On the North Shore, Danvers is an intriguing old town, historically noted for its long defunct psychiatric hospital, shoe industry and connection to the notorious Salem witch trials in 1692.
Known as Salem Village in the 17th century, Danvers was ground zero for the hysteria and accusations that led to the trials and executions.
Touring monuments, archeological sites and preserved houses around the Salem Village Historic District you’ll delve into the events of 1692, getting to know both the accusers and the accused.
Danvers is the birthplace of American Revolutionary War hero, Israel Putnam (1718-1790), whose own family had been involved in the chaos two decades before.
1. Rebecca Nurse Homestead
Once the frenzy of the Salem witch trials had taken hold, no member of the community was safe from the finger pointers.
This was true for Rebecca Nurse, a God-fearing 71-year-old woman who had raised eight children to adulthood, all of whom were living in the area.
Nurse was convicted and executed in 1692, and lived in the house that preceded this building, raised around 1700.
A beautiful First Period structure, the Rebecca Nurse Homestead has been a museum since 1909 and is surrounded by outbuildings on almost 30 acres of grounds, which also contain the Nurse Family Cemetery.
Inside, you’ll get to see the great hall, sleeping chamber, lean-to and parlor, all restored and decorated with furnishings from the turn of the 18th century. In the build-up to Halloween, there are spooky Twilight Tours of the property by candlelight.
2. Endicott Park
Danvers’ main space for passive recreation would put almost any public park to shame.
On 165 acres, Endicott Park is a pastoral landscape, with orchards, woodlands, meadows, preserved historic farm buildings, a pond, and marshes, all of which can be seen along a tangle of trails and gravel roads.
Children will be delighted with the park’s farm animals, including horses, sheep, goats, chicken, ducks and a cow, and there’s now a nature center hosting educational programs for kids and adults.
The playground is one of the best for miles, with separate structures for older and younger kids. On the trails it’s not unusual to come across wildlife like whitetail deer, beavers, and resident and migratory bird species.
3. Witchcraft Victims’ Memorial
In the Salem Village Historic District, this monument was erected on the 300th anniversary of the trials, across the street from the site of Salem Village’s original meetinghouse where the first accused “witches” were interrogated.
That building was abandoned and torn down in 1702. The Witchcraft Victims’ Memorial pays tribute to the 25 people who died (19 hanged, 1 pressed to death, and 5 who died in jail).
There’s an accompanying historical marker erected in 1992 by the Danvers Preservation Commission, asserting the memorial’s additional purpose “…to remind us that we must forever confront intolerance and ‘witch-hunts’ with integrity, clear vision, and courage.”
4. Glen Magna Farms
This magnificent estate in Danvers was founded in 1814 by the successful Salem merchant, Joseph Peabody.
This eventually grew to 330 acres, and took on its current Georgian Revival appearance in the 1890s.
Glen Magna Farms is in the care of the Danvers Historical Society, and is treasured in particular for its grounds and gardens, which were laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted and Joseph Chamberlain.
In 1901 the property became the new home of the fine Derby Summer House (1794), a rare example of an 18th-century summer house, crowned with some of the earliest American sculpture on its roof.
Brimming with statuary and gorgeous floral displays, the grounds are popular for weddings, but are also open to the public on self-guided tours.
5. Salem Village Historic District
Many of the sights so far are part of the Salem Village Historic District, which occupies an irregular knot of streets, including Centre, Collins, Hobart and Ingersoll streets, extending north to Brentwood Circle, and south as far as Mello Parkway.
This is the historic heart of Salem Village, and the epicenter of the mass hysteria that led to more than 200 accused, and more than 20 dead.
Something not included on this list is the archeological site for the Salem Village Parsonage. To the rear, at 67A Centre St, this is open to the public, and can be accessed along a narrow path from the street.
Ground zero for the flurry of accusations, the parsonage was built in 1681 (rediscovered in 1970), and was home to minister Samuel Parris, whose children started suffering from some unknown affliction early in 1692.
6. Israel Putnam House
At the time of writing, this exceptional piece of local heritage had just been placed in a trust run by the descendants of the Putnam family, as a means of ensuring its long-term preservation.
A First Period building, the Israel Putnam House was built around 1648, and is the birthplace of the famed Revolutionary War general, Israel Putnam.
The house also has ties to the Salem witch trials through Israel’s half-uncle, Thomas Putnam (1651-1699) who levied 43 accusations of witchcraft during the hysteria, and testified at the trials.
Putnam’s father, on the other hand, signed a petition defending Rebecca Nurse. Recently operated as a museum by the Danvers Historical Society, the house is awaiting restoration, and could only be viewed from the outside when we made this list.
7. Endicott Pear Tree
Thought to have been brought from England aboard the Arbella in 1630, this tree was planted by the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Endecott (1600-1664/65).
The Endicott Pear Tree is held as the oldest surviving cultivated fruit tree in North America, standing as a remarkable living link to the earliest European settlers.
