Tree Work Completed at Charter Street Cemetery

The City of Salem completed the first phase of landscape restoration and improvements to Charter Street Cemetery on April 9-10. This phase of the project included tree pruning and the selective removal of diseased trees that were in danger of falling on fragile headstones and volunteer species that were dropping branch debris and threatening the integrity of the cemetery’s retaining walls. (see map below). Due to the sensitive nature of the cemetery, no mechanical equipment was allowed in the site, all tree and limb removal was completed by hand or via overhead equipment and historic headstones and tombs were protected.

For more information about this project, please contact Patti Kelleher, Department of Planning and Community Development at 978-619-5685.

Charter Street Cemetery

Located in the heart of the Charter Street National Register Historic District, Charter Street Cemetery is Salem’s oldest burial ground. This  1.47 acre public green space contains one of New England's finest collection of 17th, 18th and 19th century gravestone art with the oldest stone dating to 1673. Notable burials include Judge John Hathorne, who had a prominent role in the witchcraft trials of 1692, Governor Simon Bradstreet, Salem woodcarver and architect Samuel McIntire, and many of Salem's most prominent 18th century merchant families including the Forrester, Fiske and Derby families.

Charter Street Cemetery is a highly visible, well documented site that is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. This popularity has threatened the integrity of the burial ground’s headstones by compaction and widening of the stone dust pathways from visitors to the site. Vandalism has also been a significant and direct threat to the preservation and protection of the burial ground’s historically significant headstones and tombs. In 2016, the City embarked on a multi-phase restoration of the burial ground.  During Phase I, the City utilized CPA funds to hire Monument Conservation Collaborative to restore 23 headstones and 8 box tombs. During this phase, the City also hired landscape architect Martha Lyon to conduct an assessment, create landscape plans and make recommendations to conserve the site.

In 2017, the City received a Massachusetts Cultural Council Facilities Fund grant to implement Phase II - Landscape Restoration. This full restoration work will begin in Spring 2019 and will include upgrades and stabilization of the pathways, installation of in ground lighting, installation and restoration of fencing, and major landscaping improvements.  

This project is funded in part with Community Preservation Act funds and a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council Facilities Fund.

Locations of Tree work at Charter Street cemetery 

charter street cemetery tree maintenance map.jpg