Tonight, the First Friday Friends Social event at the Custom House; will be dedicated to, of all things, signage.
Signs are important. Years ago, stop signs were a rarity in the Commonwealth. At one time, Massachusetts had an archaic law on the books that said that whoever arrived at an intersection first, was allowed to proceed. All others had to yield. This created the famous sudden burst of acceleration that caused some very horrendous accidents as differences of opinion were instantly made! It became so bad that the Federal Government threatened to withdraw highway funds unless the law was repealed. The term, ‘Massachusetts Driver” when uttered out loud struck terror in the hearts of the rest of America.
But of course, they can be taken to the opposite extreme. Jim McCarthy on the Planning Board noted that 107 signs were posted from Route 95 all the way to three roads. And, for those who’ve been around for awhile; we all remember the forest of signs that Port Plaza planted! (Thankfully, mostly removed)
AND YET, WITH ALL THESE SIGNS, NOT A SINGLE ONE THAT INDICATED THAT YOU WERE ENTERING ONE OF THE NATION’S LARGEST HISTORIC DISTRICTS IN THE COUNTRY!
When the Newburyport Historic District was established, Mass Historic, on behalf of the National Register of Historic Places recommended signage to accompany the official listing.
Tonight, we will officially celebrate the end of this shortfall!
Also, I have discovered (Okay, Jessica Gils, the Library archivist discovered) that the wonderful Maritime House Plaques Program seen around the city; was abandoned by the Historical Commission years ago. It has been orphaned and left to historic homeowners to fix them up on their own – sometimes the new owner has no idea where they came from or who put them up or even if the information is accurate!
Tonight, we will officially unveil the National Register of Historic Places Signage for the Newburyport Historic District. Eventually, there will be five signs at the major entrances into the district. It is hope that making aware of the National importance of their homes; residents will preserve rather than destroy the unique architectural and historical importance of their structures.
Speaking of the historical importance of the district, the Newburyport Preservation Trust will be introducing a new signage program that won’t be ‘orphaned’; it’s main purpose will be to adjunct the plaque with the story of the house to underline to the resident, they are but one more steward of a building that is of National importance to the Story of the United States of America and to instill a dread of destroying that fragile history.
PS. Keep in mind, you must be a member of the museum to attend, or an invited friend. If not a member yet, you can run down to the gift shop today and join. (It is small money considering the beer, events, fine wines and discounts at the gift shop and free access to the museum and its cool services) If unable, go and find a member and be real nice to them and persuade them to have you invited! Then get yourself to the museum this evening – and early – the Port food will be Jakarta, Indonesia! (Dutch Batavia for you history buffs.)