The Marblehead Chamber of Commerce Information Booth sits on the island known as Samuel Snow Square between Essex and Pleasant streets. The square is named after the last-surviving Civil War veteran in Marblehead, who died in 1944.
“My father always told me he was the last,” booth staffer Phil Cash joked.
Cash’s family can claim to have once had ownership of the last local gas station in town. He — along with lifelong Marblehead resident Peter Phillips and Town Historian Donald Doliber — can be found perched under the awning on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., eager to help anyone who approaches.
“You have to be breathing, know a little something about Marblehead, and you have to be a social person,” Doliber said. “You never know what you’re going to be asked.”
Doliber, Phillips, and Cash all echoed the sentiment that they have heard some funny things and experienced some memorable interactions throughout their days of manning the booth.
“One woman said ‘Information booth?’ and I said ‘Yes?’ She said ‘I want a divorce,’” Doliber recalled. “I said ‘I’m sorry ma’am, that’s the next booth down.”
The booth is an extension of the chamber’s headquarters, which are located further up the hill on 62 Pleasant St. It appropriately rests right in front of the border of the Marblehead Historical District. Its built-in shelves are filled with brochures from the hundreds of local businesses the chamber is partnered with. The booth itself was constructed in 1990 by contractor Jeffrey Martin, who dedicated it to his late grandfather, H. Edward Martin of the same profession. It was originally painted Old Town House yellow with green accents, until it was given a fresh paint job of soft gray and navy blue within the last year.
The Information Booth is funded in part by the Essex National Heritage Commission, a nonprofit organization that has been federally authorized to manage and oversee the unique heritage resources of the region. The commission’s most recent addition to the booth came a few years back in the form of an informative four-sided display that contains photos of the town’s most scenic views and a map of the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway.
Not too long after its construction, the booth was temporarily relocated so the square could be renovated. Phillips revealed where the booth once was, as well as some of the upgrades it’s received over the years thanks to a Marblehead icon.
“In the olden days, the booth was actually across the street where the stone is,” Phillips explained. “Lars Anderson, out of his own pocket, paid for electricity, water, and telephone.”
For Doliber, one memory defines the time his booth spent in its temporary location.
“Because it was sitting on risers, somebody had taken a pair of red stockings and slippers and put it like the booth had landed on top of the witch, like ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” Doliber said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the booth averaged more than 5,000 patrons per year. There was a dramatic drop-off, but Phillips believes that the booth is gaining back the popularity it once had.