Nobody’s fault but my own

If you are wondering if someone sabotaged, the answer is technically no.        The saboteur is typing this post this very moment.

Since I have to run off to work, It will be fixed accordingly by tonight.

Most of the links work, so if you need to use it – it is doable.

My humble apologies.

-P. Preservationist

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Some Badly Needed Updates

I’ve been sick this last week.      Considering how many others have been sick about the area, that’s nothing unique.      

Some people actually believe I do this blog and site for a living.   They confuse several years of accumulated research for my day job.      I wish!      

But being laptop bound has allowed me to clean up some of the website,, and to fix some of the links that have become ‘dead ends’.

I have re-opened my survey as to the size of the local historic district.      I would like to get more reader’s input on that subject.

I have continued my petition on having the entire Newburyport Historic District included.    It’s a lonely crusade, but whether it’s piece meal or all at once; I am still convinced it has to be done as the threats of demolishing and extreme remodeling continue to diminish our National Treasure and worse, hurt our local economy and tax base.

I have also added a new section of quotes which I have gleaned from different sources and now include the many quotes the citizens of Newburyport have included on Newburyport Blog’s Online Petition.     Why not harvest such creativity?

This Spring we are in for a fascinating and wild ride complete with twists and turns on a whole range of issues.       We can, sadly, be a part of the alarmingly large number of the apathetic and the clueless; or we can jump into the fray, contribute positively toward our community and be part of History.

There is certainly lots to learn and do.

As anyone who has read even a small part of our City’s political past, it’s our very nature TO BE VERY POLITICAL!

I’d rather have that than be led along like sheep.     A sheep’s life, except for brief moments of terror, is rather boring!

-P. Preservationist

PS. Have alarming news about our Downtown ‘protections’ concerning the City’s taking over the NRA’s sign book – THERE ISN’T ANY! More coming later!

Posted in Local Historic Districts (LHD), News and politics, Open Space, Preservation | Leave a comment

It’s too funny!

Now you all know that I am not getting upset or concerned about MassDevelopment and the NRA.       Nothing’s going to happen until the parking garage goes in.  And nothing is going to happen regardless of anyone’s plans until the soil is cleaned up on the Waterfront, and then there is this little matter of archaeology and artifacts…

But I thought it was a strange coincidence that the firm that helped design and plan for Roger Foster’s Central Waterfront Hotel has been ordered by MassDevelopment to work with the NRA.    

Déjà vu!    

One of the distinctive features of Mr. Foster’s old hotel plan was promised underground parking.       In fact, it was talked about endlessly, you guessed it, by Fort Point Associates, Inc.     Then when the final plans were presented to the City, the underground parking disappeared.      Reason?     Too expensive!      The alternative solution was massive valet parking which thrilled no one.

Lo and behold, the first thing out of Fort Point Associates’ mouth in 2012 is suggesting underground parking.

Now, that is hilarious.

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Developers, Economics, History, Organizations, Planning, Waterfront | Leave a comment

NHC: Newburyport Historic District

You’ve come to Newburyport, fell in love with the place as so many others have done, and found a perfect home inside the historic district.    After checking on the website,, you discover your house is a contributing resource in a district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.     So what does that mean?    Is there something I am obligated to do with my property?       What kind of restrictions does this impose on my building?       How did this designation end up being assigned to my house?

NROHP SignageThe National Register of Historic places, created in 1966, often called the ‘National Register’ was once an actual book in which significant historic places were compiled.     As the Register grew, the book became inadequate and now it is a huge listing of some 86,000 and still growing.     It used to be said that a house was listed ‘in’ the National Register, now the appropriate phrase is, the house is listed ‘on’ the National Register.

