Salem Willows is named for the European white willow trees planted here in 1801 to form a shaded walk for patients convalescing at the old smallpox hospital. Later the area became a park. During the first half of the 20th century Restaurant Row on the park's north shore served fresh seafood favored by locals and visitors alike. The last of these once popular restaurants closed in the late 1960s. A carousel with carved flying horses was another special attraction at Salem Willows which, as now, operated an, amusement center. Although the restaurants and flying horses are gone, visitors still flock here during the summer to enjoy the seashore, the arcade, and the park's ample picnic grounds and recreational facilities.
Directly ahead, the expanse of Salem Sound is dotted with numerous islands belonging to the city. The largest is Baker's Island, which boasts a sizable summer community and has been the site of a navigational beacon since 1798. To the south of Salem Willows, across the entrance to Salem Harbor, lie the headlands of Marblehead. To the north, across Beverly Harbor, the shore stretches toward the rugged coast of Gloucester and the rest of Cape Ann.
Salem Willows provides a seaside promenade popular throughout Essex County, Boston, and beyond. The area also possesses residential and historical importance. A "tenting ground" established in the mid-19th century gave way to summer cottages which are now the center of a distinctive year-round neighborhood. Beyond this neighborhood, across a causeway, lies Winter Island. Over the years it has served a multitude of purposes, including fish drying, shipbuilding, and public executions. Since the 1640s a fort there - now known as Fort Pickering - has defended the mouth of Salem Harbor. From the Civil War until 1971 most of Winter Island was under federal authority; it was used most recently as a Coast Guard base. Inland, on the high ground in the center of Salem Neck, lies Fort Lee. Originally built in the 1740s, Fort Lee joined Fort Pickering in providing protection for Salem's sea approaches for more than two centuries. Salem Rediscovered - A community project sponsored by Historic Salem Inc. and the City of SalemFunded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and business contributions