A Small But Significant Step Forward

Yes, I know that I am usually very harsh when I speak about our former Mayor, but strangely enough – more important historic preservation advancements in our city were accomplished under his term than has been done so far with our present office holder.

History is filled with such odd discrepancies!

One of the many important acts done by Mayor Moak was initiating a letter to the National Historic Landmark office:

November 19, 2008


Mr. Paul Loether

Chief, NRHP and NHL

1849 C Street NW (2280)

Washington DC 20240






Dear Mr. Loether:


We are interested in pursuing designation of a National Historic Landmark District in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and we are writing to inquire how to begin the process.


A large portion of the city, comprising 2576 buildings, was listed on the National Register in 1984; there are also a number of individual listings, and one individual NHL, the Caleb Cushing House. We believe that Newburyport meets NHL Criteria 1 and 4, and we are attaching a brief discussion of the aspects of Newburyport’s historical associations, architecture and urban design that we believe rise to the level of national significance, along with a map of the NR District and a few recent photos illustrating representative resources.  


We are confident of local support for the District, since a public survey last summer showed widespread support for a Local Historic District, which of course carries far more restrictions than the NHL. After years of resisting attempts to create such a district, a one-block-long LHD was created last year, and interest in creating a larger one has grown. Both the Historical Society and the Maritime Society are expanding; and Newburyporters are increasingly enthusiastic about preserving and celebrating their unique heritage. We are all excited about the prospect of becoming an NHL District; in fact, both the Maritime Society and the Historical Society have been looking into obtaining individual NHL listing for the Custom House and the Perkins Mint respectively, and designation of the District would relieve them of the individual effort.


If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact this office and we will provide the necessary information and/or professional services needed for this designation.


Sincerely yours,


John F. Moak,  
Mayor of Newburyport


Not withstanding, our present Mayor has been encouraging in continuing the long process toward national recognition.

Well, tomorrow (Wednesday), Roger G. Reed, Historian, will be swinging by for a short fact-finding mission on Newburyport.        This, of course, will not be an official full-scale inspection but what he reports back will certainly be a supporting factor in our eligibility.

Just as a quick primer National Landmark designation is not about historic preservation measures but about elevating our City to be recognized on a National level.     Once achieved; grants and programs can open up to us and even could result in a National Park Service visitor’s center.       Such a designation would certainly be another reason for people to visit our businesses and to further boost our tourism.

He will be accompanied by Brian Pfeiffer, who helped create the Newburyport Historic District by conducting the survey in 1984 to submit to the National Register of Historic Places.     It was a huge project – just visit the website and see the details – it will amaze readers today the kind of research that must have gone into the project!

Mr. Reed’s main goal will be to determine the boundaries that the Landmark program will cover.     He will be driving around to check out the proposed limits.    It could be all the NHD or just significant sections.

The second goal will be to identify Nationally significant events in Newburyport.      A lot of new information only available in this century and not really mentioned by earlier historians will be presented.       Hopefully, he will get an opportunity to have a full session with our very own Jay Williamson of the Historical Society and Michael Mroz of the Custom House.

Those who are faith-based can pray and the rest can keep their finger’s crossed that this meeting and tour will go well!

-P. Preservationist

This entry was posted in Architecture, Art & Culture, Businesses, Downtown, Education, Heritage Tourism, History, Tourism, Travel, Waterfront. Bookmark the permalink.

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