The development of Pickering Wharf came about when Pickering Oil Company sold the land in this area at 50 percent of its assessed value, in exchange for permission to move its oil tanks farther down Derby Street near the New England Power Plant. Salem Five Cents Saving Bank, along with three partners bought the property and then spent $15 million to develop it into a mixed-use design. The plan would include condominiums, restaurants, retail stores and a marina on its 5.5 acre site by the waterside.
Construction began around 1977 and the Pickering Wharf was opened in 1979. In addition to restaurants, Chase House and Victoria Station were the first, there would be boutiques and a marina. The plan was to re-create an 18th century shopping village. Another focal point was the multi-media show called "Voyage of the India Star" which highlighted Salem's maritime history. This show was closed after only five years. Salem was still known mostly as the "Witch City" and still unknown as a historic seaport.
Some of the other stores from the first days are Peter Barter Flowers and Colonial Gifts, Bewitching Yarn, Country Curtains, Crabtree & Evelyn, Pappagallo's shoes, Putnam Pantry Candies, Regina Pizzeria and Stoned Elephant Gifts.
In the early 1980's the Wharf's businesses were struggling to make a successful year round profit. The Wharf was sold to a partnership headed by developer David T. Zussman.
Things got worse after summer storms pounded the wharf and the seawall adjacent to the Chase House collapsed into the marina. Repairs to the seawalls around the wharf were made and in 1990 the bank sold the wharf to a new limited partnership headed by Larry and Shirley Ginsberg of Marblehead.
The wharf area was further advanced by the restoration of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site next door, the development of the South River, and the new parking garage, Salem Harbor Garage built at the corner of Derby and Congress Streets.
Salem Planning Board approved a new hotel at Pickering Wharf in July 1999, developed by the Rockett family. After many years of legal battles with Hawthorne Hotel over the right to build another hotel in the city and many discussions by the city councilors and mayors about a tax deal given to the new hotel, the feud ended between the Rockett's and others on Oct. 1, 2002. The Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites, which opened in 2004, has 86 rooms, a restaurant and meeting rooms as well a swimming pool.
Peter Barter of Peter Barter Flowers passed away at the age of 83 on June 2, 2015.
Vertical File in Salem Collection - Pickering Wharf
"Transformation of old Union Wharf marked beginning of city's latest revival" Salem News, Mar. 17, 2006, p. B5
"Village by the bay is 15 years old" Salem Evening News, May 27, 1994, p. 1
"200 year harbor heritage reclaimed" Salem Evening News, Oct. 16, 1990, p. D1-4
"Resident: Tragedy looms over Pickering Wharf. Chevoor threatens to sue city officials over "shoddy" deteriorating sea wall" Salem Evening News, Sept. 8, 1989 p.4
"Pickering Wharf gets new owner, new look" Boston Sunday Globe, June 16, 1996, p. N1
"Hotel plan may lack parking" Salem Evening News, May 27, 1998, p. A1
"Usovich, developer, seal Pickering deal" Salem Evening News, Apr. 9, 1998, p. 1
"Salem Planning Board approves hotel" Salem Evening News, July 29, 1999, p. A2
"Plenty of room in Salem for playing favorites" Boston Globe, Apr. 19, 1999, p. A11
"Much pomp, little circumstance in Salem hotel project" Salem Evening News, Feb. 15, 2001, p. 1
"An issue of fairness; Hawthorne principal explains objections to new hotel on Pickering Wharf" Salem News, Sept. 25, 2002, p. C7
"Salem waterfront hotel feud ends" Salem News, Oct. 1, 2002, p. 1
"New Salem hotel set to open today" Salem News, Oct. 1, 2004, p. A1