Essex Heritage Programs & Initiatives
Since 1996, The Essex National Heritage Commission (Essex Heritage) has championed the heritage development of Essex County by fostering public-private partnerships that enhance and promoting significant aspects of the region’s history, cultural heritage and character. A few of our most significant initiatives and accomplishments include:
Essex Heritage Grants Programs
The Commission directly invests in the Area though its grant programs. To date, Essex Heritage has made 381 grants totaling $1,815,245 to non-profit organizations and municipalities within the National Heritage Area. One hundred percent of the Area’s communities have received a grant; most have received many grants. The Essex Heritage Partnership Grants initiative is the largest program, and it provides funding for heritage education, interpretation, historic preservation, historical records and trail development. Acting as seed money, these grants have leveraged an additional $20,944,657 in matching investment in the Area, serving to drive economic development along with heritage preservation and education.
Learn more about the Partnership Grant Program.
Trails & Sails:
Two Weekends of Walks and Water
Trails & Sails is Essex Heritage’s premier partnership activity. The free event expands cultural tourism by bringing new audiences to dozens of historic sites and open spaces, and stimulating new business in the local economy. Held in late September, residents and visitors alike experience the region’s best from a wide array of events – guided walks, on-water tours, open houses – organized by the front line stewards of the Area’s historic, cultural and natural resources.
Learn more about Trails & Sails.
Essex Coastal Scenic Byway
Essex Heritage is leading the planning effort for the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway, a 85-mile route linking 13 coastal communities between Lynn and Newburyport featuring scenic views, period architecture, historic sites and recreational opportunities. With the twin goals of preserving the byway’s intrinsic qualities and spurring investment in its infrastructure, attractions and amenities, Essex Heritage worked to secure state byway designation and federal funding for a comprehensive management plan that will help community and regional leaders increase cultural tourism. Learn more about the Coastal Scenic Byway.
Youth Jobs Corps
Essex Heritage has built a strong summer youth employment and training program through a unique partnership with the National Park Service. The program is directed towards youth ages 14-18 years. The teens are hired to work at the two national park sites in Salem and Saugus and this year the program was expanded to include Appleton Farms in Ipswich - a working farm owned and operated by The Trustees of Reservations.
Essex Heritage hires the teens for 8 -12 weeks and they work under the careful guidance and supervision of NPS staff. At the parks, they acquire skills in historic preservation, building maintenance, natural resource management, interpretation and visitor operations. For many of these students this is their first job experience, so they are also given assistance on how to prepare for work, work place expectations, resume preparation, and career development.
The impact on these students’ lives has been substantial, and several have returned to work at the park during the fall and also in subsequent summers. “The program has taught me responsibility, appreciation for the city and its history, and opened new doors for my future,” Daniel Mondragon.
Border to Boston Trail
Working to expedite development of the 28-mile Border to Boston Trail, Essex Heritage provides leadership and staff support to a regional partnership composed of local officials, the Massachusetts Highway Department, Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and National Grid. With portions already under construction, the non-motorized, multi-use rail-trail will provide alternative transportation links to town centers, schools, businesses, and public parklands in eight communities from Salisbury to Danvers. When completed, the trail will be one of the region’s most outstanding assets, facilitating safe, scenic and healthy transportation and recreation for all. Read more about the Border to Boston.
Essex Heritage works with the National Park Service to introduce the tall ship Friendship of Salem to new audiences along the coast of New England. Part regional ambassador, part living history classroom, the Friendship is a replica of a 171-foot, three-masted Salem East Indiaman built in 1797. Since the launch of the Junior Ranger Ship’s Mate program in 2007, history has “come alive” for thousands of school-aged children and their families. More about Friendship Sails.
Using Essex History
Using Essex History has been a highly successful program aimed at training middle school and high school teachers in ways to improve the relevancy of American history for their students by providing developmental seminars and instruction on creating curricula based on local historical assets. Using Essex History was supported by a Teaching American History grant and 130 Essex County teachers participated. Although the grant has run its course, the information remains live and updated by Salem State College’s History Department. Learn more about Using Essex History.
(Local History in a National Context)
Essex Heritage was part of a team guiding a three-year heritage education initiative designed to connect Essex County elementary teachers with local primary source material. During visits to historical sites throughout Essex County and beyond teachers learn how to infuse their social studies lessons with stories, places, and artifacts that make history relevant for the future stewards of the heritage area. Other core partners include Beverly Public Schools, Salem State College, and the National Archives, Northeast Region. The project was funded with a Teaching American History grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Learn more about LINCs.
Essex National Heritage Area Visitor Centers
Essex Heritage coordinates a network of ten visitor centers that provide information on the heritage resources throughout Essex County. The centers include the National Park Service’s Regional Visitor Center in Salem, the Hall Haskell House and Visitor Center in Ipswich, and the NBC&VB’s Maria Miles Visitor Center in Salisbury. Essex Heritage works cooperatively with these centers to promote regional tourist visitation. By providing consistent and knowledgeable assistance about the Area’s myriad of natural, historic and cultural attractions, the visitor centers, most run by volunteers, are a key to competing well in the growing and lucrative cultural tourism market. Learn more about the ENHA Visitor Centers.
