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Present day Salem is an amalgamation of lands from the southern part of Colchester, western part of Lyme, and part of Montville. In 1725 the General Assembly was petitioned for permission to levy a tax to support a minister. The next year Lieutenant James Harris who owned the southeastern part of what was then known as New Salem deeded two acres of land for a meetinghouse, military training ground and burying ground north of Music Vale Road. A meetinghouse was constructed in 1728 and a second one in 1763. A third one was erected on property deeded by Asa Jones on the northern corner of Witch Meadow Road and Governor's Road (Hartford Road or Route 85).

In 1938 the site of the meetinghouse was changed again. The third meetinghouse was dismantled and its timbers were used to construct the present Congregational Church further south on Hartford Road. The Episcopal Church was located there at the time. It had been moved to the site c. 1831 from Norwich where it was constructed c. 1749. It was used by the Episcopalians until 1843 when it was sold to the town of Salem and used as the town hall. The present town hall on Hartford Road is not far from this site.

Hartford Road probably follows an old Indian trail. It was laid out as road between 1716 and 1740 and in 1800, the Hartford and New London Turnpike Company improved the road much as it exists today. Many of the buildings along the highway are early buildings interspersed with more recent buildings. There is a higher concentration of earlier buildings along the road north and south of the green, but no real town center exists, in part probably because the location of the meetinghouse was not settled until the 1830s, and when it was finally established, it was not located at an intersection around which buildings could cluster.

The area in front of the Salem Town House and the Congregational Church has been used as a public gathering place at least since the 1830s when the two church buildings were located on that site. It serves as the focal point for a cluster of historic buildings whose uses have reflected the changing civic and religious needs of the community over time.

 

 
 

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