Contrary to some who have linked local historic districts to a global conspiracy, the ordinance actually began as a strictly local device to preserve Charleston, South Carolina’s historic homes. This occurred more than 30 years before it caught on to the national scene. It became such a successful model that it ended up being expanded to more of the city and at last count, four times. It is now one of the most affluent communities in the South. Savannah, Georgia began to institute the same local controls and soon word began to spread about the benefits of this ordinance.
At the time after World War II, whole neighborhoods in small and large cities were routinely torn up and replaced with new buildings. Prior to Newburyport’s pioneer work in using design restrictions in urban renewal projects; it was not uncommon to see entire downtowns torn out and replaced with new construction.
In 1966, the U.S. Conference of Mayors penned an influential report which concluded, in part, that Americans were suffering from “rootlessness”. It was also compounded by the fact the urban renewal efforts were resulting in soul-less communities and the promised rebirth of economic vitality stubbornly refused to materialize where the bulldozer reigned.
As a response, the National Register of Historic Places was created to try to stop the loss of historic communities. At the same time, local historic districts began to be copied vigorously across the nation. Unfortunately, there were no solid statistics that the success seen in Charleston and Savannah would be necessarily repeated in other communities. In fact, the recent spread of LHD’s at that time and the lack of solid proof of benefits was brought up as an argument against them back in 1971 right here in Newburyport.
Since that time, there are now over 2300 local historic districts across our country and several hundred throughout New England. We now have the solid statistics that show the positive ripple effect that occurs across a community that seeks to preserve its heritage. In fact, the Commonwealth and the IRS bank on it regularly!
That same report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors also recommended that any historic preservation program not focus solely on individual properties but also on “areas and districts which contain special meaning for the community.
The LHD Ordinance started local and the purpose of it being established here across the Downtown and High Street is for our community to receive its benefits, locally.
Contrary to those who think this only affects a particular street or a small neighborhood, this LHD will not only protect our investments; it will spread its beneficial affects to the rest of the City.