When Walter Beinecke, Jr. summered on the Island of Nantucket, the community was a tight group that serviced the visitors but first and foremost, they were fisherman or were servicing the fishing industry. These weren’t the hoity-toity crowd that are out looking to aesthetically pretty up the place. It was hard living but it was a good life.
There was a lot of resistance when Mr. Beinecke started to buy up homes, restore them and then use adaptive re-use to turn some of them into fine homes, inns, restaurants and shops. As he tried to restore the dying fishing community, many a person would sport a badge with his family name on it with a big red slash through it. They were agin’ it.
But he worked with other businesses in town and soon the town caught up to his efforts and established the local historic district on the government side. But it took a small group of determined historic preservationists to finally convince the town this was the right thing to pursue.
When Mr. Beinecke finally retired and sold his holdings, everyone, yes everyone, even the past detractors proclaimed he was a true savior of the island. When he retired and went to Texas to be with family members; even in poor health and close to death, he would hold that same button in his hand. He considered it one of the most valuable of his treasures.
The Newburyport Preservation Trust has to be the organization that sets the tempo in the city for heritage tourism and historic preservation. They must help our historic district businesses and homeowners to understand the great importance of our heritage architecture. They also must do everything in their power to help those same businesses and homeowners with how-to lectures and literature and support. Any means by which to assist them to better protect their investment will help the city as a whole.
City Hall can setup local historic districts, do demo delays and encourage preservation easements and even go so far as helping in some way with tax easements but that is just government. That sets up some framework but if the NPT and other preservation organizations don’t step up to the bar, all those governmental frameworks will fall short.
I can not stress the importance enough that everyone who lives inside the Newburyport Historic District needs to be a member of the Newburyport Preservation Trust. It as an organization that will take the leadership role just like Beinecke did and City Hall will follow as a great host of citizens understand the importance of preservation.