June through September) at 12:30 PM, 1:30 PM and 2:30 PM. Tickets can be purchased at the gate and cost only $6.00 for adults and $4.50 for children (as of October 2017).

About Salem Pioneer Village. Salem Pioneer Village 1630. Accessed October 21, 2017.

McAllister, Jim. Roger Conant: Salem's Founder. Salem Tales. Accessed October 21, 2017.

McAllister, Jim. Pioneer Village: Salem 1630. Salem Tales. Accessed October 21, 2017.

Leighton, Paul. Salem mayor, Kim Driscoll, cuts ties with Gordon College over gay rights. The Salem News. July 10, 2014. Accessed October 21, 2017.