Up to this point, I have been discussing the National Register of Historic Places and their terms for a contributing historical structure. And as much as some may want to work hard (like the Historical Society of Old Newbury for the mint) toward National Landmark status and differentiate between an historical building (just old) and an historic building* (Something significant historically occurred within its walls, or it has some architectural distinctiveness, or associated with an historically significant person or movement); we need to switch to terminology used by the building department to proceed.
In 3409.0, ‘historic building’ now covers any contributing structure in a National Register district. It further breaks it down by separating them from house museums which can get special treatment and really exempt themselves from much of the building code. In this case, the structure that is not a house museum is now called a ‘preserved building’. The exemptions for ‘preserved buildings’ is now covered under 3409.3. The main goal is to allow work that won’t harm the listing in the State National Register:
“Repairs or in kind replacement of the following features will be allowed on partially preserved buildings so as not to compromise the architectural integrity of the historical characteristics and qualities which contributed to the eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.”
The main objective of course after being exempted from many requirements is to allow for an occupancy permit:
“3409.3.4 Continuation of Use and Occupancy. The legal use and occupancy of any preserved building may be continued without change or further compliance to 780 CMR.”
Unfortunately, I have heard from many home construction carpenters, contractors and developers the same line, over and over again, and seen them make statements over and over again before our volunteer boards,
“We have to gut the building to the studs if we ever hope to obtain an occupancy permit.” “We have to demolish if we are ever going to fulfill the building code.”
That tells me that people who work within the National Register of Historic Places’ Newburyport Historic District, are not being instructed properly as to their requirements when working on historic buildings. In fact, the only conclusion one can make is the building department has not informed these individuals that any preference should be considered when working on historic buildings.
Furthermore, I have heard the Building Inspector* state directly before the Historical Commission, that he will not inform a homeowner of the ‘contributing’ status of their building. And yet, our zoning ordinances now codify the importance of the ‘contributing’ status in two separate zoning districts.
This is the source of our termite infestation. It is these cases that has fostered a rise in demolitions of historic buildings in Newburyport; it is this atmosphere of negligence that has caused the widespread gutting of our historic buildings.
This is where I wish I wasn’t the Poor Preservationist and had the resources to take legal action. Obviously, there are too many exploiters who are making money off this endemic and deplorable state and alas, far too many in the city who aren’t aware of the wrong that is occurring and way too many who have been waylaid through misinformation.
The best I can do is let as many people as possible know so those who do have political connections can do something about stopping this infestation!
* We are stuck for two more years with the current building inspector!