Need some help!

We’ve got a situation here that I frankly don’t know how to handle unless we all pool together.       You see, we have a pair of golden eagles that have taken up shop in the new Business & Industry Park that is just off Parker Street and Graf Road. (This is the ‘old’ Lord Timothy Dexter Industrial Park in case you haven’t noticed the rather cold, professional new signage)

The Audubon Society refuses to acknowledge they exist.

In fact, they claim they are immature bald eagles.     Now, any one with some common sense knows that the latter are fish eagles while golden eagles love such things as rabbits and Canada geese.

If you persist, they then say that they are turkey vultures.

Last night in the early evening, I saw one of the pair right on top of the Back Bay across from the wind turbine.      His (or her) size dwarfed the typical vulture with a breathtaking wingspread enjoying the thermals.      They are much more aggressive and athletic than either bald eagles or turkey vultures.      In fact, I watched them do a mating dance in which they hooked into each other’s claws and swirled around plummeting to the ground and then breaking off and swooping up in the air.

Which is my problem.    I have tried repeatedly to get a picture and one moment they are just overhead and then with an effortless movement, they are 500 feet in the air.

Since I know many walk the Clipper City Rail Trail, and with the preponderous of cell phone cameras; I am asking everyone to chip in and get a picture.

Then they need to make that extra effort to contact the Audubon Society at Joppa Flats so a professional birder can come out and make an official confirmation.      Might as well call the Daily News in the hope that putting it in the paper of record will prompt some action.

In the meantime, come out and see these magnificent birds!    I have spotted them on the rail trail, Marches Hill, Back Bay, the Great Marsh and of course, the Common Pasture close to Hale Street.       I have no idea where they are nesting.

-P. Preservationist

The size and the head will help you identify them.

Here is the silhouette of a golden eagle:

Golden Eagle Silhouette

Here is the silhouette of a turkey vulture:

Turkey Vulture is similar

Posted in Eco-tourism, trails, Wildlife | 4 Comments

Newburyport is losing its culture

This last Friday, at the First Friday Friends Social, as Bill Plante was speaking about the D-Day Anniversary; he stopped for a moment and asked how many in the packed audience had been born in Newburyport.     

Scant ten individuals raised their hands.

The sad fact is that our population of Yeats is rapidly shrinking.     It is being replaced by newcomers attracted by our high quality of life and alluring real estate values.     There are many who come here and embrace our community and who, falling in love with Newburyport, want to retain the special culture that has been present for so many years.    But we are increasingly getting transients in the sense that they are here to enjoy the place and then will just as easily move on to the next place.      Some of them refuse to acknowledge the specialness of this Yankee City and many ridicule our culture.

So it has been very timely that Newburyport has adopted a cultural district designation for its downtown.      It gives us an opportunity for us to re-examine and hopefully preserve what makes the citizens of Newburyport, not just the buildings and landscapes, so special.

For those who want to get into the groove of our community, you need to go over some important behaviors, concepts and terms that are unique to our city.     

I have included a glossary that is very important to read and study.     

And when you begin to learn it, you’ll naturally start to embrace our history for so much of our culture is rooted in it.      That is why our two museums are so very important.     They give depth to our society and will also answer so many of the odd ‘mysteries’ of our place.

Don’t know it?     You better start because if you don’t you won’t even deserve the term, carpetbagger; you’ll just be a faceless ‘tourist’ who’s very actions are offensive and which will earn you closed doors and a feeling of being a stranger in a strange land.      

If you want to feel like you fit in, then learn the culture and the history and you will be amazed what gateways will open to you!

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Art & Culture, Education, Environment, Health and wellness, History, Landscapes, Quality of Life, Real Estate | 2 Comments

Stop the Shabbiness!

In the tourist industry as in any commercial venture; you’ve got competition – and it can get pretty intense.       To compete, you’ve got to have a great allure, but you’ve also dedicate to marketing and promoting.       And then,when you’ve finally have visitors; you’ve got to make sure it is such a memorable, pleasurable experience; they will not only return but will bring their friends and families.

Newburyport has buckets of allure, compressed and overflowing.       We’re still weak when it comes to marketing and promoting but I know that finally City Hall and the Chamber are uniting to get it done.        And we’ve got visitors.

But now we have to discard something that Newburyport has had for years – the shabby-sheek look.       That unkempt, rather worn-down appearance that is presented to our guests.       

