New England’s Novelties – Karla Bonilla POrtillo

As I reflect on my first couple of weeks at Salem Maritime and Saugus Ironworks National Historic Sites (NHS) in Massachusetts, I can’t help but feel awed by what I’ve seen and experienced. Although I’m a proud West Coast girl, the East Coast (and specifically New England) keeps trying to edge it out of my heart. I should note, however, that I’d likely be singing a different tune if this internship took place during the frozen winter months. But so far, since I’ve been here I’ve enjoyed the sunlight, deep blue sea, and verdant green instead. 

Site-wise, one of my favorite experiences so far has been walking the nature trail at Saugus Ironworks NHS, which offers a beautifully framed view of ducks swimming lazily along the Saugus River. I also got to observe an ongoing project being undertaken at the site to study the soil buried deep beneath the grassy surface. Meanwhile, at Salem Maritime NHS, I’ve enjoyed being able to meet the friendly and welcoming staff and exploring the site. As I mentioned in my earlier blog, the view of the sea from Derby Wharf is breathtaking. But aside from that, the site has a lot to offer (especially for history buffs like me!). For example, I was able to tour the Custom House where Nathaniel Hawthorne himself once worked, which felt surreal! I was transported back to my 11th grade English class when the Scarlet Letter was first assigned to us to read. I had no idea then that one day I’d be in the Custom House so vividly described in Hawthorne’s introduction to the novel. 

Exploring Saugus Ironworks National Historic Site

Finally, getting to explore surrounding areas has also been a treat. On my trolley tour of Salem, I was able to take in its charming historic buildings and seaside location while learning more about the city’s transformation. I was also granted the opportunity to visit Essex County Heritage sites in Marblehead, a picturesque nearby town. Marblehead has no shortage of beautiful views and charm, just like Salem. Additionally, like so much of New England, Salem and Marblehead are both absolutely steeped in history. Other highlights so far include taking a ferry to Spectacle Island, walking through the Boston Public Garden, and canoeing on the Charles River. I’m looking forward to visiting more of New England soon (next stop: Portland, ME). 

In sum, this California girl is loving it here! Look out for future blog posts from me.

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