It was great to see the signage go up around the borders of the Newburyport Historic District and to witness the ceremony of the official unveiling of them last Tuesday (May the 12th). And the Master of Ceremonies repeated the off repeated comment by the Daily News that these plaques declared the symbolic importance of the National Register of Historic Places’ Newburyport Historic District.
But the Building Department, and the wicked contractors, and the exploiting developers and house flippers know that the signs are a potential death-knell to their evil,
Historic Preservationists know that the National Register listing is just the opening gate, the foundation of all future efforts, and indeed, getting the listing back in 1984 which was no small achievement had the future in mind. Mayor Sullivan’s entire administration was centered around historic preservation but they had bigger fish to fry!
For you see, not to get bogged down in the details, (Which I have elaborated ad nauseam in previous posts.) but you can’t get a ruling from the Newburyport Historical Commission that something is ‘contributing to the National Register’ without it; you can’t get a demolition delay to apply if the building is not on the listing; landlords and commercial building owners can’t get that coveted 20% tax credit without it; preservation restrictions can’t be applied unless you have one; along with the potential amortized federal tax benefit, and our recent DOD and DCOD zoning would be powerless unless the National Register had been done first. All those guidelines for historical buildings would be meaningless and the local historic district ordinance (the eventual aim of the listing in 1984) could never have seen the Fruit Street Local Historic District, or any future one down the road ever occurring.
NOW THAT’S POWERFUL!
But that’s not what makes the building inspector, the con men, the demo-lawyers, the exploiters and the house-flippers’ blood run cold.
IT’S THE FACT THAT HISTORICAL HOUSES ON THE LISTING ARE EXEMPT FROM THE BUILDING CODE. (780 CMR 3409). Our Building Department doesn’t want citizens, contractors, developers and even City Hall to know this fact. Demo-lawyers and greedy politicians don’t want to spread this around. They want the threat of denial of building occupancy permits to motivate the total destruction as well as demolition of our historical buildings under this threatening cloud.
The politicians get more money from excessive over-build; the haters of sustainable historic buildings get their thirst for ‘new’ satisfied with structures that will have to be gutted in less than a fifth of a century later gorging our landfills and house flippers get to replace the long-lasting materials with inexpensive, wholesale materials for maximum profit. Of course, I can’t leave out that our priceless history is gone forever.
Seems like everyone is making money except the Citizens of Newburyport. The extremely high quality of life in our low crime, historic neighborhoods is being sacrificed on the altar of short-term gains. The desirability of our community will eventually suffer; our historic neighborhoods will be Disneyish, empty shells and the international draw of our historic district will be replaced with shallow tourism gimmicks.
But now the signs are up.
they are an indictment to all those who would despoil this National Treasure.
And they are announcing to the citizens that we have a lot of work to do in the years ahead to save our city.
PS. One quick and efficient way to save the city is to join the Newburyport Preservation Trust. they have no staff or building to support. Every dollar goes toward preserving our Treasure. It’s actually short money that will literally cause long-lasting results!