Historic Salem New Jersey is the oldest permanent English-speaking settlement in the Delaware Valley. John Fenwick, an English Quaker, brought the first colonists to this place in 1675, initiating settlement of West Jersey, the first Quaker colony in North America. He named his colony “Salem,” meaning “peace,” and laid out the first streets of “New Salem”: Bridge, Fenwick and Wharf Streets, today known as Market Street and East and West Broadway.
Salem City remains the county seat of Salem County, and its streetscapes reflect the history of this people and place. Both Broadway and Market Street are listed as historic districts on the New Jersey State and National Registers of Historic Places. All of Salem’s Heritage Trails begin at the OLD SALEM COUNTY COURTHOUSE, located at the corner of East Broadway and Market Street. John Fenwick laid out the first Courthouse lot himself, and the courthouse and jail were constructed on this site by 1692. The first part of the present brick structure was built in 1735, using brick made right here in Salem County.
Indeed, most of the brick used in Salem’s early buildings was manufactured locally. The building was enlarged in 1817. At that time, the front door faced Market St. and the county jail occupied the corner of Market and Broadway. After the old jail building was removed, the Courthouse was again enlarged and remodeled in the Colonial Revival style (1908). At that time the entrance was moved to face Broadway, and the old entrance replaced with a Palladian window.
Throughout these renovations, the distinctive bell tower remained virtually unchanged and the original bell is displayed in the courtroom. Among the many stirring events that took place here, none perhaps are more compelling than the treason trials of 1778. Local Patriots indicted and tried neighbors suspected of aiding the British during the Salem Raid in February and March of that same year. Four men were condemned to death for crimes of high treason; however, they were all pardoned by Governor William Livingston and exiled from New Jersey.