While the anti-historic preservationists insist on stopping their ears and covering their eyes, houses across the Newburyport Historic District are being proposed for full demolition. In ever increasing numbers, developers, private homeowners and their heirs are choosing to destroy the very fabric of our city for their short sighted benefit.
The tragedy comes from the knowledge it is our historic district that is making these properties of such high value. If we continue to see this trend go unchecked, there will be a tipping point where our city is no longer of any desire as a quality place to live and we will begin to see dropping tax revenues such has been seen in other communities that have disrespected the value of their historic neighborhoods such as Gloucester, Plymouth and Salem.
The Thomas J. Flaherty House at 12 Oak Street is a prime example of this ongoing destruction. “Bud” Flaherty and his wife, Julia made this house a home. Constructed in 1885 in the Victorian Eclectic Style, it was part of a ‘new’ development that planted buildings evenly spaced in a pleasant streetscape. Mr. Flaherty was a World War II veteran and well known in the city. Julia, connected with the well-established Lynch family in town married Mr. Flaherty in 1942 only to see him go off to war. After the war, he returned and they raised six children in that home and all the while creating a legacy in the community. Bud & Julia went to schools like the Jackman & Brown Schools and worked in local businesses and hung out in local restaurants like Sportsmen’s Lodge. Later, their children in turn attended local schools. They went for decades to the Immaculate Conception Church and Bud in 1999 and Julia in 2012 are now buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery. Julie became a great supporter of the Newburyport Public Library and the Emma L. Andrews Branch Library and even requested donations be made to the Branch Library as a memorial to her passing.
The issue is that they did such a great job of raising their children that their family is now scattered to the winds in their respective professions. One of the children lives in Amesbury, another in Merrimac and yet another in Bangor, ME. They no longer have any resident or living connection with Newburyport.
And now they have requested as executors of the Estate to have this home torn down only to see a non-historic home built in its place and probably out of proportion with its historic neighborhood.
As you can see, this is a well-structured home with solid roof-line – the problem is the ample spacing of the property. Not a problem if an addition is desired. The problem is, the children don’t live here anymore and have no interest in preserving the city’s history.
Please come on Thursday night at 7:45 PM in the city council chambers when the Historical Commission meets at City Hall and help us to persuade the executors to save the home and thus give honor to a solid family of Newburyport.
See if we can avoid the loss of the Flaherty Legacy and the continuing disrespecting of the Newburyport Historic District.