Charter Street Cemetery To Be Closed To Public

September 28 - November 3

In anticipation of upcoming landscape restoration work, the City will be closing the historic Charter Street Cemetery from September 28, 2019 through November 3, 2019. The City is preparing to undertake a substantial preservation and improvement project in the cemetery and has already completed early phases of work, including some headstone and tomb restoration and archaeological reviews. Please continue to check this website for more information about the upcoming project and to view historic and current images of the cemetery.

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 (see images below). 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. In late 2018, a team of archaeologists completed an assessment of the cemetery to ensure that proposed landscape work in the cemetery would not impact historic resources. Based on this assessment, the project landscape architect worked with the archaeologists and the City to modify the original plans for landscape changes. The project is currently awaiting final approval from the Massachusetts Historical Commission for permission to undertake work in an historic burial ground. The full restoration work is now expected to begin early Spring 2020 and will include upgrades and stabilization of pathways, installation of lighting, and restoration of fencing.  

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

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