Now that I have gone over the foundation of historic preservation, there is one more fundamental piece of information you must know to smoothly and successfully live in the Newburyport Historic District. You must understand the basic architectural styles in Newburyport.
We have thousands of good citizens who live in Newburyport who are totally ignorant of WHY Newburyport is so beautiful. If we are to make real progress in improving our city, we must understand what draws in visitors and new home buyers and why we have such a high quality of life and it’s not because we have a Starbucks!
There is also a practical aspect to it. Historical homes in our district except maybe a handful are not architecturally pure. Ship captains and merchants would often return with exotic additions or the latest national trend and add them to their homes. If you need to renovate, repair or restore, you need to know what style to match. You may have a First Period house, a Federal addition and a Greek Revival front vestibule. Mix ‘em all up while your working on them and your neighbors, who of course will be polite, will be thinking but not saying – “what on earth!” Bad renovations not only make you look foolish but may impact the general property value of your home. Remember – increasing equity and resale value is not only beneficial to you financially but to the whole city! Be a good citizen.
Therefore, take the time to learn the different styles and then test yourself. Go through your home and see what complies to a particular architecture. Then drive around Newburyport and check each house out. Our heritage tourism stresses the early styles but soon as you familiarize yourself, you’ll point to a house and say, “That’s Second Empire” or “that’s a First Period Colonial and that over there is not; it’s actually a Neo-colonial”.
Thankfully, none of us have to go to architectural school or sit through some mind-numbing class; the Newburyport Preservation Trust has outlined them on their new website and given nice clear pictorial examples for reference. Learn them, and soon you’ll be able to know what really makes Newburyport tick and it will also help you to improve and maintain your historical house.
PS. If you want even more detail, they are outlined on the Historic New England website. I will also be continuing later this week my Newburyport Home Companion series starting off with architectural styles.