The ‘sacrifice’ of living in the Newburyport Historic District

“Nevertheless, our clients buy these homes with their eyes open; they know what they’re getting into,”

        –Mark Philben, Charlie Allen Restorations, Cambridge, MA., New England Home, Jan/Feb 2009, p 207.


Unfortunately, most people who visit and fall in love with Newburyport don’t realize that moving here will involve a certain level of sacrifice.       They see the funky shops, the pretty marinas, the cool coffee houses and the loveliness of the entire place.     Next thing you know they show up at the realtor’s office with this flushed look of anticipation and exhilaration.

And I am not talking about our location when I mean sacrifice.    There is, of course, the fact we’re too close to tax-free New Hampshire, we’re also too close to the ocean which is great in the summer but horrible in the winter.     While it is still reasonably comfortable inland in Haverhill and Lawrence, we’re already ‘freezing’ from the harsh winds from Greenland!

But that’s the same situation for other communities nearby.     When I speak of sacrifice I mean living inside the historic district.    Those historic homes are going to cost you.

For example, if I stand outside during any given day in Newburyport, the city is a noisy place.     I hear banging from a hammer, buzz saws whirling away, rattling noise from some kind of machine and nearby the voices of workmen hanging off someone’s side of their house.      Small and large trucks and landscaping trailers are everywhere.     Vans advertising handyman services, electrician or plumbing services are constantly tooling around the neighborhood or sitting in someone’s drive way.

Newburyport is in a constant flux of maintenance and repair!

This is not suburbia where homes are set in plastic and immoveable like a celebrity’s smile set in Botox.

These are custom-made, breathing historic homes.      So much of what is needed to keep these homes up is not available even on the vast shelves of Home Depot or Lowes*.       A quick trip to K-mart and Lunt & Kelly’s can often end up being a fool’s errand when they indicate, “We don’t have it*.”         And often, when doing just simple things like maintenance will require chemicals and supplies that are not on the shelf*.       Even techniques of maintenance and repair may require special training or a professional to do it right.

In other words, these treasured homes may be keeping up the value compared to other communities but it comes at a price.

Of course, we have foolish dark siders, ignorant homeowners and slum landlords who will just cheat and stick in any old product and solution.     They only begin to understand their mistake much later when they try to re-sell the building or home.

Local Historic District or no local historic district, preservation easement or no restriction; moving into the historic district will require learning skills in maintenance and repair and the extra cost of special orders and custom materials.

You’ve heard of the expression, If you can’t stand the cooking, get out of the kitchen?     I suggest that if you are unable due to economic and/or physical limitations or simply don’t want to sacrifice, that you move to a part of Newburyport outside of the historic district so you can enjoy all its ‘goodies’ without the negative troubles.

For the rest of us inside the NHD, like the man says, “[we] know what [we’re] getting into.”

-P. Preservationist

* Ace, True-Value, Home Depot, Lowes all have special orders available for historic preservation products.

This entry was posted in Architecture, Environment, Health and wellness, Planning, Preservation, Quality of Life, Real Estate, Renovation, Restoration, Streetscapes, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The ‘sacrifice’ of living in the Newburyport Historic District

  1. Gail Cray says:

    I find myself in a very uncomfortable position. I happen to own a deeded half house at 96 Pleasant St. I am told the city is planning to take a portion or all of my back yard for the new (intermodal) parking garage. Instead of a pleasant distant view of the river and draw-bridge my tenant will have a looming 5 story garage to enjoy with her young son. I have always been a proponent of historic registries and neighborhoods but owning this historic home is now an albatross around my neck as well as the necks of several others along Pleasant St. We find our properties now unsellable, unrentable and because of their historic significance untouchable, by the city to raze. Gail Cray

    • indyjerry77 says:

      Last I heard, they abandoned taking historic homes – once the city grabbed the Federal money – your house is safe!

      As for the neighborhood and the ‘view’ high priced (perhaps foolish) buyers would give their right arm to live in a house so close to the coffee shops and downtown.

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