“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
Sadly in this day and age; knowledge (factual truth) has often been sacrificed to advance a political ideology. Journalists in America know that if you post a lie often enough, it is eventually accepted as truth. (A lie told often enough becomes the truth – Vladimir Lenin)
Our local paper has been caught several times indulging in this process so a particular policy can be advanced. (Sadly, it is very commonly done across America) There are many examples that I could state, but the biggest lie in our historic city is,
THE NATIONAL REGISTER IS A SYMBOLIC DESIGNATION.
The insinuation is that the designation given by the National Register of Historic Places is a lovely honorary listing but it holds no legal or practical value and frankly should be disregarded and not to be taken seriously.
I wouldn’t be too hard on the Daily News if it wasn’t that it was surreptitiously advancing the local political agenda in City Hall. For years, the official line of the paper also became the official line of the City of Newburyport. The National Register was either ignored, hidden, politely forgotten, and if that didn’t work, ridiculed with misstatements and cited with misunderstanding.*
On the contrary, the National Register is a powerful foundational tool by which so much historic preservation depends. No preservation restriction can be done unless the historical property is first assigned to the Register. No local historic district nor a community preservation zone can even be created unless a sizeable number of the properties have been listed. No tax credits for commercial historic buildings can be granted and none can be gained by a land owner seeking relief from a preservation easement. Before any property can be assigned a landmark status by the Federal government, the process of registering must be done first. And of course, if the Feds and the state get involved in a project involving an historical building; they will want the historic property listed and the powerful standards of the National Register followed.
The National Register also factors very much in restorations and in renovations. Once that designation is established, the standards established by the Department of Interior can be suggested by our local Historical Commission. But even the NHC is limited if a property does not have the ‘listing’. Due to the foresight of Mayors Peter Matthews and Dick Sullivan, Sr; a huge swath of the city’s buildings have been designated and do not need to be individually listed. It has also created a condition by which EVERY BUILDING INSIDE THE REGISTER has to be considered as a part of the National Register District, and yes, even included is new construction!
And yes, it even affects the way the Massachusetts Building Code is applied to a particular historical building.
Now, you can get a glimmer as to why it has been so vigorously ignored for so many years. A rough alliance of self-serving private and public entities want it to stay hidden.
On the contrary, in spite of this powerful alliance, the property values of this most historic community have skyrocketed due to the very historical buildings and streetscapes they wish to exploit. (and in many cases they wish to dispose of)
Hence, it is vitally important that the National Register be identified, brought before the public, and some measure of preservation established before the Newburyport Historic District hits the tipping point and loses its cohesion – and we, as a heritage tourism site, lose our favored status as a major attraction for not just tourists but for those who seek a uniquely high quality of life.
Next post, the “Contributing Issue”
“We are proud of Newburyport’s architectural history and cultural vitality.” -Mayor Peter J. Matthews, 1991
“People come to Newburyport to be attracted by the historicity of the community … we want to continue that.” -Dick Sullivan, Sr, June 18, 2007, Renovators had rules to follow when rebuilding, Newburyport Daily News.
* Since I have been here for only 27 years, I could give you examples after examples that I have personally witnessed but that would distract from the main objective of this post.