Wits comes from an abbreviated expression, “Wits end” and the word wit by itself comes from the Old English witan, which describes the action of being intellectually keen.
Earlier in the spring, the Newburyport Preservation Trust held a seminar on preservation easement basically a session on “how to do it”. Taken from the viewpoint of dedicated historic preservationists, it was very thorough and covered the legal aspect, the procedural aspect and the overall benefits of doing the easement.
Unfortunately, it was very weak in one aspect – promotional.
It was attended by many in town who were intellectually keen on learning how to do it. They were enthusiastic and knew that since the City had recently failed to protect our historic neighborhoods, they were as good citizens were going to take action and do the “preserving”.
Unfortunately, by the time the seminar was over, they were at their “wits end”.
Expressed in emotional terms, “They were aghast”. If we were to translate into a verbal response, it would be something like, “Oh, my god!”
Huge requirements of money were flung before the eyes of the attendees until the color left their faces.
AND YET IT NEEDN’T HAVE RESULTED IN THESE RESPONSES!
The fact is that it is not money that is primarily required to enact a preservation easement, it is patience! Easements are required to go through the slow machinations of government, getting approvals and then getting yet a final approval by Mass Historic. It requires checking off a long list of requirements and dutifully learning the procedures and ropes.
The next requirement for doing an easement is understanding the level of commitment. Are you an historic preservationist who is almost fanatical in preserving your house’s features inside and outside? Do you want a house interior that fits more appropriately in the Swett-Ilsley House or one of the First Period homes hosted by Historic New England. Then get ready to spend a lot of money. You will, to sustain all that detail, will need to get enforcers who come from far away and who will be inspecting all the features that you want protected with a fine tooth comb. (Did you include your sock drawer?)
The rest of us love the architecture but most of us want to enjoy the perks of 21st century living!
We have a local institution, the Newburyport Historical Commission, which grants preservation easements at very reasonable cost. Why, even their monitoring inspections are free to low-cost because it is conducted by dedicated volunteers!
Delores Persons, our local real estate broker, knows a bargain when she sees one. She has spent a fortune making the Bartlett House into the showcase of historic preservation – her open houses during fundraisers is a must-attend! But now, after all that effort, she is selling the house. She has put a preservation easement on it which will be monitored by the Historical Commission. She doesn’t want to see some arrogant multi-millionaire coming in and destroying a piece of Newburyport’s History. No way!
But though tiresome in its process, she also didn’t want to break the bank either.
And this same preservation easement can be available for the rest of us who are struggling to pay our bills. Attached is a brochure that lays out how you too can preserve a piece of Newburyport’s history and on a personal level, preserve all the expense and time that you invested in bringing back an historical home from the brink of decay.
Those who love Newburyport and are intellectually keen to see it preserved, won’t lose their sanity but will work (and it is work) toward preserving our precious historic community via a preservation easement.
PS. I have to be fair that a preservation easement will not protect our streetscapes and even, if much destruction occurs, could even cause your protection to be of non-effect. The city still needs historic protections if all of us want to see Newburyport affluent, preserved and prosperous.