The process by which we sift through all that history to find our national significance actually deals with the concept of romance. Though it’s often too broad a brush, it is said that men want sex but women want romance. If half and more of the population is seeking it, it is definitely a very big deal.
It is hard to explain to the analytical but the definition of romance as a noun is best described as a feeling of excitement and mystery and sometimes a feeling of remoteness and often associated with love. The best way to express it is to use synonyms such as adoration, affection, love, passion, exoticism and glamour.
Newburyport is all these things – it’s in the air, the views and all about the area. For years, the slogan, “Newburyport – Love at First Sight” reflects exactly the feeling about the city. And yet, the romance is elusive, hard to define and just not something you can put your finger on and say, “That’s why”
It’s because our visitors understand much more clearly the romance of Newburyport than the locals. There is something very special about our city and it centers on our history. The creative community may not know the reasons but they can feel it and have thrived on its energy.
Newburyport has three great era’s: the Romantic, the Industrial and the Promotional. We’re actually just in the middle stages of the third; but everything about the city is founded on the Romantic period. The reason we have misplaced the importance of that time is because most of present day Newburyport’s population originated in the industrial era – yes, the much-vaunted Townies have little understanding of the Romantics. Their ancestors came to work in the factories and mills and their posterity grew up in a city bearing little resemblance in culture to the earlier time. A more recent group and growing in size are the new arrivals who can only see an eco and heritage tourism site with lots of activities and leisurely pursuits. Often the very buildings they live in are largely misunderstood.
Back in the sixties, when the citizens decided to restore the downtown, they had one goal – to celebrate the Romantic Era. Most had little understanding of it but they were determined! (Most of the historical significance was locked up in dusty collections and old yellowing records in the archive center and at the Cushing House.) They restored the Federalist downtown and revived the waterside.
It is the significant events during this time that we as a city need to focus on – it gives meaning to our romantic inclinations and provides the excitement when we explore our city. I know personally, and I am not the only one, who has been astounded at the events that occurred from 1764 to 1864 – it is absolutely thrilling. As for mystery, mystique, exoticism; we have but barely scratched the surface and only the dedicated work of our museums and archive staff and volunteers who are tirelessly working will reveal more! I haven’t even mentioned the archeology of our historic settlements and waterfront.
As I have previously stated, it is vital for Newburyport to attain a National Historic Landmark status and it is the historic significance of the Romantic Era that will provide it.
We have so many who have fallen in love with Newburyport – it is not just another town. This city is a Romantic City because we celebrate the creative events of our past and on that foundation – continue to be creative in establishing a rich and satisfying quality of life.
No cheap commercialism here and no transient residents with little affection for their community – we’ve got heart!
Next post: the listing of our historic significance.