I remember the story about the Franklin Expedition to the Arctic. It ended up in disaster because of two things: A thirst for the latest technology and an unintended ignorance of the consequences of that new technology. They bragged about having food safely prevented from spoiling with the new fangled technology of sealed cans using lead solder. They became weak and died not from the ravages of the arctic but from lead poisoning.
To move it up to our time, we have millions of hybrid cars because it’s the latest thing to clean up the environment. But now what do we do with the millions of spent and highly toxic batteries as these cars age or are wrecked? We have toxic dumps for nuclear waste. Do we start seeking out dump sites for batteries? See what I mean.
It is the terrible ignorance of homeowners that has been the single, most destructive force against our city. Even though HGTV, DIY and other home improvement channels as well as This Old House warn against destroying historic homes, the clueless hear the siren song of renovation and demolition. Flippers, those who can cheaply strip down an interior to studs and put in low-cost ‘modern’ materials all to the cynical cry of ‘new is better", make a fortune off this ignorance knowing full well the only winners are themselves. It’s one thing that a Flipper buys a home and practises his evil deed in our historic district; it’s immoral when carpenters and contractors and developers convince an historic homeowner to do the same to his/her own building.
Yet, this happens every day and every week in Newburyport’s historic district. With no shame, the owner is told what to do. If he puts up a fuss, many tell him that is just the way its done.
When it comes to casting the blame though, the finger has to be pointing to historic preservationists who live right here in Newburyport. It is the same old story, "Buyer beware". We can get angry at these homeowners but the fact is, they never knew better. The construction industry is filled with honorable skilled craftsmen but they know there are a few who are unscrupulous predators. It is up to historic preservationists to advocate, educate, equip and warn each owner in the ‘district’ to thwart these ‘wolves’.
The scavengers are already circling – the Planning Office has informed me that they are actually getting busy for the first time in a long while. Swooping in with the hard honest skilled workmen will be a few opportunists.
Who’s going to shew away the vultures?