Marge Motes mentioned to me that I shouldn’t feel so bad; the finishing of the Central Waterfront is still not complete and it’s beyond forty years of countless efforts. And of course, we’re still all waiting for our downtown hotel and parking garage! We must give Mayor Holaday major credit – one of those forever projects was the mythical senior center and every administration promised that they would get it done. Now, poof, (how many years has it been?) we have a senior center!
I guess if you want something good to happen in Newburyport, you must persevere for a very long time.
In that perspective, I guess my efforts were just an upstart – it only took six years.
Tomorrow is the official unveiling of signage that proudly indicates that you are entering the second largest National Register historic district in the country. When the Newburyport Historic District was officially listed on the Register, August 2nd, 1984, a letter was sent out by Mass Historic recommending that signage be posted so businesses and homeowners could take advantage of the benefits of such a listing.
Unfortunately, it did not materialize and great numbers of citizens today don’t even realize they are in the district; while others think the district covers the entire city! Signs are everywhere in our town with 107 alone from Route 95 to three-roads; but nary a one announcing you are entering the Newburyport Historic District or the state-recognized Market Street Historic District.
And ignorance has not been our friend. Whether its architects, businesses, developers, contractors, homeowners or City Hall; no decisions for decades ever factored in the National Register. No conduct was ever affected, no action was ever dictated; yes, even for years, the Historical Commission didn’t even realize the boundaries or the guidelines.
Worse was the misinformation. First, I was told there was no such thing as the Newburyport Historic District; even the listing in the Planning Office when they finally found it had a third of its pages missing! Then they went missing in the archives (and just as mysteriously, returned) Then I was told that only a few select homes were part of the listing; and then told that non-historic buildings were excluded (they are included, for all activity in a district affects the district as an entirety) Then I was told, that only buildings before 1984 were included. (There is a sliding scale and as the years progress, more buildings are added as contributing) And of course, the Daily News, when they actually recognized there was such a thing, labeled such as only ‘symbolic’ and having no real value. (Ignoring the multiple benefits of having the listing.)
Perhaps now that we have the signage up, and the citizens begin to understand there is such a thing as the Newburyport Historic District; they will understand that its preservation is vital for us to keep a high level of quality of life. They will begin to make that extra effort to preserve their property as being important for the National Story of America.
Perhaps, but it’s going to require a lot of assistance and education.
The Newburyport Preservation Trust will stand ready as it has since 2005 to assist in anyway to help preserve these antique structures and provide as much information as the citizens may need.