This one isn’t just told by an individual – this one is a societal lie. A big lie in America.
I love American history so when I tell you this is a recent development, you can believe it. It is and has been well-documented and it is sad. There used to be this enduring concept called Yankee Ingenuity – it was what Newburyport was all about. And it continued all the way through the 17th, 18th, 19th and even the first half of the twentieth century. This was not stinginess, it was creative opportunism. Not allowing any obstacle to get in your way, always looking for the best deal and it was empowered by the drive of self-reliance…and no excuses!
The best way to capture this is my favorite signature I put on my e-mails:
“Do what you can, where you are, with what you have!”
But there is another component to Yankee Ingenuity and that is thriftiness.
If you are a loyal patriotic American proud of your heritage, you should be conserving materials. I don’t care if someone labels it ‘Sustainability’ – it’s common sense. You don’t waste, you conserve. It’s about being efficient, reducing your waste so you can squeeze maximum profit from your efforts. Any commercial business and well-run family will tell you, efficiency and not wasting reduces over-head and saves money.
This big lie, IT COSTS MORE TO PRESERVE THAN REPLACE, is especially damaging to the Newburyport Historic District.
Preserving original materials cost less than replacing them. When it doesn’t, it’s because the contractor or worker has no competition or is charging you for preservation 101 to learn how to do it on your house. Schools have opened across the country (and especially in Boston) teaching cost efficient hands-on preservation techniques to homeowners and contractors. Many local historic preservation commissions and not-for-profits similar to the Newburyport Preservation Trust are taking advantage of grants to send their members to training as well as bringing experts to your community to teach these skills.
Remember, the reason the building industry calls them replacement materials is that you have to replace them over and over again. If the local historic preservation commission and the Newburyport Preservation Trust informs you to keep those original multi-paned windows made from precious old growth wood, don’t whine about it, get them restored. Then double up on the efficiency by adding storms.
It costs less to make an original window more energy efficient than installing a plastic replacement window. They operate more easily, will have all the lead paint removed and yes, they can be cleaned from inside the house. You will never get your money back from the replacement windows. They don’t last long enough for the return of the money you spent to rip out those priceless old windows!
Contrary to the commonly-held accepted fact by full page ads and a Madison Avenue dedicated to making you spend money, living in a local historic district isn’t a burden on your property rights. Preserving what you have is called Yankee Ingenuity and is sustainable. By preserving you can however increase the value of your home, be more energy efficient and add to your quality of life by having rich textures around you as well as a diverse group of interesting and interested people.
If you live inside the Newburyport Historic District or if you live outside but want to practice the American Way; you benefit from maintaining and preserving as much of the home as possible.