The funny thing is, it’s not expensive to dispense with it!      Our sidewalks need to be swept and kept looking sharp, our curbs need to cleaned of debris, our trees need to be trimmed.    Our downtown shops need to stop thinking the city will take care of the front of their shops and sweep up the dirt and weed between the cracks.          

I think that one thing that would really sharpen the entire Newburyport Historic District would be to keep the weeds off the bricks and the cracks between cement surfaces.   Below is a fine example of a relatively non-toxic application that is easily identifiable and won’t terrify the EPA:

JBS Weedkiller Formula

Newburyport is filled with beautifully maintained yards and landscapes.      We need to extend that kind of impression to the sidewalks.       Literally, due to the way our state is setup; the DPS and the City can’t fully do the kind of maintenance that our historic areas demand.       

It is going to be every citizen’s job to make our city the kind of experience that guarantees that we have not just visitors but a whole train accompanying them.

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Businesses, Downtown, gardens, Health and wellness, Heritage Tourism, Landscapes, Maintenance, sidewalks, Streetscapes, Tourism | Leave a comment

The Cure is worse than the Disease!

For years, our city has suffered from disgusting, uneven sidewalks and to make things worse, unpredictable surfaces: and because of it, though dangerous for our children and our citizens, most who live here have been forced to do the Newburyport Walk*.

The most horrible thing which I have witnessed many times is to see our visitors attempting to do the ‘right thing’ and walk our sidewalks.     Just a few years ago, an elderly person ended up dying due to the bad fall she received from our uneven surfaces.

So, we all cheered when Councilor Cronin and Mayor Holaday found a way to finance a steady replacement of these sidewalks.     Finally, after a few years, the problem would be solved!

Unfortunately, you don’t give a semi-automatic, fully loaded, and hand it over to an eight-year old!     That is exactly what has happened.      We’ve got uneven surfaces, fully approved by our building inspector depending on the whims of citizens – or surfaces depending on what convenient material is the cheapest.    We’ve got cobblestones, blacktop, concrete, historic brick, modern brick, pavers of every size and length.

And to add insult to injury, we’ve got the state now demanding that the intersections be concrete even in the historic areas of the city with bright red ‘plates’.      Sidewalk horrors

Amesbury has tried desperately to revive its downtown but its over-dependency on the state for funding doomed any hope for their historic downtown.     It’s been sliced and diced and looks ghastly.     But now MassDOT wants Newburyport to do the same!

More demolitions and more damage has been done under Mayor Holaday’s administration than has been done for decades before.        That may appear as unfair but the fact remains.        She’s tried to move the city out of the hill williams (in town hillbilly) community in which Townies ruled and dark siders roamed the streets; but it’s been done without full standards being installed by City Hall.       To be fair, she has demanded the NRA sign ordinance be observed downtown and stood in support as ordinances were approved to protect our city with historic preservation guidelines but this has not extended to sidewalks!

The American Disabilities Act demands that the surfaces of a pedestrian walkway be consistent.       This is not present in Newburyport.Unequal Surfaces

Now that begs the question!!!!!      Do we do all concrete or do we do blacktop or do we do brick!         Do we destroy the look of the Newburyport Historic District  by putting down all concrete?      Or do we let a common-sense ordinance demand that brick be used consistently in the historic district and concrete outside. 

Don’t blame the DPS – they are waiting for instruction from the Mayor and the City Council.     In the meantime, they are at the mercy of citizens and the state regulations.

 An ordinance with clear direction is needed by the city council to settle the issue.  

I have offered the following ordinance to ascribe clear direction.      Basically, if any exceptions are needed, it would go to the ZBA if necessary.

We need this resolved before more ‘spending’ ends up destroying our property values, our streetscapes and our heritage tourism!  

-P. Preservationist

* Walkin’ down the middle of the street.

Posted in Art & Culture, Economics, Environment, Health and wellness, Heritage Tourism, History, Landscapes, Maintenance, Planning, Preservation, Quality of Life, Real Estate, Restoration, sidewalks, Streetscapes, Tourism | Leave a comment

Too much going on!

I took a look at this coming weekend and just started sweating!

There is just much too happening!   First off, we’ve got the hot happenings at the Custom House honoring the courageous events 70 years ago that occurred on D-Day.   We’ve got 17th century Saturday in the morning, garden tours starting at the Cushing House, St. Paul’s Cemetery Tour at 1:30 on Sunday and this doesn’t include the bucketful of art exhibits, entertainers and events that are probably going on somewhere within the city limits.

