Recently, I have noticed that some significant people who helped shape Newburyport have passed away. There’s this old superstition that great peoples death’s come in three but that is just subjective and depends on who you think is important and why.*
Well, in my eyes, we HAVE had three major players who have passed away that were important in shaping the beautiful Newburyport of today. The first was John Battis. Largely unknown today, he was deeply involved in the drama of our waterfront development. He also was a crucial player in some of the land developments of his day. His little park that he started will unfortunately be the only memorial left to us.
The second was Dick Sullivan, Sr. He was instrumental in doing the serious groundwork – while the Downtown was structurally done, it was left to this Mayor and others afterward as to how its success would be achieved. Contrary to historical revisionists; it was uncertain that the first of the Nation’s urban renewal based on historic preservation would succeed and many scholarly papers pronounced that it would fail! It took a few false starts and trial runs before Newburyport became the role model for urban renewals to copy. I would never consider the Sullivan Building a fitting memorial for him!
The third came as a shocker – Carl Panall. I mean just last year, he was celebrating his birthday and having a great time at the annual Tales & Ales Event at Historic New England’s Swett-Ilsley house. Another ‘force’ to be reckoned with in his day, he was instrument in the initial forming of the Waterfront Trust and a great champion of historic preservation. He really has been a great help in the last few years in carpentry assistance for Historic New England, and being a docent at the Little Farm and at the Swett-Ilsley house. His absence from Historic New England, Newbury & Newburyport will be a great source of sadness.
Though many may in today’s Newburyport have forgotten these ‘pioneers’ of the new future; historic preservationists can use their lives as examples. While looking back at what they achieved, we can look forward to more accomplishments in the future built upon their legacy.
Hey, isn’t that the motto of the Newburyport Preservation Trust, “Linking the past with the present and future”?
* Unlike deaths, major earthquakes actually do come in threes. If you have a major one, the wave force through the crust and deflection and diffraction from different surfaces in the earth’s core practically guarantees that two more major earthquakes will be triggered somewhere else on the planet. Scientists tend to be a cautious bunch and tend to sight areas of likelihood but won’t ‘predict’. The potential of scaring the dickens out of a whole region leaves the average seismologist pale in the face of political repercussions if they are wrong!