Apparently there is a great number of people who believe they will – and without any help from God! They purchase our buildings in Newburyport, pour huge amounts of cash and time into turning these structures into beautiful historical show cases – apply breathtaking gardens, landscaping and trees. They fill their homes with lovely furnishings.
And surprise, surprise, they die.
At the very least, they become incapacitated and must move to warmer climates or into a hospice-care facility.
Often times, the children are so burned out from their parents efforts to restore the house, they often just sell it. Or, for example, the children live in other parts of the world.
Next thing you know, a dumpster winds up outside and all that effort, and all that beauty goes CLUNK into the bottom of a steel cage. The historic gardens are ripped up and the landscaping reconfigured or just leveled.
BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY.
The right thing to do is to install a preservation easement. This can either be strictly the exterior of the house or it can control the interior. Either way, it guarantees that future owners will have to comply with such restrictions as what goes along with the deed. And there is an enforcer. This is a third-party that monitors and expects compliance. The stricter the third party, the happier are on-looking parties such as the IRS and the Commonwealth.
There is a side-benefit that comes with the preservation easement. You can get tax credits which can be amortized for maximum benefit. The reason that the Feds and the Commonwealth value the enforcer is because there has been great abuses in the past. With human nature there will eventually be tax cheats. They put on an easement, take the tax breaks and then proceed to do what they want with the property.
The third-part is to make sure the easement is genuine and fulfills the wishes of the original grantor.
In our City, there are five ‘enforcers’ There is Mass Historic, Historic New England, National Architectural Trust, Newburyport Historical Commission and the Newburyport Preservation Trust. All of these are fine for exterior restrictions – a simple drive by would be sufficient. But if you wish to preserve the interior, make sure the enforcer has the resources to do semi-annual inspections. I recommend Historic New England that definitely has the means to enforce compliance. (Someday, the ‘Trust will be able to go that far but they are still a young organization.)
Now not any house can have a preservation easement. First, it has to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places- a very elaborate process. We’re spoiled because our visionary leaders in the past (Yeah, Dick Sullivan Senior!) put the entire Newburyport Historic District under the Register.
Finally, Mass Historic has to put their stamp of approval on every easement in the state. (This again was because of abuses in the past.) Getting them to sign off is like getting William Lloyd Garrison’s statue to bend down and give an autograph! But it can be done.
Preservation Easements do what advocates have always wanted – to actually do real historic preservation and to be able to preserve even the interiors of homes. It should be part of an historic homeowner’s goal and to make sure the efforts of a lifetime are preserved for future generations so they can see first hand the American Legacy.
It is also the ultimate goal of the Newburyport Preservation Trust for Newburyport.
If enough homeowners pursue restrictions in Newburyport, it will guarantee that we have an actual future as an historic seaport.