Shocking Indifference

I was at the Historical Commission meeting Thursday night and after the gathering, I heard tales of the ‘new attitude’ that is beginning to sweep not just through Newburyport but across our nation.

The historic house is now considered of no value to many homeowners.     

With all the talk of sustainability and conservation of resources and of being green; we have a new breed who simply want to push aside the old for the new.

We have developers who come to our city who simply want to get rid of the tiresome old building so they can build a quick, profitable structure with the cheapest wholesale products available.      I witnessed this a few decades ago in New Jersey, whole developments with wood chip pressboard as the main wall material.     One contact with moisture and you have a worthless mess and they were building them one downed forest at a time!      In our community, they have factored in the demolition delay as just a tiresome obstacle to add to the cost!      The developer off Toppans Lane cares not a wit about the historic house to be destroyed for an access road nor the impact on neighbors. 

Homeowners are now demanding a demolition permit be added as a nice ‘option’ to potential homebuyers to entice them to purchase quickly – who cares about the neighborhood or the abutters property values.        We want the money, and quickly!

Clever contractors who push the myth that an old house can not attain a building permit; demand a new structure that fits all the newest ‘stretch’ codes.  (Old houses are exempt from all the strict building codes and thus money can be saved with a restoration that avoids the extravagant costs that a new building must include to fulfill the complicated requirements.)

What good is it, as the neighbors on Hancock and Pine have found out, if the vast majority want to preserve their old houses – only to have an uncaring developer or homeowner who by demolition and inappropriate construction; flushes the entire streets values down the drain!?!

The Boston Globe did an extensive article on this disturbing trend that is spreading across the nation.        As we invite new homeowners ironically due to our heritage tourism, we are finding the new visitors are not like the old breed that restored and made Newburyport affluent.      

This new group doesn’t care, won’t even bother showing up at demolition public hearings and have no intention of ‘preserving’ Newburyport.

Sure, they will be hurt along with others as property values plummet but why must we allow this to happen?     The Local Historic District ordinance is here to protect our property values and to preserve our lovely Newburyport – will we simply join these apathetic neighbors and allow it to happen?

Will history cast judgment on our city for lack of vision or will we be courageous as our citizens and politicians were in the 70’s?

It took a lot of courage to do what was done in the 1970’s. It’s our generation’s turn now to be courageous & do what is right. This will benefit the community economically not just the businesses but the residential owners as well. It also helps to preserve what makes Newburyport, Newburyport.

                      -Sheila A. Mullins, Online Petition, July 28, 2010.

-P. Preservationist

This entry was posted in Demolitions, Heritage Tourism, Historic Demolitions, History, Local Historic Districts (LHD), Planning, Preservation, Preservation History, Quality of Life, Renovation, Restoration, Streetscapes. Bookmark the permalink.

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