The Resources of the Essex National Heritage Area

December 29, 2021 8:31 am

How often do you appreciate the history and heritage of the area we live in… your own backyard? When was the last time you took a walking tour of our corner of the world? When was the last time you took a deep dive into the history of our area? 

If you live in the northeast corner of Massachusetts you hopefully know a little bit about the history and significant role our region has played in the forming of our nation. This is the main mission of the Essex National Heritage Area

In a recent North Shore Conversations program on North Shore 104.9, we had the opportunity to speak with Annie Harris, the Chief Operating Officer of the Essex National Heritage Area. She discussed with us the true uniqueness of our area as well as some of the amazing programs that she and her staff, along with North Shore Partners offer annually. 

Essex National Heritage Area

What Is the Essex National Heritage Area? 

The Essex National Heritage Area hosts 2.7 million visitors annually from 30 countries, and is home to 738,000 residents, whose quality of life is our first order of business.

Within our National Heritage area are: 

  • 500 square miles of northeastern Massachusetts
  • 34 cities and towns
  • 9,968 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places
  • 34 National Historic Landmarks
  • 86 historical sites and museums open to the public
  • 400 farms
  • 9 State Parks
  • 2 National Park Services including the Salem Maritime and the Saugus Iron Works

(Source: Essex National Heritage site) 

Bakers IslandPrograms & Events 

There are so many programs that Harris had a hard time fitting them all into our 30 minute radio show. 

Here are the highlights with links to our website so you can find out more on your own. 

Trails & Sails 

This annual series offers over 200 free guided walks, paddles, historical tours, cultural experiences and other adventures that connect people to the spectacular places, history, and heritage of Essex County. Trails & Sails usually happens in the last 10 days of September where we can all enjoy the beautiful fall landscape and the mild weather our region has to offer at this time of year. 

Photo Contest 

This program is ongoing and will end on the last day of December where a winner will be chosen from entries of photos of our beautiful region. Find out more about the deadlines and the photo categories that you could enter here

Walking Tours & Lectures 

Essex National Heritage offers a wide variety of trail tours and walking tours that will allow you to explore your own backyard. During covid they also moved many of their lectures to an online format which made them so much more accessible to a wider audience. 

Future Leaders Program 

This summer youth employment and training program is offered through a unique partnership with the National Park Service. The program is directed towards teens and young adults ages 14-20 years. 

The teens could be hired to work at the two national park sites in Salem and Saugus. The program has been expanded in the last 6 years to include the Baker’s Island Lighthouse as yet another area of employment.  

Other areas of employment include: Appleton Farms in Ipswich—a working farm owned and operated by The Trustees of Reservations, the Rebecca Nurse Homestead in Danvers, and Camp Dennison in Georgetown.

Educational Programs

Harris explained that some of her favorite programs are within the educational programs such as: a Park for Every Classroom, Salem at Sea, teacher workshops, and her favorite Teaching Hidden Histories which focuses on non-traditional teachings of indigenous people, immigrants, and people of color in our region. 

To find out more about their extensive programming, check out their full site at