Saturday, May 30, 2009

He Hangs Upside Down and Backwards

If you were to visit the city of Salem, Massachusetts, one sight you'd be unlikely to see would be the Salem Marine Society's meeting place. It is hidden from the public, way up high on the roof of the Hawthorne Hotel. The society has long met at that location (though once at a lower elevation), even prior to the construction of the hotel itself. The meeting place of the Salem Marine Society is closed to the general public, though it would probably make a fine tourist attraction. The small building that sits atop the Hawthorne was actually constructed to look like the cabin of an old sailing ship known as the Taria Topan. Within the meeting room are relics of Salem's marine past, a time when the shipping industry was the life's blood of Salem's economy rather than tourism.

Among the old items to be found in the Salem Marine Society's headquarters are a pair of portraits with an unusual tale behind them. Both portraits are of the same man, Lt. Matthew Fontaine Maury; only one of the portraits is hung upside down and facing the wall. It has hung in that manner for 148 years as of today. On May 30, 1861, the Salem Marine Society voted to so dishonor Maury (who had been named an honorary member due to his great naval achievements, particularly in the field of navigation) due to his efforts in the Confederate Navy. The same talents that had allowed Maury to benefit mariners in general had made him a deadly foe that had cost the Union dearly in the lives of their own Navy. It was decided that his portrait would hang in dishonor rather than be entirely removed from the meeting place.

In 2007, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities provided the Salem Mariner's Society with a new portrait of Maury and a sign detailing his accomplishments. The Society hung the new portrait and sign in a proper manner next to the disgraced portrait. While the Salem Mariner's Society now honors Maury with the newer portrait, there is no plan to change the state of the old portrait which continues to hang upside down and backwards due to the side he chose in the war.

This is one of the many stories behind the Hawthorne Hotel. Pay a visit to the Hawthorne to read other tales associated with the hotel.

-Tom G

1 comment:

suzanne said...

You're right. I've been to Salem several times and I've never seen this. Never even heard of it. Interesting story.