Why has historic preservation been such a weak point in our city’s history since the courageous first effort that gave us our beautiful Downtown?
A single act occurred that has put our city on a dangerous path to destruction.
When the Newburyport Historic District was established by the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, no signage was placed at the borders.
The National Register sent a letter and the first suggestion after congratulating the City’s successful nomination was to put up markers that indicate the entering in of the historic district.
And nothing was done.
This has opened the door for developers and realtors to ignore the special National uniqueness of our city. Powered by ignorance, ‘anything’ could be done to our historic district. And it wasn’t long before most of the city forgot the special designation. The City has and is continuing to sustain the myth that only a few homes are of special significance in the district not the entire inventory. The actual inventory, until I posted it on the website, www.newburyporthistoricdistrict.org, would go regularly missing from the archive room as developers did not want anyone to know about it.
It wasn’t long before an entire generation has grown up in the city without even knowing there was even an historic district let alone any special designation.
The Daily News played along by telling anyone who, after accidentally discovering there is one; that the National Register is just symbolic and doesn’t mean anything. (You are given a special standing concerning building codes and zoning because you live in an historic district affecting construction and renovations. It also exempts you from the costly new restrictions by the new stretch code! It is a requirement if you want a preservation easement on your property that can give you special tax credits.)
We have lost homes, or seen homes gutted and stripped down to the studs because the developer and the homeowner didn’t even realize the special value of their historic home.
ALL BECAUSE WE DIDN’T HAVE SIGNAGE!
We as historic preservationists need to go beyond just the local historic district issue and realize that we would have not had to suffer through the horrors of the anti-historic preservationist if signage had been up all along. To these people, historic preservation s a new thing, thrown upon them just recently!
We must press our Mayor and our City Council that signage for the historic district is of up most importance!