An ever-expanding series of thematic guides to the region, which connect residents, visitors and future stewards with heritage sites and encourage regional exploration. Themes range from Art Escapes and Birding to Farms and First Period Architecture. Guides are built with the cooperation of local experts and participating organizations throughout the Area. View, Download and/or Request a Printed Guide (depending on availability).
Essex Heritage Membership Program
Through the Commission’s signature membership program, area residents are encouraged to take an active role in supporting the organization’s stewardship mission while exploring the region’s unparalleled historic, cultural and natural assets. Members enjoy “behind the scenes” excursions to heritage area sites for guided tours, educational lectures and interpretive demonstrations. More about Membership.
Essex Heritage Photo Safaris
The photo safaris program connects new audiences with the region’s heritage resources. Through a unique partnership with Hunt's Photo and Video, major camera companies provide safari participants with the latest in digital camera equipment and expertise as they learn photography tips using some of the Area’s most extraordinary natural, cultural and historic landscapes as a backdrop. Learn more about the Photo Safaris.
Coastal Trails Coalition
The Coastal Trails Coalition, Inc. is a non-profit organization whose mission is to assist in the development of the Coastal Trails Network, a 30-mile system of interconnected foot trails and bikeways throughout the lower Merrimack River Valley communities of Amesbury, Newbury, Newburyport and Salisbury. Launched in 2003, Essex Heritage, with early assistance from the National Park Service Rivers and Trails Program and Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, provides leadership and technical support in the areas of visioning, outreach, and project development and implementation. Visit the Coastal Trails Coalition website.
Great Marsh Coalition
Essex Heritage is a core member of the Great Marsh Coalition, an ad hoc group of organizations and agencies promoting greater awareness and stewardship of the Great Marsh, the largest salt marsh in New England. Essex Heritage supports the coalition’s advocacy efforts, including its annual educational symposium. Learn more about the Great Marsh.
Heritage Landscape Inventory
Twenty-four communities participated in a unique, year-long program that brought together those interested in preserving the built environment with those working to protect land. Through a local developed inventory process, information and recommendations pertaining to threatened or unprotected heritage landscapes such as farms, cemeteries, rail corridors and "water's edge" properties are being incorporated into local and regional smart growth plans. More about Heritage Landscapes.
Historical Records Council
Initially convened in 1999 by Essex Heritage as a forum for identifying and addressing the preservation and promotion needs of the ENHA’s nationally significant and irreplaceable paper-based collections, the ad hoc council is expanding its reach across the state. With a membership consisting of experts from local, state, and regional archival organizations, the council produces educational workshops and advocates for improved awareness and stewardship.
and Non-profit Partnerships
Affiliation with the National Park Service
One of the most unique benefits that Essex Heritage provides to this region is the ability to partner with the National Park Service. This special public-private relationship allows Essex Heritage to develop educational and interpretive programs with Park Service staff and resources that bring history and environmental stewardship to life for people of all ages and backgrounds. Essex Heritage is particularly excited about current pilot programs that are designed to engage underserved, urban youth in natural resource and ocean stewardship within and beyond the Park boundaries. Read more about our successful partnership with the National Park Service in youth engagement initiatives such as First Bloom, F1rst Jobs and America’s Best Idea.
Alliance of National Heritage Areas
The Alliance of National Heritage Areas (ANHA) is a national organization of that represents the 49 National Heritage Areas. The Alliance is a leading advocate for heritage area development in the U.S. Essex Heritage plays a very active role and its Executive Director, Annie C. Harris, serves as Treasurer. Visit the ANHA website to learn more.
Essex Heritage is a member of this statewide, private non-profit preservation organization dedicated to preserving the Commonwealth’s historic and cultural heritage. View the Preservation Mass website.
Investing in Community Partnerships
The Essex National Heritage Commission has successfully built a thriving network of partnerships and collaborations, which have become an important catalyst for regionalism amid the independent interests of the 34 cities and town we support. The ENHC is at the table or leading the discussion on all issues of significance to the heritage resources in Essex County.
To accomplish our mission the Essex Heritage is committed to building:
- Public awareness of these heritage resources through public events and activities;
- The capacity of non-profit and public organizations who own or manage these resources;
- Connections to the next generation and to more diverse audience;
- Partnerships to develop new resources and assets for the region to embrace.
Please help us continue this tradition of excellence and leadership. Your financial investment will enable you to:
- Increase local stewardship of the Area's important historical, cultural and natural resources;
- Encourage efficiencies and effectiveness in local non-profit organizations by supporting the training programs and partnership offerings;
- Enhance and expand program offerings run in partnership with the National Park Service that promote the region’s rich Maritime Heritage.