Spring means start planting!

I mean I really hate Tim’s Tips in the Newburyport Daily News.     I don’t want to get personal and translate this into  hatred against Tim Lamprey but come on.

I get all comfy in my living room and turn on the television and then I hear from the kitchen my wife reading out loud,

“You know, Tim says now’s the time to do this! (or that!)”     Next thing I know, I’m hip deep in compost sweating it out in the backyard.

Now who’s getting personal?

Well, I said all that because I am going to play the role of Tim here but just for those lucky souls inside the Newburyport Historic District*.    It’s spring and now is the time to start prepping and planning concerning the sidewalk in front of your house**.     

You need to install brick sidewalks in front of your house.    You may try to sneak it and do it yourself, but this is City property.    You must hire a subcontractor to do the bricks who will do the job of getting a permit from the City.    If you had a prior owner who had no idea what Newburyport is known for, you probably have some ghastly blacktop or concrete.      Now you need to get some bids on how to replace it with brick.   If you have a brick sidewalk and you’re getting seasick from the waviness, now is the time to smooth out that surface.

Why is it so important.

1. First, there is historic precedent.    John Bromfield, a multi-billionaire of his day (proportionately) bequeathed a large some of money so brick sidewalks and street trees were installed back in 1851.     Today, those trees and brick sidewalks are considered uniquely Newburyport.     You live here and we are a cultural center and a heritage center – it’s logical to play with the rules of an historic district.      Don’t like it?     I advise you to sell and move a couple of blocks to vinyl village or some other plastic neighborhood.     Believe me, you’ll still benefit being NEAR the historic district through higher property values and you can live with your yellowing plastic to your heart’s content!

2. Second, there is a big economic benefit.      A few years ago, the IRS was getting peeved from homeowners who lived inside historic districts.     They would brick their sidewalks and then write it off as a donation to the City which normally is quite legal.    The Feds were getting a little suspicious and hired appraisers and lawyers to find out what was really going on.     They proved in two landmark cases, that historic homeowners who redo the sidewalks in an historic district (usually in brick) gain 15-20% in heightened property values.     So the bad news, you can’t get a tax write off now but you can raise the value of your home just by laying down some inexpensive bricks! (Ever notice how the smart developers in town will do work and then they top it off with a brick sidewalk in front regardless of the historic nature of their work – again, a nice, inexpensive way to boost their profit.)

3. Third, there is an environmental benefit.      If a blacktop or cement sidewalk has to be replaced, it usually means it has to go to some construction landfill or dumped somewhere in an unsightly place.     If a brick sidewalk needs to be redone, you gather up the bricks, stack them, redo the underlying surface and lay them down again.      No dumping, and those bricks that are cracked can be easily left in the back to fill holes or for spares.     Plus, if you lay your bricks in the traditional way with packed stone dust underneath, you also have a means by which water percolation can get into the ground.    With other surfaces – straight impervious surfaces; the water runs off and further impacts the storm water system.

My final note is this…make sure it is done correctly.      

Newburyport Standard Brick Design In a city, ADA-compliant brick sidewalks need to first be level – second it needs to have the bricks perpendicular to the street







other than a hole for trees, try to refrain from cutesy garden strips between the sidewalk and the granite curb – ADA sidewalks need maximum space for pedestrians coming from two different directions – that’s five feet – in fact the historic brick that is on the Ridge is five feet – they were no fools back in the early 19th century.    They were ahead of their time.

Battling Wheelchairs

-P. Preservationist

* Those outside the historic district need to stay with cement – it is much more resistant than blacktop and can endure longer New England winters.     And if you ask our DPS, expect a long speech on why blacktop is unacceptable.

** It will be a cold day in hell if you wait around for the City to do your sidewalk in brick.     Even if you manage to get them there, they’re budget is so miserable, they will go against their own policy* and slap blacktop all over the front of your historic home.     Kiss that equity boost good bye!


About P. Preservationist

Dedicated to the Enrichment & Preservation of Newburyport
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