Armory of the Salem Cadets
136 Essex Street
This was the residence of Col. Francis Peabody built in 1818 on portion of Governor Simon Bradstreet’s estate. Originally this home was built by Captain Joseph Peabody for his son Joseph Augustus. The Peabody’s house was the front section of the armory which has since been demolished and a park has been erected in its place. In 1890 the Stephen Abbot Associates of Cadets purchased the house and added the drill shed which is 86 feet long by 9 feet wide. The Second Corps of Cadets first commander was Stephen Abbott in 1786. This corps would train several officers for the military. The portion of the armory in Peabody’s house had a fine banquet hall which entertained Prince Arthur of England upon the death of London banker George Peabody in 1870. George Peabody formed the banking firm of George Peabody and Company which would later merge with Junius Spencer Morgan (J.P. Morgan’s father) to form Peabody, Morgan, and Company. Morgan Greenfell (now part of Deutsche Bank), J.P. Morgan and Chase, and Morgan Stanley. J.P. Morgan and Chase and Morgan Stanley would be part of the 2008 bailout along with Alexander Hamilton’s Bank of New York. During Peabody’s life he engineered 3 Great Panics with Nathaniel Rothschild. In 2014 J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley where fined for engineering the 2008 financial crisis. Peabody would create several museums and institutes including the Peabody Academy of Science which is now the Peabody Essex Museum. The Armory of the Salem Light Infantry was in the Franklin Building (site of the Hawthorne Hotel). The Peabody house was razed in 1908. Some of the original woodwork survives in the Mason Lodge on Washington Street.
In 1908 the Company H, Eight Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Militia would build a new castle like armory to share with the Second Corps of Cadets. Company H was the Salem Light Infantry which was housed in the Franklin Building. The Salem Light Infantry was founded in 1805. FDR stopped here during a campaign tour to attend a ball. After WWII the armory was headquarters for the First Battalion, 102d Field Artillery. They remained here up till 1982 when a series of fires on Halloween burnt down the Cadet House on the front of the Armory. The arsonist burned the top floors of Mason Lodge on Washington Street, Saint Anne’s Church on Jefferson Ave. an one of the out buildings at the Lasalette monastery(Turner Hill) in Ipswich.He was trying to burn religion to the ground, for in the armory was where the Witch Balls were held. He was an equal opportunity atheist. The Battalion moved to Lynn.
Steve Dibble was once the city engineer. He had mentioned that there was marked off a tunnel to the armory on an old sewer map that was used to move black powder from the sea by the seawall by the old Burial Point. When I got to the engineer’s office to confirm this, that map was the only one missing. Who knows if they just ripped it out of the book or it was missing for years. You still can peer into this tunnel at the end of the oriental walkway across the street. Inside you will find the crossroads in the tunnel that head to the armory and the tunnels under the 3D Time Machine in the old Sacon jewelry building.
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