Then there’s the unexpected entertainment – watching cars trying to find free parking, or any parking for that matter and the extra bonus – watching people pay for parking after six. (simple  things like that make me happy – all that extra revenue!)

I still remember going  to Salem on Halloween Night many years ago: a marathon race, a bicycle race and all the other events plus those in attendance.     It was simply crazy, and wonderful at the same time.

I get the feeling that it’s going to be the same way starting Friday.

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Art & Culture, Downtown, Eco-tourism, Entertainment, gardens, Heritage Tourism, History, Recreation, Tourism, Tours, Traffic, trails, Waterfront | Leave a comment

Newburyport’s National Historic Signficance (Part III)

The first inkling to me that Newburyport was more than just a pretty face was when Roger Gagnon (a local beloved teacher who recently passed away) told me to meet him on Prospect  near Titcomb Street.    He wanted to show me something.      So later, there I stood with him – looking over the wide blacktop behind the parochial School.      “Over there,” he pointed toward the school, “Was where the home of Theophilus Parsons, the creator of the Bill of Rights, lived.     In front of us,” he continued, “Was the first woman’s high school in America” as we gazed at the parking lot.”      Now, anyone who reads the typical history book would have you point to James Madison as the originator and no footnote I’ve ever seen in women’s rights literature ever mentioned this latter accomplishment.

Roger wetted my appetite.      If the typical history book was wrong about these things – what else might be revealed about the Port City which as a community deceptively appears as an example of a little backwater of a New England coastal city, small and lacking national importance?

I started to dig, with much help from Jessica Gils in the archive room, who wisely pointed me in several direction.     And yes, even as late as the 90’s; most of this information has been hidden – reported incorrectly in history books or absolutely overlooked.     Much has only been just brought out into the daylight in the 21st century!

This is what I have found: (In chronological order)

The Witch Trials of Salem and Essex County had their beginning with the accused witch, Elizabeth Morse, right here at Market Square.    Participants in that trial were frustrated because they could not achieve coinciding testimony or more than one witness with ‘spirit testimony’.      Some of the chief witnesses moved to Salem where they ‘fixed’ their shortcomings and the rest is history.

The Great Awakening started here, flourished when Reverend George Whitefield stepped off a ship in our harbor and began his official outreach to the colonies.    His preaching was revolutionary, and gave birth to freedom-loving Americans and laid the foundation for the American Revolution and the ideals that our country is founded upon.     That is why he is called the Forgotten Founding Father.    He ended his ministry as spectacularly as he started; dramatically passing away on School Street and is buried (per his request) under the pulpit at the Old South.

The First Tea Party was started here weeks before the one in Boston.     If one gazes at the side of a building at the lower end of Inn Street, a rather-confused rambling plaque marks the occasion though at the time of erecting it, the city had no definitive information as to the details!     Thanks to our museums and the archive room; we now know that Eleazor Johnson, Sr, a massive man with jet black hair and black eyes, who worked the difficult shipyards as a carpenter, had enough.      The nervous British, sensing trouble, moved all the tea that had come into Newburyport into the powder house and bolted and locked the door.    He took his adze (now in the collection of the Cushing House) and led a fiery group up to Bartlett Mall where the powder house was located, smashed the door down, dragged out all the tea and burned it at Market Square.    Called a Son of the Revolution, he ended up becoming a powerful and influential merchant.

The Triangle Trade was largely located at Newburyport and was at one time larger than Boston’s.     Not necessarily a proud moment from our present perspective but the issue of slavery, the abolitionist movement and the coming conflict of the Civil War are all hinged on this dark commerce.      Rum made in our 60 plus distilleries would be shipped to Africa, where slaves were obtained in exchange; and these slaves would be brought to America and the Caribbean in exchange for sugar cane (in the form of molasses); brought back to Newburyport to be refined into rum.    The 1776 Broadway Play had a particular scene to demonstrate powerfully the situation.

Newburyport’s importance at the Battle of Lexington.    We take for granted as we pass the armory on Low Street as the sign outside announces the  182nd Engineer Co. “Sapper” of the 101st Engineer Battalion.    This unit was one of the first regiments of our military IN THE COUNTRY and proved themselves immediately at the Battle of Concord and Lexington and has continued to exemplify themselves in our many wars all the way to Operation Iraqi Freedom.   Ever afterward, though their official name has changed as their duties have; is often called the First Regiment.   They are one of the few units in the U.S. Army who can display the Lexington-Concord battle streamer since these units are descended from fought battles in Lexington, Concord and Arlington on April 19, 1775 at the opening of the Revolutionary War.