In short, the Register is an official list of the National’s historic places worthy of preservation.     It is a compilation of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture.       To get on the list is the first step toward complete preservation but it is, of itself, only the first step.       The listing does not guarantee any protection.    The only exception is when Federal property is concerned and then it is mandated by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

The first step to get “on” the National Register is to get it nominated by citizens or a citizen’s group.     In the case of the Newburyport Historic District, a building survey was made in 1984, and nomination forms were submitted to the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) who is at Mass Historic.      Then the SHPO and the National Register staff in DC; check to make sure the listing is significant and has integrity.        Our district is packed with significance and most of the city has retained the individual buildings integrity.       It might be added as a warning toward the future, that if the district should lose enough of its architectural and historical cohesiveness, it can be removed from the National Register.       Unless protections are sustained, the Newburyport Historic District may suffer that fate.     As of the early 2000 decade, the National Architectural Trust and Mass Historic have both noted that over 700 homes have been lost due to demolitions, interior gutting and inappropriate remodeling.

Now when it comes to significance, the property must possess some distinguishing quality that makes it worthy of a spot on the Register.     Some questions to be asked, Is it associated with an important person, event, or movement in history?    Does it make a notable advance in design or technology, or is it a premier example of a particular style?    Is it the work of a recognized master?    Does it have the potential to yield important archaeological information about our past.      If the answer is yes to just one of these questions, the property is eligible.     The property doesn’t have to be both historically noteworthy and architecturally significant to be listed.      Integrity is also important and adds to the significance.    It’s location, design, setting, materials, workmanship should be largely intact.     Properties that have been compromised due to radically altered remodeling may no longer be eligible for listing.

Another requirement is the property must be at least 50 years old to be added to the National Register.    The 50 year requirement is by its very nature, a sliding scale and more properties become eligible for nomination as the years advance.        Logically, the listing will never be ‘done’ and will be a work in progress constantly adding to the list those things that are worthy of preserving not just inside the district but across the United States.

There are tremendous benefits that come from the National Register.     First, it is a great planning tool for preservation advocates and professionals.      Many benefits such as grant programs and government tax credits require the listing.     Second, the Federal government and the Commonwealth offer historic rehabilitation tax credit programs for commercial properties and landlords and it opens the way for additional programs that local governments may provide.    Business property owners and individual homeowners may be able to receive IRS tax credit benefits from preservation easements.

The listing of each historical house has been posted on the Internet at and is also available in printed format at the Newburyport Library Archive Room.   It will indicate three categories: contributing, intrusions and modified construction.        Contributing is an historical home that adds to the district, intrusions are homes that are more recent than 1930 and are considered non-historic.  (Many of these due to the sliding scale are now ‘contributing’.)    And modified construction is also contributing but remodeling has changed the house from its original design.

The area that is covered by the district starts on High Street at Atkinson Common and extends all the way down until the border with Newbury.     It starts at Union & Water and extends along Water and then Merrimac Street to the intersection with Ashland.        All the area between Marlboro Street extending to Ashland Street is part of the area.

The borders are demonstrated in greater detail by this map: (

LHD Ordinance Map


If you find yourself living or owning property inside the district, then the Newburyport Home Companion is for you.   Whether it is maintenance or a major historic renovation, the object will be to assist in finding solutions.

Always keep in mind that having a National Register listing is an honor.     The owner of such property can take pride in saying, “My home is important; the federal government says so.”    That’s a feel-good benefit that means a lot to many people.     But also remember, as it elevates your home, it also puts its preservation squarely on your shoulders.      It will achieve real protection only when it has the key to any property’s survival, a responsible owner.

-P. Preservationist

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A Brave New World?

It was an interesting choice of wording by Dyke Hendrickson in the article about Newburyport Development’s plans for Fowle’s News.      It is commonly been used in the past as an element of irony showing a future that is quite not right.  

It was first referenced by William Shakespeare in The Tempest,  Act V, Scene I:

O wonder!

How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world!

That has such people in it!

The character Miranda was raised for most of her life on an isolated island, and the only people she ever knew were her father and his servants, an enslaved savage and a spirit. When she sees other people for the first time, she is understandably overcome with excitement, and utters, among other praise, the famous line above. However, what she is actually observing is not men acting in a refined or civilized manner, but rather drunken sailors staggering off the wreckage of their ship.     This irony was very prophetic for we now know looking back at the Brave New World of Columbus’ time that entire Indian nations were wiped off the map just from European diseases and the America’s transformed and not necessarily all for the good.

