I've been very busy with four different projects for people, but I was able to arrange for several of us from the Commission on Disabilities to get a tour of the Salem Jail . The city's Dan Stanwood, local expert, led us through part of the facility for an hour.
It was a fascinating tour. The building is foreboding, as befits its original purpose as a prison (and execution site), and I don't want to diminish the experiences of the prisoners there, but it looked like a handsome building, the state of the art for its time.
It's remarkable, if horrifying, that the building was still in use as late as 1991! Mr. Stanwood knew and spoke with quite a number of corrections officers who had been working at the facility up until it closed.
I had a video camera with me, since Mike Sosnowksi asked me to tape the tour. I have not looked at the footage yet but it will air on SATV sometime soon and I may put a segment of the tour up on the web.
I have mixed emotions: The Jail had outlived its usefulness and was dangerous for both inmates and officers alike in later years.
But as I've written before, I absolutely hate the idea of the Jail becoming condos. I hate that Salem has to live off its history, off of things that other people made and left behind so that arrogant yuppie property-owners can have "history" to check off on their property values.
When I applied to move in to the building across the street (as seen in the picture above), I was told by a Salem Housing Authority representative that when that building was open for elderly and disabled tenants in 1982, almost everyone wanted to be on "the other side" of the building (the one facing away from the Jail) and it was feared, jokingly, that the building would tip over!
The shoe is on the other foot and I am bitter. Now the Jail could be "desirable", "hip", "up and coming" and most important, "historic", er. "Historic". My building will now be "undesirable" and "low income". ("Why are you here, the old people don't have jobs to go to!" "Can't we just redevelop and move you to Lynn?")
I am SO looking forward to hearing that!