Now growing behind a fence, this resilient tree has weathered several catastrophes, from hurricane damage (1804, 1815, 1843, 1934), and an act of vandalism in 1964.
The tree is accompanied by a marker, and sits above the marshes on the Waters River, at 100 Endicott St.
8. Danvers Rail Trail
When we put this list together, this 4.3-mile multi-use trail was in the process of being extended northwest to connect with a long stretch of converted rail bed in Middleton.
The Danvers Rail Trail is along a piece of the Newburyport Branch of the former Boston and Maine Railroad, dating back to the 1850s.
The southern trailhead is at Lowell St in West Peabody, and the path winds through Danvers, past downtown, several parks and important landmarks like the Rebecca Nurse Homestead.
The new extension cuts northwest from downtown Danvers, while the main trail continues north to become the Topsfield Linear Common Trail.
In this quaint port city you can visit the site of the executions in 1692, and spend a moment at a poignant memorial for those victims.
The witch trials are just one facet to Salem, which grew rich in the 19th century on the back of the Old China Trade, with splendid mansions built from this wealth, preserved in the McIntire Historic District.
Founded in 1799, The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) is the oldest continuously operating museum in the country, with massive collections for Asian art and American maritime trade and whaling, while on the waterfront is the House of the Seven Gables (1668), which inspired the namesake Nigel Hawthorne novel.
10. Connors Farm
Founded in 1904, this 140-acre working farm is still in the same family, and is protected by agricultural preservation restrictions, so will likely always remain as open space.
Connors Farm started out as a truck farm, shipping its produce wholesale to Boston, but opened a roadside stand in the 1950s, and this has grown into a big enterprise with seasonal family attractions.
Fall is a great time to come, with apple picking, a seven-acre corn maze, themed play areas, a pumpkin patch and delectable autumn treats like apple cider donuts.
All summer and fall, smaller children will adore the Putnamville Railroad, a genuine miniature train with lovingly crafted cabooses and freight cars.
11. Water Park of New England
There’s a vast, 65,000-square-foot indoor water park in Danvers, next to the DoubleTree Boston North Shore Hotel.
The Water Park of New England is packed with attractions, from body and raft waterslides like Shark Slam, Gator Gush, Barracuda Blast and Pelican Plunge, to the relaxed Coconut Grove Lazy River, meandering through the park.
This passes by the Parrot’s Perch Play Area, an awesome interactive jungle gym, with open-top slides, water cannons and a massive tipping bucket, dumping hundreds of gallons every few minutes.
There’s also an outdoor splash pad, open in the summer, and Coral Reef Canyon, where active older children can play water basketball and negotiate a lily pad obstacle course.
12. Sunnyside Bowladrome
Candlepin bowling was invented in Worcester, MA in the 1880s and is still the dominant variation in Massachusetts and other parts of New England.
This game uses ten long and thin pins, and smaller, handheld balls, and is considered more difficult than tenpin bowling.
There’s a family-owned alley in Danvers, with 32 candlepin lanes. Sunnyside Bowladrome uses electronic bowling and has recently installed a new pin-setting system.
Bumpers are available for younger bowlers, while there’s also a game room and a pro shop with top-of-the-line bowling and billiard equipment.
13. Paradise Family Golf
You can have a golf-themed family day out at this attraction, just across the line in Middleton. Something that people of all skill levels will enjoy is the 18-hole mini golf course, which has been designed to be fun while also rewarding accomplished putters.
This has fountains, rocky outcrops, a small river integrated into one hole, and a 35-foot hole with a treehouse obstacle.
Serious golfers can work on their swing at the driving range, which has more than 100 targets, including island greens, as well as 50 tees, 15 of which are natural grass. There’s also a golf simulator, club fitting, lessons and regular golf clinics.
14. Liberty Tree Mall
Opened in 1972, this enclosed mall in Danvers has always been seen as the poor relation to the Northshore Mall, which is less than a mile along Route 128 in Peabody.
The Liberty Tree Mall has also suffered because of the declining popularity of malls in general, but there were still plenty of big retailers here when we wrote this article.
A brief roundup includes Old Navy, Target, Nordstrom Rack, Kohl’s, Marshalls, Lids, Home Depot, Hallmark and Claire’s. Something else to put the mall on the map is the 20-screen AMC theater, which has stadium seating and has recently fitted comfy new recliners.
15. Sky Zone Trampoline Park
One new-ish addition to the Liberty Tree Mall is this indoor trampoline park, with a whole range of attractions to challenge and tire out everyone from toddlers to grownups.
The littlest visitors to Sky Zone can make the most of the Kid Zone (0 – 8), which also has a designated Toddler Zone, featuring a foam pit and open jump area.
For an overview of some of the other attractions there’s an open freestyle jump court, a Ninja Warrior course, a dodgeball court, an enormous foam pit, and tons of other challenges, including a rickety ladder suspended over a soft landing area.