The ‘Gift’ of William Coombs, Patriot and Privateer.    Not understood until recently, our city was the source of gunpowder and weapons that George Washington desperately needed as he surrounded the British in Boston.    William Coombs, not once but twice went down to the Caribbean and secured a vessel full of this cargo and then offered it freely to the beleaguered General.    General Knox had famously brought the cannons to Dorchester Heights but they had no shot to fire them!       With the weapons in hand, the British knew the gig was up and evacuated the city.

The Privateer/Pirate fleet and its contribution to the Battle over Boston.     Hundreds of ships were sent out from Newburyport which effectively cut off the supply lines of the British.    A recent letter was found at City Hall written by George Washington crediting this achievement as the principle means why the British ended up evacuating Boston.     He also considered Newburyport a safe city to build ships for the navy.    The same William Coombs had sunk ships just below the surface making the harbor inaccessible to the British who had the bad habit of burning port cities to the ground. (Beverly and Portland for example.)

The Rise of the Federalist Party and the contribution toward the first constitution in the world (Massachusetts Constitution) and toward the Constitution of the United States.      Theophilus Parsons and the citizens of Ipswich and Newburyport created a document widely published throughout the colonies called the Essex Resolves in which the concept of checks and balances were clearly demanded.       This was incorporated into the world’s first Constitution and was continued in the U.S. version.

Theophilus Parsons, the Federalists and the birth of the Bill of Rights.     Powerful merchants, most of them from Newburyport, were against Massachusetts ratifying the new U.S. Constitution until as Theophilus Parsons termed it; a Bill of Rights was added onto it.     James Madison conceded by taking the Virginia version (which was modeled after the Massachusetts’s Bill of Rights which was largely advanced by Theophilus Parsons.     Three amendments of the National Bill of Rights came directly from Parsons.      The Federalist Party held sway in Washington initially with many of its strongest supporters from Newburyport.

The Birth of the Coast Guard by the launching of the Revenue Cutter Massachusetts.     Until the rise of the income tax, customs was the primary means by which the Federal Government was funded.     President Washington via the Secretary of the Treasurer, Alexander Hamilton, to field Revenue Cutters to enforce the levy.       The very first launched was the RCS Massachusetts out of Newburyport.      Later combined to the Lighthouse Service and the Lifesaving Stations, it then grew into the U.S. Coast Guard.

The First financing and building of a U.S. Navy ship, the Merrimack.     In this setup, local merchants would pool their money together to build a ship for the Navy and then the money would eventually be repaid by the U.S. Government.     Once Newburyport led the way, other cities followed suit allowing the young Republic to field a handsome fleet at minimum cost to the government.

Privateers went out in great force during the War of 1812, this time protected by valid letters of marque.    The British were so afraid of Newburyport’s privateers they commissioned a warship to cruise just outside the mouth of the Merrimack attempting to keep them bottled inside the harbor.

The rise of Silversmithing in America centered on Newburyport.     The Moultin House on the Ridge represents a family that diversified into many sectors and out of their influence came Lunt Silver and the famous Towle Silversmiths.

The rise of the China and Japanese Trade by Newburyporter’s supported by Caleb Cushing’s famous treaties.  After the American Revolution, with wars distracting the European powers; trade all over the world was devoured by entrepreneurial captains and merchants.     The term, ‘Yankee’ originated by disgruntled ports who found that New England traders were hard bargainers.     Yankee came from the Dutch word, Yankers, which means wranglers.

Captain Robert Couch, who lived on Titcomb Street, went on with support by merchants in Newburyport to found the City of Portland.    He went on to be one of the fathers of the city and a statue made of him is on one of their main thoroughfares.

William Wheelwright, born on The Ridge, went on to become a powerful force in the western edges of South America.     He built ports, railroads and shipping terminals throughout the southern continent.   Historians consider him to be numbered amongst the most influential in South America’s history.   His statue stands in Valparaiso, Chile’s third largest city and he is considered a national hero in that country.

The practical invention of the Clipper Ship by Donald McKay, launched from Newburyport’s shipyards.    Though history books incorrectly ascribe this to a Baltimore ship, anyone who actually understands the construction of a Clipper Ship would know that the Currier, made here off Merrimac Street was the first and not constructed in Wiscasset, Maine as one history book claimed!

