On May 20th, Byron Matthews will be recognized by Essex Heritage and the National Park Service for being a "hero". The happy event will occur at the Tupelo Music Hall in Salisbury, starting at 6:00 for cocktails and the dinner at 7 PM.
History can play some strange tricks.
The Preservation Trust has on film Byron Matthews promoting the building on Lot 8 to be a contemporary structure. This is the man who wanted to put a refinery in the Common Pasture. This is the man who promoted the destruction of the historic parts of the city and wanted a Zayre’s department store in the center of Newburyport. If Byron had his way, Newburyport would have done what Haverhill did to its historic center. Instead of what we have today, we would have seen a version of the Loop.
On the other hand, Byron Matthews is a man who rolls with the punches and compromises. Once historic preservation became the theme, he advocated that the Federalist time period shoud be the focus of the City’s downtown. Historic documentation is clear that Byron Matthews pioneered the undergrounding of the utility lines that makes our center so powerful to behold. He used his powerful position to get the jobs done that needed to get done for places like Inn Street. In fact, Mayor Moak dedicated himself to mirror his administration after Mayor Byron Matthews’. Byron compromised through democracy and heard the people and then proceeded to get things done. Mayor Moak doesn’t have much understanding about historic preservation or open space (don’t we know it!) but the Common Pasture was secured and restored under his administration and the first Local Historic District became a reality during his time. His greatest speech was when he was dedicating the Cooper North Pasture! We might even see Mayor Moak receive a legacy award years later from the Essex Heritage Commission. (Gag)
Either way, I want Ms. Haslinger to set the record straight with the Essex National Heritage Commission so they have some context.