43 Church Street: A Short History


By now we’re sure you’ve heard the rumors and the chatter, and maybe you’ve even walked by and peaked in the windows to try and catch a glimpse of what’s happening at 43 Church Street in Salem. The Turner family is happy to announce that the rumors are true: in a whirlwind of renovations, preparation, planning and excited anticipation, Turner’s Seafood will be opening a new restaurant in historic downtown Salem in just a few short weeks. Although the road to this new location has been long and riddled with its fair share of obstacles along the way, the hard work has certainly paid off. Turner’s Salem is sure to impress when it opens its doors in just one short month—all while delivering the same high level of quality seafood and service that patrons have been enjoying in Melrose since the family opened their original restaurant in 1994.

For a company with strong roots and a deep appreciation for the past, the location for this new restaurant fits perfectly with the mission of the Turners team. Below is a short overview of the rich and distinguished history of the site that Turner’s is happy to be calling its new home.

Bridget BishopAlthough the record books are somewhat fuzzy on 43 Church’s early days, rumors suggest that this piece of land was originally a part of Bridget Bishop’s apple orchard. On June 10, 1692, Bridget Bishop secured the infamous place in history as the first person to be hanged in Salem’s witch trials. Known for her provocative style of dress, multiple marriages, and late-night entertainment of guests at her tavern, Bridget Bishop was a larger than life character for her time that made an easy target for accusations of witchcraft. Bridget was ultimately sentenced to death for the bewitching of five young girls, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Jr., Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Elizabeth Hubbard. As a result of her less-than Puritan lifestyle, there was no scarcity of witnesses ready to take the stand and testify against Mrs. Bishop, and ultimately this in combination with inconsistencies in her own testimony, she was sentenced to hang for her crimes of witchcraft. Supposedly the smell of apples from her orchard can still be sensed wafting through the rooms at 43 Church Street, and many believe her ghost still haunts the location to this day. Some have claimed to see her at the top of the staircase on the second floor, and others have caught a glimpse of her in the mirrors of the restaurant.  Rumors of Bridget’s presence at 43 Church has even attracted the attention of popular paranormal television shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. So when you come to visit Turner’s Salem this fall, keep in mind that the apples you smell may not be from Turner’s Macintosh Applecrisp on the menu!

Later, in 1831, the land that is now 43 Church Street was purchased by the Salem Lyceum Society who erected the building that still stands today as part of the larger lyceum movement that was sweeping the nation during the mid-nineteenth century. Salem historian Jim McAllister describes:

salem lyceum“It is unlikely that any American movement has permeated the national culture as quickly and thoroughly as the lyceums in the mid-nineteenth century. Lyceums were the brainchild of Joshua Holbrook, who borrowed the concept from the Mechanics Institutes he had encountered in England.

Holbrook started the first lyceum in Milbury, Mass., in 1828 and before long there were 100 similar societies sprinkled throughout New England. By 1834, the number of lyceums in America had grown to 3,000.

One of those lyceums was organized in Salem in January 1830. The expressed purpose of the Salem Lyceum Society was to provide “mutual education and rational entertainment” for both its membership and the general public through a biannual course of lectures, debates and dramatic readings.”

Focusing on topics ranging from politics, science, arts, literature and philosophy, the lectures held at the Salem Lyceum were immensely popular—often selling out and requiring repeat performances. Just a few of the brilliant figures who graced the stage at the Lyceum include John Quincy Adams, Fredrick Douglas, Oliver Wendall Holmes, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. As a plaque outside the restaurant describes, the Salem Lyceum is perhaps most famous for Alexander Graham Bell’s first public demonstration of the telephone, which took place on February 12, 1877. The greatness of these figures and the ideas that have filled the Lyceum seem somehow encapsulated in this remarkable space. The history and all its meaning is evident as soon as you step foot in the building.

Salem Lyceum Plaque

For more information on the Salem Lyceum and some of the incredible events that transpired here, visit the following websites:

Salem Massachusetts- the Comprehensive Salem Guide

Historical Sketch of the Salem Lyceum

The Lyceum Movement

Turner’s Seafood is honored and excited to become a part of the rich history at 43 Church Street and is looking forward to opening its doors in just a few short weeks. We hope to see you there.