More recently in history, Aldous Huxley conveyed the same irony in his famous novel of the future, Brave New World.    Advances in science and technology that gives a future that is bereft of culture and history.

I am postulating that Newburyport’s Development indeed is setting the stage for a new future in which our historic past is being trampled down for raw commercialism.     The very past that has set the stage for so much economic prosperity is now to be crassly cast aside.     As much as he was criticized, Walter Beinecke, Jr  who the Lagasse’s brought in as an historic preservation consultant, would not have approved.      

“We moved here, and we liked old buildings,” Ann Lagasse says. “We saw some opportunities. This town has the best collection of Federalist-style buildings in the nation, and we wanted to preserve that.”
                                                                  -Ann Lagasse, Northshore Magazine, “Newburyport Rising Tide”, by Bryan McGonigle

How far they have fallen in their original aim for Newburyport!   Who has steered them toward this ruinous end?       Who knew that the CVS expansion was the beginning of their new direction?

By severing Newburyport from its historic connections, ND has sent a message that money is everything, culture is to be spurned and history is to be discarded and worst of all, our community’s concerns to be cast aside.                

O brave new world!

That has such people in it.

-P. Preservationist

PS. As for the fate of the exterior façade of the Fowle’s News stand, this will be the first test under the City’s new sign ordinance that was carried over from the NRA.       Newburyport Development needs to retain the exterior signage and should be obligated to ‘restore’ it.

Posted in Art & Culture, Businesses, Developers, Downtown, Health and wellness, Heritage Tourism, Organizations | 1 Comment


Normally, if you see that on a cake, your mouth begins to water.      Unfortunately, if you see the same kind of thing on the brick sidewalk in front of your house; you can respond with a moan.

Bricks damaged by saltSalt tends to leach out moisture from the brick creating a cake-icing look that is definitely not acceptable and may contribute to the brick crumbling in the end.      I have seen the phenomena all over town as people not aware of the correct method to maintain their brick sidewalks.  Without realizing it, they are damaging the Downtown and elsewhere in the City.  Even the Institution for Savings is doing it – right after the bank spent a fortune putting in correct brick making sure the surface is as smooth as a baby’s bottom.   The bank might as well start buying more brick because it won’t be long before impurities are drawn up from the interior leaving a milky and unsightly coating.     Then, the brick weakens and it won’t be long before many are cracked and shattered.

The right stuff to use is sand. Not only does it do an excellent job making brick surfaces gritty for traction, the sand ends up being driven down between the bricks further cementing them. Also, if some accidentally ends up in your garden or landscaping, you don’t have to deal with a build up of poison in your soil. The sand also adds a nice patina over time.

If you are a commercial business, the best bet is to get bags of sand from an industrial supply as white a product as you can muster so it will lay down and do the job as efficiently as salt without looking like mud.  If you are a homeowner, get play yard sand. 

I know it is late in the season and we have had unusually warm weather but it could change in a day and we could have it bad for the next two months. (However unlikely it appears!)

Before those late season snowstorms hit, make sure you have a bag of sand.

Save Newburyport one brick at a time!

-P. Preservationist

Posted in Education, Health and wellness, sidewalks | Leave a comment

The Fascinating Story of the LHD High Street Attempt in 1971

Newburyport is certainly a unique place and no where is that evident than in our politics.    Some issues linger on for decades without resolution.  Can anyone say parking garage or central waterfront?

Simple logic would tell you that if the ecological and historical assets of Newburyport are the source of much economic revitalization; you would conclude that every attempt at protecting those assets would be made.         Not so in Newburyport.        The presence of ____ _____ and ____ _____ were represented back then.     We even had some rather colorful extremists.

So has the situation changed from those days?     The answer is a strong yes.

The difference has been three-fold.       First, we have far fewer Townies present today and they represent a minority in our political scene.     Second, our demographics have changed.   We have a large percentage of people who have moved here precisely because of the historic neighborhoods.       Third and most importantly, the class structure that so bedeviled Bossy Gillis and John Marquand no longer exists.     

