Established in 1790 by Seventh Day Baptists from New Jersey, who built a stockaded fort and called the settlement New Salem, the town became a stop on both the Northwestern Turnpike and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in the nineteenth century. At the turn of the twentieth century, an oil frenzy turned Salem into a boomtown, but a fire in 1901 virtually destroyed its downtown. Fortunately, most of the masonry buildings constructed soon afterward remain and constitute the principal resources of the Salem Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Because of its setting between hills to the north and south, as well as its development along the turnpike, Salem stretches out in a linear pattern along Main Street.
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