Under the law, it is often stated, “Ignorance is no excuse.” This is based on the fundamental concept that a citizen is responsible for doing due diligence in finding out the current laws and then obeying them.
Ignorance is often a hurtful thing. I’ve been out in the garden ripping up mushrooms that have decided to sprout up during this rainy spate. As I gathered up this great host of fungus, I thought to myself how delicious if they were consumable! My family has had a long history of doing mushroom hunts but I unfortunately have not kept up that tradition and couldn’t tell the difference between edible or deadly. In my case, ignorance could cost me dearly if I dared!
On a different tact, ignorance can be irritably costly! You buy a device and fiddle with it in frustration and then find out, a simple reading of the instructions (very un-manly) could save hours of time.
Well, awhile back, I did a house story on Captain Philip Aubin’s House at 4 Orange Street. It’s been a bit rundown but not surprising since it has been rental property since 1968. I was raised in rental properties for most of my childhood and my family meticulously maintained their residence; but even then, as is now; most renters aren’t pro-active but wait (sometimes in vain) for the landlord to fix many items. Recently, the house has been diligently renovated and sharpened up. I was very pleased that the current owners have put in wooden clapboards. But then, I spotted this!
Obviously, who ever they have contracted couldn’t tell the difference between a Georgian house (which it is) and a Victorian-era house (to which the door style belongs). When I first moved to Newburyport; I couldn’t tell the difference between any architectural style but I could tell by just looking at some of the homes that something wasn’t quite right when the contractor or owner cut corners and put in something ‘modern’,(or in this case cheap).
Here, the owner has automatically, through ignorance, stymied his property values. It may not immediately show up in the assessor’s office, but if this kind of ignorance is continued and spread to the other homes, it will impact his and his neighbor’s equity and property values. As I have indicated before, there are three things that affect the value of a building. It’s livability (as in modern appliances and facility), its maintenance and the one thing that can’t be controlled by a homebuilder even if he’s a fanatical Libertarian; its location. That means the condition of the streetscape and it’s position in the community. In other words, don’t expect much value in a beautifully maintained and modern building in the middle of the bad sections of Lawrence or Lynn!
That is why the Newburyport Preservation Trust and I might add, the City of Newburyport needs to get as much knowledge out there as to how to take care of and maintain these historic homes. It is to everyone’s benefit. The owner gets maximum equity and value in his property and the city gets a stable, and dependable source from the property taxes thus ensuring quality services from fire, police, and quality institutions such as our schools. And that includes infrastructure such as our parks, sewers and streets which then play back again to secure our own personal properties.
That’s why we have such fine resources for citizens who are historic homeowners:
There are the City Guidelines for the homes in the district
There is the Newburyport Preservation Trust website to consult,
There is Historic New England’s website,
There is even a vast resource from This Old House website,
Unfortunately, the owners of Captain Auburn’s house won’t necessarily know their mistake until much later since they live in Merrimac. But ignorance of the Newburyport Historic District will eventually be harmful. Every building owner needs to know how to properly maintain their antique building.
Ignorance is no excuse!