Mostly it's pretty great.
But it's difficult to be balanced about it. So we'll try to offer a review of it that differentiates between the petty and significant, and never loses sight of the big picture.
So, the first thing we have to ask is, "Could the cover be more compelling?" We think it's a missed opportunity to grab attention.
It's interesting that the first-floor storefronts, the sidewalk zone, are all dark and obscured, and that the cars are more visible than the pedestrian amenities. For something premised on the wonders of walking, its cover image doesn't sell those wonders very strongly.
And why not pick a more iconic downtown building rather than a pair of lesser buildings? (We suppose that two of the more iconic ones are owned by the same person, and that a politics of even-handedness might have played a role in this.) We aren't a fan of the canvas and watercolor treatment, either. History is way more interesting and exciting than this gauzy view! Is this a pamphlet that will stand out among all the others in Travel Salem? It just doesn't have shelf appeal in our opinion.
The printing and paper also looks more like something from a home color printer. It doesn't look like it was turned out for a larger run at a print shop. Hopefully this means it can be improved in subsequent print runs.
In a nutshell: We would like to suggest more zip and liveliness in the next printing or iteration.
The interior is better. (But this is where we have trouble being objective!)
Where's the beer history!?
There's a few nods, to be sure. In a "Did you know?" section at the end, the tour mentions the "industrial area containing breweries and canneries" just south of Trade Street. The bit on the Adolph block (not Adolf!) mentions the Adolph Saloon. And the longer bit on the Livesley building mentions that he was a hop grower.
But the richness and depth of Salem's beer history is missing! Nothing on the Eckerlins, even though the Eckerlin is one of the buildings in the cover image. Nothing on the saloons in the JK Gill building. Most importantly, nothing on the Capital Brewery where the convention center is today. We think the brochure needs a little spice - some crime, some vice, something sensational! Tourists like a few whiffs of the forbidden!
And yet there's more. Architects are mentioned randomly. We've identified several significant buildings by Fred Legg, but none of the new identifications are included in the brochure. We are, perhaps unreasonably, personally disappointed. More generally, it might be interesting to include consistent notes about architects on all buildings where the designer is known.
So, enough with the nitpicking! The format doesn't permit broad inclusiveness; choices must be made.
What's great about it? The map in back, which is keyed to the walking tour. Just as Mayor Taylor says,
There is no better way to enjoy the historic assets of a community that walking up close to a historic building and experiencing the past. Salem abounds in these opportunities...Yup, she's right on. The physicality of taking the brochure in hand and walking the downtown blocks. There's all kinds of great stuff that people miss! Stop and smell the roses - and Salem's got lots of downtown roses.
The brochure is a great start - but it can be even better!