As I have been doing the "House Stories" surprising facts just seem to pop up. It doesn’t matter what house I pick or what neighborhood I peer into, amazing information that you would think should be common knowledge is revealed. I am doing about seven houses right now – picking up bits and pieces as I go and then I stumbled on 189 High Street. The name of the house is not surprising, Mariner Benjamin Rogers House, though I need to find out what the difference is between a captain and a mariner. It’s architecture is not surprising, its a big old Federal house on HIgh Street.
Mystery? This house is huge – in fact, very large condominiums have been broken up (4 in total) and the house can easily accommodate it and yet it is not listed in the Historic Survey as posted on the City’s website. "Well," I said, "the volunteer who scanned the survey sheets must have inadvertently skipped the house." Not so, I have the paper copy of the historic survey and the house is definitely not listed.
Don’t get me wrong. The Historic Survey was never meant to include every house inside the Newburyport Historic District. Often, an entire street was noted without a special footnote for any individual homes. The key was to show that enough significant historic architecture and historic events were present to justify the huge size of the Newburyport Historic District.
So what does that tell you? The Surveyors didn’t feel that 189 High Street was historically significant enough to be mentioned. Turns out they were wrong. They were misled by an historian, John James Currier. Turns out that our Mariner was a significant co-founder of the Newburyport Marine Society. If you possess excellent
perifferal vision, you may recall a plastered square on a large building west of State Street that clearly indicates the Society’s name. This group could be called the forerunner of the Adventurer’s Club in New York City. It’s goal was to record shoals, rocks and navigational markers since the world at that time was at Newburyport’s doorstop and needed to be explored and mapped. It is not for nothing that many great ships from our city floundered and sunk from a general ignorance of the Earth’s sea channels.
Regardless, they were the first marine society in the nation, period. Unfortunately, the first meetings were held at Benjamin Roger’s House which Mr. Currier claimed was on Bartlett’s Lane.
Thus, due to an historian’s error, the present house at 189 High Street has been labelled not "historically significant". This is sad because the molding inside the house and the lovely way the house is built may encourage a developer to not be so restrained when remodeling this place in the future.
I hope to dig up enough information so this oversight can be remedied. Stay tuned!