The rise of the Abolitionists led by William Lloyd Garrison who inspired so many others in the movement.  Though not appreciated by the citizens of Newburyport at the time (They had him arrested for slander and thrown in jail), Garrison went on to inspire many others to become giants in the effort to abolish slavery.

The Famous exploits of the Dreadnaught and her much vaunted ‘record’.     The idea that shipping could cross the Atlantic at incredible speed (at the time) made the stuff of Clipper Ship legends.

Adolphus Greeley who paved the way for telegraph to be strung across America which later became telephone poles.    He later went on to be a renowned Arctic Explorer and co-founder of the Explorer’s Club and the National Geographic Society.

There are many other notable actions that have occurred in Newburyport but occurred after the Romantic Era or had more impact toward the Commonwealth and to local history than to the National Interest.     Such things as The Curse, The Great Fire, Smuggling, Tunnels and wild characters such as Bossy Gillis and Lord Timothy Dexter are wildly romantic but do not have national significance.

I feel strongly that the list above seals the case as to why Newburyport should be designated a National Landmark city.     Local historians, museum curators and dedicated volunteers need to focus on these historical events to make sure every piece is well-documented.

If you, reading this post, feel I have overlooked something during the Romantic Era that should be mentioned, please notify me immediately.     A full and comprehensive list, with facts, references and reliable sources will need to be accumulated to convince the National Park Service to grant full recognition.

-P. Preservationist



Posted in Education, Heritage Tourism, History, Open Space, Tourism | 7 Comments

Pushing for Newburyport’s Historic Significance (Part II)

The process by which we sift through all that history to find our national significance actually deals with the concept of romance.     Though it’s often too broad a brush, it is said that men want sex but women want romance.         If half and more of the population is seeking it, it is definitely a very big deal.

It is hard to explain to the analytical but the definition of romance as a noun is best described as a feeling of excitement and mystery and sometimes a feeling of remoteness and often associated with love.    The best way to express it is to use synonyms such as adoration, affection, love, passion, exoticism and glamour.

Newburyport is all these things – it’s in the air, the views and all about the area.    For years, the slogan, “Newburyport – Love at First Sight” reflects exactly the feeling about the city.    And yet, the romance is elusive, hard to define and just not something you can put your finger on and say, “That’s why”      

It’s because our visitors understand much more clearly the romance of Newburyport than the locals.      There is something very special about our city and it centers on our history.     The creative community may not know the reasons but they can feel it and have thrived on its energy.

Newburyport has three great era’s: the Romantic, the Industrial and the Promotional.     We’re actually just in the middle stages of the third; but everything about the city is founded on the Romantic period.        The reason we have misplaced the importance of that time is because most of present day Newburyport’s population originated in the industrial era – yes, the much-vaunted Townies have little understanding of the Romantics.    Their ancestors came to work in the factories and mills and their posterity grew up in a city bearing little resemblance in culture to the earlier time.     A more recent group and growing in size are the new arrivals who can only see an eco and heritage tourism site with lots of activities and leisurely pursuits.    Often the very buildings they live in are largely misunderstood.

Back in the sixties, when the citizens decided to restore the downtown, they had one goal – to celebrate the Romantic Era.       Most had little understanding of it but they were determined!    (Most of the historical significance was locked up in dusty collections and old yellowing records in the archive center and at the Cushing House.)   They restored the Federalist downtown and revived the waterside.

 It is the significant events during this time that we as a city need to focus on – it gives meaning to our romantic inclinations and provides the excitement when we explore our city.         I know personally, and I am not the only one, who has been astounded at the events that occurred from 1764 to 1864 – it is absolutely thrilling.         As for mystery, mystique, exoticism; we have but barely scratched the surface and only the dedicated work of our museums and archive staff and volunteers who are tirelessly working will reveal more!     I haven’t even mentioned the archeology of our historic settlements and waterfront.   

As I have previously stated, it is vital for Newburyport to attain a National Historic Landmark status and it is the historic significance of the Romantic Era that will provide it.

We have so many who have fallen in love with Newburyport – it is not just another town.      This city is a Romantic City because we celebrate the creative events of our past and on that foundation – continue to be creative in establishing a rich and satisfying quality of life.     

No cheap commercialism here and no transient residents with little affection for their community – we’ve got heart!

Next post: the listing of our historic significance.

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Archeology, Architecture, Art & Culture, Health and wellness, Heritage Tourism, History, Preservation, Preservation History, Restoration, Tourism, Waterfront | Leave a comment