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Proctor's Ledge Memorial
Remembering the Victims of the Salem Witch Trials


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In Salem, Massachusetts, a memorial was erected to commemorate 19 victims of the Salem Witch Trials in the place where they were hung. The memorial, designed by landscape architect Martha Lyon, was built by a team of four led by John Byrne of The Patio Company, an Essex, Massachusetts, based landscape and hardscape contractor. One of the biggest challenges they encountered was the slope: the site has a grade change of 24 inches from one end to the other. However, the paved space within the granite walls is level decomposed granite. The blocks used to build the wall on the uphill side double as retaining walls for the hillside.


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Given the memorial's location in a residential neighborhood, the lighting for the site had to be subtle and unobtrusive to the neighbors. Each victim is represented by a plaque with their name carved into it, and each plaque has a single 2.5-watt, 107 lumen 'Mozart' light shining on it. Lighting designer Eric Mitchell from Northeast Lighting Supply, a division of Northeast Nursery, explained that the lighting selection "gave the memorial a cohesive look."


In 2016, a team of researchers confirmed what had been suspected since the early 1900s: a vacant lot in a quiet neighborhood was the site where 19 victims of the Salem Witch Trials were hung in 1692. (Five other victims died in prison, and one was crushed to death by rocks.)

In response to this discovery, the city of Salem, Massachusetts, asked contractors to bid on the building of a memorial designed by Martha Lyon Landscape Architects. After filling out the appropriate forms and getting the plans, a process that took about two weeks, The Patio Company was selected as the contractor for the Proctor's Ledge Memorial.

John Byrne from The Patio Company was part of a group of four that first cleared the vacant lot of tree stumps, trash and debris in order to prepare the site. They used an excavator and skid steer to clear and level the site, and a pneumatic drill to break apart the ledge that had been hidden beneath the debris.

"The entire project was reclaimed Cape Ann granite," said Byrne, whose team had to clean up the blocks to make them square enough for the site. "We cut the pieces and fabricated the wall."

"The 12" by 12" name stones are reclaimed granite as well," he said. "They're actually steps that we cut up into 12" squares." The steps were selected because they have a flat face, and thus could be engraved with the names of each of the victims that were hung at the site. The engraving was done on site by Peter Rossi III of O'Rourke Bros. Memorials and ABS Sandblasting Co. In September, an additional engraving was done: "We Remember" was carved into the granite curb of the tree bed.



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The walls were built from reclaimed Cape Ann granite from a nearby bridge project. After picking up the blocks from the vendor, they were brought back to The Patio Company where they were cleaned up and "squared up to get them to fit together properly," according to Byrne.


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One unexpected problem encountered by the build team was the presence of a ledge, uncovered after the dirt and debris was removed from the site. "We drilled with pneumatic drills and a jackhammer to split the ledge to remove it," explained Byrne. "The area wasn't going to be too conducive to a blast and to get a machine would be too expensive. We just took out what we needed by hand and then incorporated the rest of the ledge into the wall."


Stone dust, or decomposed granite, was chosen as the material for the plaza area. The site had a 24-inch elevation change from one end to the other, and, according to project landscape architect Martha Lyon, "the stone dust was more forgiving" to the non-level ground than a rigid paver would have been.

"On the uphill side, we buried the seatwall on the outside but leveled off the surface on the inside," explained Byrne. "We did the reverse on the other side to get the project as level as we could."

Closer to the wall, contained by a Brussels block border, a bed of river stone conceals the 2.5-watt lights that shine on each of the name stones. Knowing that lighting would be involved, conduits were installed before construction of the wall began.

"They wanted the lighting to be very subtle because the memorial is right in a neighborhood," Byrne stated.

Building the memorial took about three months, wrapping up in time for a dedication ceremony held on July 19, 2017, the 325th anniversary of the hangings of five women falsely accused of being witches.

"We had visitors who were descendants of the people that were hung and people from all over the country come and see this project," Byrne said. "The mayor spoke as well as some of the other dignitaries in the city and the landscape architect, Martha Lyon."

"It's a historic site in Salem, and a lot of people go to Salem to see all the history of the witch trials," he continued. "All in all it was a fun project for us because I spent a lot of my childhood in that neighborhood, and the history is cool too."



As seen in LC/DBM magazine, November 2017.






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November 22, 2017, 4:43 am PST

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