Gone was Jake’s Café, gone was the gas station next to the library, gone was the rubble on the waterfront, gone were the dilapidated parks, gone was the empty hulk of the former Ruth’s shoe factory – gone were the familiar boarded up or empty stores north of Pleasant Street. Gone again were the gas tanks across from the Tannery, the boarded up firehouse and the empty old DPW yard and the weed-choked railroad lines. All gone.
In place of dilapidated homes, came street after street of renovated or restored buildings, rail trails, beautiful parks, gardens and trees; boardwalks and marinas, coffee shops and outdoor patio seating on Inn & State Street. Property values soaring and people doing what they most often can’t do in other communities, walking or pushing baby carriages or taking their dogs out for a stroll.
Our museums have grown up too. The Cushing House is bursting with exhibits and the Custom House is flexing its historical muscles and the Firehouse and NAA are cultural meccas.
In the midst of all of this has arrived a new type of visitor, The Children of the Now.
According to the P. Preservationist glossary:
These are people who see the walk able, safe streets, the quaint shops and the nearness of the ecology and picture a place where they can live. In whatever brief visit they had taken to fall in love with the community they now picture that visit as a lifestyle. Sitting soaking up the atmosphere in the outdoor cafe’s, hanging about the boardwalk and sitting conversing with their friends in the coffee shops and restaurants; a better term would be perpetual tourists.They don’t know anything about the culture and traditions of Newburyport and worse, they don’t want to know. They don’t know the history behind the town and tragically, they don’t want to know it either. With no interest in local politics, they could care less about the City or the Community; unless of course, it affects their immediate house. And since everything is about the senses they are experiencing now, they could care less about the future.Since they have no inkling what makes us a uniquely lovely place, they are shocked and upset when they find out the Historical Commission may have a say about their attempts to ‘suburbanize’ the old structures. They become angry when volunteer boards have the nerve to interfere with their attempts to ‘modernize’ their homes. It’s all right to try to preserve the city just don’t do anything that affects them.
The Children of the Now actually believe that the City of Newburyport has always been affluent and pretty. When they gaze upon the trees that John Bromfield bequeathed in 1850, they just assume that the city has always been this way. When they see our pretty downtown created out of the ashes of the Great Fire of 1811, they figure it has always been that way.
But the worst part of all is the actual inability to link the way Newburyport looks to its rich cultural and historical story. It is much more important to be concerned with the schools (even though our historic district keeps tax revenues up to pay for those schools) or our parks and rail trails. (Though they are set in and around our beautiful historic district) or their coffee shops and restaurants. (Which couldn’t sustain themselves without us being a heritage tourist site.) They don’t care if brick or blacktop or concrete is slathered on the sidewalks just get it done. They don’t care who builds what – it’s none of their concern.
And the most tragic is their hatred of history. I keep asking myself – if they hate the historic architecture, why are they here? If they despise our story – why did they move to a city soaked in history?
It is this group that poses the greatest threat to our future. Unless we can educate them on our rich history and the powerful benefits of historic preservation and the importance of sustaining this priceless asset of the Newburyport Historic District, our city is doomed.
It is this group that is, beyond the lies and deception of the anti-historic preservationists, signing the petition to destroy the very thing that has created our affluent standing.
Above all, we can not allow the Children of the Now to take over politically. They will destroy the very lifestyle they depend on so much to live in and will re-make us into a cheap Fauxstalgia tourist trap!
The developers and speculators are waiting on the sideline to exploit our inability to protect our assets and will destroy us. And the Children of the Now would let them do it.