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.
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
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).