House Stories – Jacob Perkins House – 16-18 Fruit Street, Part II

As we as a city begin to consider the expanding of the local historic district ordinance to cover the Downtown and High Street, we need to look closely at the Fruit Street Local Historic District.       Things have been presently quiet over there but we should all thank them heartily because they have been doing the hard work of vetting out the ordinance and finding ways for it to be practically applied.      

It is especially important to examine their district especially when we will have a small minority that will make false statements and shout loudly in place of the reasonable arguments of men.

The Jacob Perkins House is perhaps the most historically and nationally significant home on the street.       It’s Federal-style classic, it’s former owner well-established in the annals of history and it’s location by the famous mint so close to the campus of the Historical Society, a beautiful spot.

But it has one major issue – it has vinyl siding.

Now the purpose of a local historic district is not to just preserve the homes as they are when the ordinance was established but to improve the historic quality of the homes.        That means the vinyl siding needs to come down and be replaced by more appropriate wood siding.      

So why after nearly four years under this ordinance hasn’t this been done?

Ex Post Facto Laws!     According to Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution, “no State shall pass any ex post facto Law.”      This Latin phrase refers to laws that retroactively make illegal, legal actions that occurred before the law.     Let’s say gambling was legal in the country and a significant part of our society was involved in the ‘arts’ of such activity.      In an ex post facto situation, anyone who had been practicing gambling before an anti-gambling law was passed could be arrested for breaking the law.      How horrible and lethally evil our politicians would become – the instruments of retribution and the establishment of constant human misery!

As it applies to something as humble as an LHD, no changes would be made to the homes until such time as those features would need to be replaced.      In the Jacob Perkins House, hopefully as money is allowed and enough shame concerning having such siding on this great historic house, the plastic will go away.      But if not, the owners could keep the siding until our lovely New England weather with its vicious freezing cycles will require the plastic to be replaced.      They will then, twenty, thirty years in the future then go before the LHD commission and ‘discuss’ about the need for wood siding in its place.       But nothing will happen until then.(and as presently proposed, if ever.)

So contrary to those who delve into alarmism, nothing will radically change in the Downtown or on High Street unless something needs to be replaced.       No anxiety, no fear, no one brought to financial ruin trying to make their homes more historic.      Of course, any improvements made in the course of time will improve the district and all our property values across the city.       

To help promote keeping the houses looking historic, whether it is National Register or LHD, SIGNAGE is supposed to have been put up to notify everyone that these areas are to be specially treated.       One of the most tragic historic occurrences in Newburyport was the failure to put up signage in 1984 announcing the Newburyport Historic District.      Consequently, a great number of our citizens don’t even realize they are even IN one.

This is tragic in itself.*     


-P. Preservationist

* As to whom are to blame for this omission?    Can you spell D-A-R-K S-I-D-E-R-S?

This entry was posted in Architecture, Heritage Tourism, History, Preservation, Real Estate. Bookmark the permalink.

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