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"Salem Secret Underground :The History of the Tunnels in the City"

by Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin

Salem House Press Purveyors of fine publishing and facilitator to the arts.

In 1801 Elias Hasket Derby Jr. leaves his two year retirement. His father, the country's first millionaire, has left him a money pit that many would consider one of the nations first American Castles. The expense to keep up this mansion and his leisurely life style has forced Elias back into action. He will take command of the local militia to fill in the ponds in the Common as part of an elaborate plot. The plot would entail the beautification of this neighborhood and entice a series of merchants and ship captains to build a series of two grand brick mansions set apart at fixed distances around the new park. All attached to a series of smuggling tunnels that would lead from the wharf, to their stores, and the banks. Those who paid for it were called the Subscribers of the Common Improvement Fund. Elias gathered 144 subscribers and had few of them pay twice when the plot fell short of money needed to finish.

An elaborate scheme filled with Masons, pirates, a Secretary of the Navy, a couple of Secretaries of State, Senators, Representatives, a Supreme Court Justice, Presidents, and a touch of murder! Dig into the tunnels of Salem and find the underbelly of our nation! These men were Federalists. This new leg of tunnels was in opposition to President Jefferson's new customs duties. Jefferson had ordered local militias to help the Custom Agents in collecting the duties in various ports. Well in Salem all of the local militias were acting as private bodyguards to several of the wealthiest merchants and ship captains in town. Salem had more Colonels and Generals in the militias than you could shake a stick at. In fact every Custom House in Salem had a tunnel attached to it to smuggle confiscated goods out of before paying the duties owed. Plus the weigher, the gauger, and the Collector of Customs in Salem were part of this scheme. In fact a memo circulated soon after the book was written states that the Custom House and the Park Department still would like their secrets to remain hidden.

Now the tunnels would extend on the ancient tunnels in town leading from wharfs to the newly constructed brick Federalist homes on the Common. These homes were built by a select group of masons and architects including Charles Bulfinch who built the tunnels under the National Capital in Washington. Two brick homes were placed at fixed distances around the Common and down Essex Street. These homes all had 4 external chimneys at least to attach the tunnels to and to act as draw to pull oxygen into the tunnels. Here these gentlemen stored their goods till they could move it further through the tunnels to their stores. After they sold their goods they could then sneak the profits back into the tunnels and straight into the banks they owned.

Throughout time these tunnels were put to new uses. Right before the Civil War they were used in the Underground Railroad. Later they were used to drink in a series of connected speakeasies during Prohibition. Nowadays they have ben converted into utility tunnels to run electrical, sewer, and gas conduits. The utility companies even train their employees to lie about their existence. But we know better! Book a Tour Today!!

Read more about the history of the tunnels on our blog!

 

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"Salem Secret Underground :The History of the Tunnels in the City"

by Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin

Salem House Press Purveyors of fine publishing and facilitator to the arts.

Salem Secret Underground on Facebook!

See more tunnel pictures, historic car crashes in Salem, old postcard images, and more!!!

GIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator - view more at http://stereo.nypl.org/gallery/indexGIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator - view more at http://stereo.nypl.org/gallery/index GIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator - view more at http://stereo.nypl.org/gallery/indexGIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator - view more at http://stereo.nypl.org/gallery/indexGIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator - view more at http://stereo.nypl.org/gallery/index

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