Back in 1971, there was the ‘working class’ – factory workers, fishermen and businessmen.      Then came the ‘gentry class’.     These people were living mostly along High Street and were not just wealthy but were the upper class.     These were the hoity-toity that John Lagoulis mentioned recently.      The same elitist class that gave ‘charity’ in such a self-righteous manner.     They went to their exclusive clubs and to their particular churches and did not mix with the rest of the working class.      It was this group that drove Bossy nuts.

At the same time the NRA had received enough funding to start the urban renewal, an attempt at preserving High Street was begun.       The support of the High Street property owners was very high and that included businesses on the street plus those who rented or worked but lived elsewhere in the city.       The local historic district was to include 220 properties of which 24 were businesses, offices, organizations or vacant.     Of those 114 owners signed their names in support.    An additional 104 other High Street residents and businesses signed and 6 adjacent residents included their names.       According to the Newburyport Daily News in 1971, “The supporters far outnumbered the opponents.”       

C. Bruce Brown, city councilor, drafted and submitted the ordinance to city council for approval; carefully vetting it through the city solicitor, Jonathan G. Wells III.

The overwhelming support revealed itself in the public hearing, of which 50 spoke for it and less than 12 spoke against it in an overflowing crowd of 150 people!

Stanley Mattson, of 48 High Street, spoke on behalf of the supporters saying, “Those before [High Street residents in favor] have been willing to alienate their civil liberties for the greater good.”    As another support, Mrs. Russell T. Burton, who lived adjacent to High Street said on behalf of a group of supporters, “We feel it would not infringe on the rights of homeowners.    No one likes to be free and unfettered better than I, but in these rapidly changing times limited controls are not only advisable but necessary.”     Frank Morrill of 209 High Street indicated, “As will be noted by the [petition] names from the street, more than half were willing to sacrifice for the good of the whole.”

There were few but very vocal opponents to the ordinance.    Charles C. Stockman II who lived at 153 High Street, a Townie, predicted that if it would pass, it would end up the same way the downtown urban renewal was heading, “Newburyport would be not only moribund but dead as an Egyptian mummy.”    He also predicted that the downtown revitalization would end up being a “multiple stillbirth.”    But he went further, claiming that the local historic district ordinance was part of a larger socialist movement originating in Europe and spreading to America.    He stated, “Step-by-step, the person and his property have been [placed] in the hands of bureaus, committees and government ministries”.

Of course, the demagoguery from a few became so bad that a High Street resident, Elizabeth L. Whiting complained, “Surely informative ideas of the many, gently and rationally expressed, deserve as much attention than the ideas of the latter [opponents] which are presented in deliberately caustic and irrelevant oratory.”

Even the Newburyport Daily News, with chief editor, John J. O’Neil; endorsed the High Street Local Historic District.

So, why did it not pass?

There were prominent men on the city council, including the President; that were ____ _____.      These men believed with all their heart that, with all the loss of manufacturing in the city, that it was the destiny of Newburyport aided by their political will to do everything possible to get it back.      They strongly believed that it was the way to a brighter future.     

In exasperation, Peter Latham, of 201 High Street exclaimed, “[Referring to the effort to bring back industry to the city’] I think they’ve been overlooking the real industry they have, which is these historic homes.”

There was also not wide-support from the working class of Newburyport who were desperately seeking steady jobs and certainly didn’t want to see High Street become even more high browed.

In the end, the city council split right down the middle and failed to obtain the 2/3rds majority.   

We have the benefit of looking back and seeing that these men who were opposed to the local historic district, chose the wrong path.     Our industry and even our businesses contribute but a small fraction to our economic well-being while our historic buildings truly are “the real industry”.     The Downtown, rather than a tomb, became the epicenter of rebirth for the City spreading its influence into the rejuvenation of all of Newburyport.

So the question is to be made, “Do we listen again to these naysayers in 2012 or do we finish the task that so many endeavored to achieve in 1971?”

-P. Preservationist

Posted in History, Local Historic Districts (LHD), News and politics, Organizations | Leave a comment