When we were children; one of the great Christmas traditions was to compile a Christmas Wish List; and sometimes when times were good to epic proportions. Then, and I was very good at this as a child; would mount a marketing campaign of hints and nags to get what I wanted. Most children are born with this nag gene and most parents, probably naggers when they were little too, somehow lose the ability to recognize it as it is and end up succumbing. Of course, as if to drill this fact into our society; we get to see perpetual airings of an American Christmas Story every holiday season!
Well, perhaps I still have traces of this gene; because I have a BIG LIST for Newburyport – but I’ve got a special one concerning historic preservation.
Back in 2011, my list was long and it mostly had to do with an organization called the Newburyport Preservation Trust. It was unlike any other preservation organization I had ever known; nor after doing extensive research on these types of organizations had I ever seen a more ineffective entity. Here it was, the Newburyport Historic District was the second largest National Register in size and number of houses; and yet, it was being under-served by…I don’t know what it was – but it wasn’t doing the job it was supposed to be doing!
Don’t get me wrong – its members had awesome aspirations and even knew what needed to be done in the future – but it was the doing that never got done!
Here was my Big Christmas Wish back in 2011:
“A real Newburyport Preservation Trust. The present one has a website which is underperforming and lacks current information. There is no resource section for helping the beleaguered homeowners on taking care of their historic homes. There are no activities during the year (except for Preservation Week) to add ‘value’ to having membership. There are no fundraisers* to add to the coffers for the very expensive function of ‘preservation’. There is no division working on preservation easements or keeping lists of preservation easements in the city. There is no organized activist group for dealing with threats to historic buildings in the City. There is no organized presence in City Hall to counteract the constant pressure from contractors and developers.
This new gift will desperately be needed as homeowners require tools and handbooks on how to preserve historical homes in Newburyport. We need ordinances and local government practices that are sympathetic to historic preservation and heritage tourism and our valuable real estate. And we need its muscle to help get the local historic district ordinance passed as well as a publicly-listed preservation easement listing. And we need the host of members (which we already have) instructed on how to make a positive impact in the city.”
Well, I am happy to report here in 2015 they have come a long way. Back then, they had a pitiful, immobile website and now it is truly a dynamic and spectacular online resource. Back then, the leadership and the members were terrified to be exposed to the general public; which sadly translated into the average citizen thinking they were some kind of wealthy, aloof, elitist organization. Now, even the more timid of the membership have been seen fluently making a difference here in this port city. And as for politics, as before, they cringed in terror, now they are acting like young lions (and lionesses) roaring their disapproval.
The city has come along way from as recently as 2001 when historic preservation was snickered at; and most everyone had blank faces when it was mentioned.
I think the ‘Trust was transformed much like the Phoenix that is the symbol of our city; the Fire of 1811 was terrible; and the suffering great – but out of the ashes came the beautiful city that we all love today. The great battle over the local historic district ordinance in 2012 seemed a huge disaster for our future; but the ‘Trust was ‘burned’, and the fire of outrage cast off those timid feelings – and yes, even a bit of vengeance arose – It’s made a bolder organization. They went from being humiliated to stacking their supporters into elected offices in City Hall.
And the ‘Trust is still making a huge difference now.
But as you can see, My Christmas Wish of 2011 is still not complete. There are more significant steps that the Newburyport Preservation Trust ought to be doing.
I’ve got my list. I’ve documented and supported my list by citing dozens of preservation organizations in the country who are making a positive impact. I’ve memorized that wish list.
Please, if you love the city as I do; and know what the ‘Trust must do, join me as we:
Nag, Nag, Nag!