Sadly, I almost miss the Newburyport that had a majority of Dark Siders in it. At least it had some memory of history and of tradition that was considered important. Then came later the influx of artists and carpetbaggers. Though skewed in various degrees, the artistic community was attracted by the quaintness of an ancient seaport and certainly had no wish to destroy its very character. Then there was the flood of do-gooders of various economic levels who wanted to live in beautiful historic neighborhoods and wanted to restore the grandness of their homes that made us the fifth most important community in America at the turn of the 19th century. Hundreds of new owners ended up transforming the shabby hulks of historic buildings into beautiful places with lovely gardens.
Unfortunately, they’re hard work has brought in more and more of the Children of the Now.
Strangely enough, this growing demographic poses the greatest threat ever to our City.
These are people who see the walkable, safe streets, the quaint shops and the nearness of the ecology and picture a place where they can live. In whatever brief visit they had taken to fall in love with the community they now picture that visit as a lifestyle. Sitting soaking up the atmosphere in the outdoor cafe’s, hanging about the boardwalk and sitting conversing with their friends in the coffee shops and restaurants; a better term would be perpetual tourists.
They don’t know anything about the culture and traditions of Newburyport and worse, they don’t want to know. They don’t know the history behind the town and tragically, they don’t want to know it either. With no interest in local politics, they could care less about the City or the Community; unless of course, it affects their immediate house. And since everything is about the senses they are experiencing now, they could care less about the future.
Since they have no inkling what makes us a uniquely lovely place, they are shocked and upset when they find out the Historical Commission may have a say about their attempts to ‘suburbanize’ the old structures. They become angry when volunteer boards have the nerve to interfere with their attempts to ‘modernize’ their homes. It’s all right to try to preserve the city just don’t do anything that affects them.
If left unchecked, they will turn Newburyport into an upscale, exclusive but no longer historic seaport.
But thankfully, there is a three-prong way to convert these COTN’s. First, is an aggressive attempt by our historic museums and by the Preservation Trust to educate the citizens on the importance of architecture and history. Second, we can be aggressive in advocating historic preservation by putting it on the forefront and making it a big issue. Thirdly, we can zone our city via the Local Historic District effort so that new visitors are informed from the start what is expected of them and it’s more than making their own homes a McMansion. They need to care about the community.
Without these efforts, we could be eventually overrun by COTN zombies.
I shudder to think of it!