Salem Methodist Episcopal Meetinghouse
founded 1784, built 1784
The first Methodist classes were held in the area perhaps as early as 1774, and the first meetinghouse erected in Salem in 1784. It was called the "Old South Street Church." [a later term, as the original term was meetinghouse]. Though it gets little recognition, this was that original meetinghouse, and also the oldest Methodist church in the state.
It is situated almost across the street from the third (current) church, and was pointed out to me by the minister in 2000. I don't generally have an opportunity to speak with clergy in my photographic travels, but I had just set up my tripod and focused the camera when he pulled up in a large white car and ruined the composition; I asked him to move the car, which he did very graciously, and then gave me a tour and some history of the church.
In its scale and fenestration is it very similar to other very early Methodist and Baptist churches in the state—a two-story, three-bay frame building with the entrance on the long side. Within a few years, the dominant plan would have the entrance on the gable end, facing the street, opposite the pulpit.
The Salem circuit was established by the 1820s, and this building would have been a regular preaching station. It served until a new building was erected in 1838, and was then converted into a parsonage, and later moved to its current location. Members of the Salem Historical Society told me that it was used by a local synagogue for a time in the twentieth century. For at least the last 10 years (and probably much longer) it has been used as a residence, but it appears close to the end of its days. According to a neighbor, there was a fire inside and now (April 2011) the place is boarded up.