Built in 1893 and opened the following year, Salem is the oldest operating school in Naugatuck. The school, a gift to the town from John Howard Whittemore, originally housed all pupils in the school district, with the high school occupying the third floor. Salem became a K - 8 school with the construction of the Naugatuck High School (now Hillside), and it became an elementary school around 1950. Prior to the construction of Salem School, Naugatuck's Union Center District School stood on the Green itself, in the space that the gazebo now occupies. The rapid growth of Naugatuck's population during the American Industrial Revolution gave the town need for a new school building. John Howard Whittemore, made wealthy in the iron industry, commissioned the New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White to design Salem School. This world-renowned firm also created the plans for Hillside School, the Howard Whittemore Library, the Congregational Church, the Boston Public Library, New York's Penn Station, and several Newport R.I. mansions. William Rutherford Mead, the senior partner in the firm, broke with traditional institutional design in some important ways. First, he departed from the tall, castle-like Romantic design so popular in the Victorian era and opted for a Renaissance Italianate building that fit better with its hilly natural surroundings. Secondly, he had the building made from brick rather than the more popular limestone or granite of the day. The building was constructed at a cost of $71,290 by the H. Wales Lines Company.
Source: U.S. Department of the Interior. National Register of Historic Paces. 1983.