Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2006 Preservation Award Winners
Salem Jail Complex Salem
Wistariahurst Carriage House • Holyoke

Adaptive Reuse

The original portion of the Salem Jail and the Federal-style, brick Jail Keeper's House were constructed between 1811 and 1813. The Jail Keeper's House is attributed to Salem's famous native architect Samuel McIntire, a wood carver who also designed public buildings and homes. The jail, constructed of Rockport granite, was substantially enlarged in 1884-85. The addition was designed by Gridley J. F. Bryant, who also designed Boston's Old City Hall, Arlington Street Church, and Charles Street Jail. Bryant's innovative design revolutionized the general layout of jails across the country, with all cell blocks placed in a central core, using borrowed light and ventilation from the outer shell of the building; the octagonal cupolas centered on each wing were key components of the building's ventilation system.

Following its closing in 1991, the property fell into disrepair. A 1996 fire in the Jail Keeper's House destroyed much of its interior finishes, portico, and entrance surround. After the fire, the City of Salem gained ownership of the complex from the state and, with the assistance of an MPPF grant, stabilized the building by installing a new roof and securing all openings. The city then explored reuse opportunities to ensure the property's future preservation, selecting New Boston Ventures to develop the complex into 23 units of housing, a restaurant, and an active, landscaped site. After 20 years of being vacant, extensive water infiltration had resulted in deteriorated finishes and structural members. The adaptive reuse project included refurbishment of cupolas and ventilators, masonry restoration, repair and replacement of missing and damaged slate, and re-creation of the metal arched entrance gate and the McIntire-designed circular floating staircase in the Jail Keeper's House. Doors and windows from the jail cells were creatively used throughout public corridors, and an original granite-slab door was retained as a prominent design element in the restaurant.

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