Salem Public Library
HISTORY The Salem Public Library was originally built as a home for Captain John Bertram and his family. In 1855, the Bertram family moved from their smaller house at 24 Winter Street and took up residence in their new High Style Italianate brick and brownstone mansion at 370 Essex Street. The household consisted of Captain Bertram; his third wife, Mary Ann Ropes, 44; Joseph, 20 an adopted son of his second wife; three daughters (by his first and second wives) Jenny, 18 (later to become the mother of Caroline O. Emmerton, founder of the House of Seven Gables); Clara, 16; Annie, 10 and an adopted daughter, Grace, 7. (Another daughter, Ellen Augusta, had died in 1848, aged 8).
Honored and beloved by the whole community, Bertram died on March 22, 1882, aged 86 years, at his home. He was buried in his mausoleum at Harmony Grove Cemetery. His widow purchased and moved into the Assembly House on Federal Street. In a letter dated December 1, 1887, his widow and daughters offered the Mansion on Essex Street to the City of Salem for use as a Public Library. The offer was accepted and the Salem Public Library opened its doors on July 8, 1889.
The mansion was immediately refurbished to include a main hall, public reading room, trustees' room, reference room and bookstacks.
There is a handsome Victorian fountain on the lawn, one of the few that survived the scrap drives of World War II.
In 1911, Boston architect Clarence H. Blackall appended a four-story fireproof book stack ell, a one-story reference room wing, and a corresponding office. Another extensive renovation was executed during the years 1987-1990.
Patrick Cloherty was a long time director, serving from 1971 until his retirement in 2003. Long-time employee Lorraine Jackson took over as director after many years as head of the Children's Room and Assistant Director. Jackson retired at the end of Dec. 2010, after 39 years at the Public Library.
For a description of the three branch libraries (The East, the South and the North) that operated in Salem, go to Branch Libraries.
- Salem Public Library Salem Public Library (History of the library building)
- John Bertram Salem Website
- Proceedings relating to the donation of the estates of the late Capt. John Bertram Salem Observer, 1888
- The legacies of Capt. John Bertram Video recording by Erik Smith with SATV, 2007
- Architecture in Salem by Bryant F. Tolles, p.161-2
- "The Public Library" (opening announcement) Salem Gazette, June 25, 1889
- "An era ends at Salem library: Lorraine Jackson retires after 39 years, seven as Director" Salem News, Jan. 8, 2011, p.1