It is my goal that the Newburyport Historic District (NHD) be included on this list.
Granted, most of the postings have been specifically landscapes and buildings. The NHD is both a landscape and a collection of buildings.
As long as the Historical Society of Old Newbury hides behind their museum complex walls; as long as the Preservation Trust refuses to do aggressive activism to stop the destruction; and the Historical Commission insists on being a reactive body instead of taking on historic preservation leadership; the NHD is eventually going to be doomed.
According to Mass Historic and the National Park Service, over 700 homes have been lost since it was first registered as an historic district in 1984. That was just 26 years ago. And as Bill Harris recently analyzed, the demolition rate is actually accelerating.
Even though we presently have a super majority who are for establishing a large local historic district in city council, there is no effort or leadership from the historic preservation groups in town. This alignment will pass like lined up planets spinning off into the universe and an opportunity lost to establish Newburyport as a permanent regional beacon for heritage tourism and solid economic health.
It doesn’t take much math to know the clock is ticking on our City. One day, everyone will wake up and start to bemoan our lost greatness. I don’t want to be in the history books as being a member of the party that caused that loss!
Established in 1993, the Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Resources program has been a powerful tool toward saving buildings in the state. Since the first listing, only 19 resources have been lost, over 40 completely saved and many more progressing along the path back from the brink of loss.
The listing acts as a catalyst for action and opens the door for opportunities to save important cultural and historic resources across Massachusetts. It is an educational “PR” program that allows Preservation Massachusetts (Which has direct access to the National Trust for Historic Places’ resources) to utilize their statewide visibility, resources and networks to promote the importance of the historic ‘place’ and to work with the nominators (that would be an organization like Newburyport Preservation Trust) and other parties to find a preservation solution.
It is my sincere hope that the Preservation Trust spies the light at the opening of the brown paper bag and finds its way toward public activism.
When that happens, statewide support, resources, grants and tax-incentive tools can find its way to Newburyport to establish the local historic district and perhaps even a National Landmark status.