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Then & Now: Ship And Family Stores

This 203-year-old building has a varied history. Its usage reflects the times and needs of this historic neighborhood.

Under the layers of paint that help this building fade into the streetscape lies a true antique building with a rich history.

When this brick store was built in 1808 for Nathan Blood and Benjamin Whittier, this end of Derby Street was busy with heavy maritime ship traffic coming into port. Cargoes of spices, silks and rubber would be unloaded into the nearby warehouses or transported down the street to the Salem Market. 

This building at 44 Derby, now 81 Derby, sat at the crossroads of Beckett and Derby Streets just across from Allen’s Wharf at the bottom of Beckett Street. It was not far from several other wharves that jutted into the harbor catering to the East India traders.

This was an ideal spot to have a store that catered to the maritime trade. 

In 1809, Nathan Blood sold the store to Moses Little, a physician from Lynn, who had married Elizabeth Williams, the daughter of Captain George Williams, who was a master mariner and merchant.  In 1811, when Dr. Little died, the store was inherited by Stephen White who ran it for several years before selling it back to Nathan Blood in 1825.  In 1826, Chandler Flagg bought the property and operated the store until 1833 when William P. Goodhue purchased the land and store.

At this time, the maritime trade was changing. The East India trade was rapidly fading while the coal industry was growing along with the railroads. William Goodhue, a ship chandler, grocer and commission merchant was diversified enough to make his business here a strong presence.

As a ship chandler, he would be responsible for putting together the ship’s stores, which was all the equipment and food needed for a voyage. As the times changed, his grocery business grew as the chandlery faded with the passing of the Age of Sail.

The advertisement from the City directory of 1866 shows the diversity he offered in order to maintain his business. The advertisement also gives us an artist’s rendition of this section of Derby Street at the time. When William died, his son Albert Goodhue, took over the business and continued to operate here until 1886.

During this period of Salem’s history, the city was rapidly changing both economically and demographically. With the rise of manufacturing, many immigrants moved into the city, transforming
neighborhoods and the Salem work force. The Derby Street area that was fading with the maritime trade was revitalized with the arrival of immigrants from Eastern Europe, and most notably Poland, who had been experiencing political upheaval that motivated them to seek a better situation in a new land.

In 1887, the store was sold to John Ganey but remained vacant until 1895 when the Bovox Company opened a patent medicine factory here until 1898.  Bovox’s trademark product was a drink with the essence of beef that was supposed to make real strength. Its advertising poster as seen above seems to give focus to what kind of strength was expected from this popular tonic.

With the closure of the factory, the building remained empty for several years. In the early 20th century, several businesses were here briefly starting in 1904 with the Bay State Barrel Company that lasted a year. That business was followed by a painter and paper hanging business. In 1907 to 1908, Maurice McDonald ran a lunch room and pool hall here. In 1909, Boleslaw Sobozinski operated a pool hall here. When that business closed in 1911, a hairdresser took over.

In late 1911, the store and adjacent house was sold to Felix Rybicki.  After selling the adjacent house, Felix, along with Wladyslaw Rybicki, opened a grocery and clothing store. This combination store stayed in business for some time.

When Felix passed away in 1937, his wife Catherine continued the business and incorporated it as Rybicki, Inc. Provisions with two women, Casimira Swiniarski and Chessie Kowalski as corporate officers.

This trio successfully continued the store until 1958, when the property was sold. In 1959 Highland Package Inc., a grocery store, operated here for a year. In 1961, is listed as being here. This corresponds to when the Steve’s Market we know on Margin Street underwent renovation and expansion.

By 1962, the building was once again empty and remained that
way for several years. From city directories it appears that while the store was empty residential tenants remained on the other floors.

In the early 1970s, the building was renovated and adapted into its current setup as the Derby Street Laundry which continues to cater to
the needs of the neighborhood. Over the years many renovations have occurred that diminished the original Federal architecture, but there still remain the mass and lines of the original building that hearkens back over 200 years to its beginnings amid the busy international port of Salem’s waterfront.

Jerome Curley August 15, 2011 at 07:32 PM
Hi Diane, I think you're referring to the Grimshaw House which I wrote a column on in March, 2011. Here's the link: http://salem.patch.com/articles/then-now-53-charter-st-pretty-grim
Jerome Curley August 15, 2011 at 07:34 PM
Hi Donna, Thanks for the compliment. I actually wrote about that bldg in Dec. 13, 2010 column. You can read it at: http://salem.patch.com/articles/then-now-salem-gateway-centennial-arch JC
Jared Robinson August 16, 2011 at 08:47 PM
I have a question for Then and Now... does anyone have any information on the old Salem Station? I take the train every day and when you exit the tunnel, there are two platforms right there and stairs leading down from Mill St. I drove over there and noticed that the entrances are still there, just sealed up. When was this last used? makes so much more sense to have the station there... before the police station was put there... could have had a parking garage where the police station is and some elevators for handicapped access... and then have full length high platforms.
john August 16, 2011 at 10:00 PM
The old station was a very dirty dark place. Access was from the Canal street and Jefferson ave sides. Most people parked on Canal street. Because of the very high walls and difficult access it was not a very safe station.I can't recall exactly when it closed but I can tell you the new station is a much better and safer location. I also recall a number of deadly accidents due to people falling off the platforms. It was gross!!
diane Harvey August 29, 2011 at 09:47 PM
In 1970, in the back of the what is the Laundry Mat now was a small two room apartment. It was behind an art studio that did not last very long. My friend was Faye Sheridan, she past away in 1989. She lived there for only a few years. After she moved out they made it all into a laundry mat. When I was 5 years old, 1959 I remember going to the then Steves Market. I remember it very well. On hot summer days my mom take me to get a popscycle. I lived on from 1954-1959 next door to that building, It was a 3 decker red clapboard building. I t faced the little fruit stand on the other corner of Becket AVE. Then we moved to the corner of Carlton st and Derby in the red brick building. That was over the vacant bakery. Lots of my childhood memories in that neighborhood.

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