Much of our ‘Standards’ originated in Newburyport

It is very odd that Dan Bowie has a problem with the Department of Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation.       It just so happens that William Graves Perry who lived at 47 High Street and who later in life actually assisted in the restoration of Newburyport, was instrumental in establishing those standards.

John D. Rockefeller hired him to restore Williamsburg, Virginia.  [learn about it]    This was long before historic preservation had gathered steam in America.      If anyone has been to the House of Seven Gables; you would know that people would restore a building as they ‘thought’ it should be – a mixture of fact, fantasy and fiction.        They ‘re-created’ the rooms that are described in the fictional book!

“There is but one building in the city that has his architectural stamp on it – the American Yacht Club building and the interior has never been fully finished!       And yet, this architect had more to do about restoring our entire city that all the Bullfinch’s, Currier’s , Dodge’s, Mill’s and Sargent’s combined.”

It is ironic that not only was he [William Graves Perry] a powerful influence for historic preservation in Newburyport but he was actually the father of the Guidelines that are being proposed under the local historic district ordinance.      If he was alive today, he would be very proud indeed to find that his concepts enshrined in the Department of Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation have come home to roost in his beloved city!

-Architects of Newburyport: William Graves Perry, P. Preservationist, August 25, 2012

Now these very standards are basic to understanding historic preservation and we have Mr. Perry and all the experiences of Williamsburg to back it up.      It has been practised all over the country with great success for struggling historic communities.

As I wrote in April of 2012:

“If you own an old house in Newburyport, you should make it a priority to do “best practices” for your own benefit, for saving money and for maximizing the overall benefit for the entire community.       These best practices are expressed in the The Secretary of the Interior Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.       They are just ten principles to uphold but by doing so, you can enhance the value of your old home, keep it well within the limits of the LHD (So you don’t even have to appear before the commission or fuss with them except to acknowledge you’re doing something major.), and best of all, to foster predictability so the architect, the building inspector, the financier, the contractor, the craftsmen and workmen know exactly what needs to get done.     Talk about saving bucks and time!       And to translate those standards, the Secretary of the Interior has preservation briefs to give further guidance. (Don’t you love the convenience of the Internet!)”

But instead of focusing on these basic principles which any homeowner can understand, Mr. Bowie wants to terrorize the citizens by stressing the many briefs that are listed.      These briefs are simply expanding upon the basic principles developed by Mr. Perry.

You don’t need an historic preservation degree or an architect’s training.
You don’t need to pull out complex rules and regulations to take care of your historic home.
You don’t need to go running to some ‘experts’ or expensive consultants.

As the city seeks to apply protections to our city especially the downtown, we as citizens don’t need to see the wheel re-invented.        

Learn the basics – let’s see them enshrined in the downtown protection and then read the briefs as they pertain to certain aspects of building rehabilitation.

Maybe it’s the lawyer training which makes him nervous to allow citizens in on the process of historic preservation!?!

I know that I don’t need a bar exam to take care of my historic house!

-P. Preservationist

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