On the Issue of Historic Preservation

Several years ago, the local historic district ordinance was a hotly debated topic.      Tempers flared and much acrimony was spread about dividing the community.      Historic preservationists warned that if no protections were put in place; the very attractiveness of the city would be lost and developers, lured ironically by the very history of the city; would through the boom-town atmosphere exploit for a quick profit the very assets that made Newburyport the envy of the region and yes, even the state.      Unfortunately and regrettably, a sizable amount of citizens and many elected officials chose to walk away from the LHD.

And the very prophesies of doom made by the historic preservationists began to be fulfilled.      Ancient homes began to be demolished, or, at the very worst, gutted to the studs and all the distinctive historic features cast away.       Worse, there was a total disregard to maintain the very distinctiveness of our city – though our architectural history made us so attractive – developers saw a chance to provide cheap replacements that fed on the ignorance of newcomers.   The reasoning was to take the profit and walk away before the new owners realized they had been cheated of the historic value of their homes.     The result has been and still is the steady loss of culture and history that makes our city so affluent and attractive!

So what were our city councilors going to do?     The city was virtually unprotected from the onslaught.      This was when  allies on the council sprung into action to work out a solution.     The LHD opponents demanded that zoning would be the answer and so taking them at their word a grand compromise was crafted using zoning to accomplish basically the same as the local historic district ordinance.    It still has not yet been tested via the courts but the DOD and the DCOD has greatly armed the ZBA and the Planning Board and I dare say the Historical Commission into greatly slowing the attack upon our affluence and our culture.

I have to write this editorial because during the heated debate of the local historic district, on my blog; I labeled Councilor Cronin, ‘Cronin the Barbarian’ because he sided with the opponents.     But I am here to say that this label should be promptly shed from him because after the LHD fight was lost; he became a strong leader in insisting in protecting our historic assets through as many means as possible.     In fact, he has continued that leadership by presenting the theme of his mayoral race to be the Preservation of the Community.      Not just in historic preservation but also in protecting the very culture, and state of Newburyport.      That is why it is so striking in this campaign that he has attracted a strong alliance of LHD opponents and LHD supporters.  Both sense that this election is over preserving and protecting the Newburyport that everyone so loves.

And which is why I, an ardent historic preservationist, am voting for Robert Cronin for Mayor.   A vote for him is a vote to preserve our culture and our history!

-P. Preservationist




Posted in Architecture, Art & Culture, Conservation, Demolitions, Developers, Environment, History, Infrastructure, Local Historic Districts (LHD), News & Politics, Preservation, Preservation History, Quality of Life, Zoning | Leave a comment

Just take a look!

There are two arguments against the garage that postulate the following:    The garage is going to be built in a residential neighborhood and the garage location will severely affect the issue of traffic.         Most citizens in Newburyport, in their busy lives, don’t often visit the Market Street-Titcomb-Washington area; or if they do, it’s to get to somewhere else.    The opponents are hoping that most people will be convinced that this location is a bad one and that some other alternative location or even some other way to find parking should be made.

I postulate that both arguments are bogus.     And all you have to do to agree with me is to go to this neighborhood and look around.        First, let’s deal with the location of the garage.     Walk to the northwest corner of the proposed garage site right next to the bridal shop and take a look.     On any given day, a long line of cars are coming down Merrimac Street under the rail trail overpass and winding up funneling right past you.     Slightly on the right, great numbers of cars are funneling off of Route One and most are proceeding, you guessed it; right past where you are standing.      A garage in this location is literally in a position to be fed not just at peak tourist season but year round.      A perfect location, and not on some side road to be rarely used.     I know that going to Portsmouth myself; I instinctively look for the garage and have to drive around to find it.      Here in Newburyport; there will be no issue.

Second, leaving that standing position, start to walk up Market Street and then cross over to Titcomb Street.    Notice the heavy parking around the YWCA, the parking lot around the Central Congregation Church and the large parking area around the catholic church campus.   Notice the steady car traffic as people race up Titcomb trying to get to High Street.       This doesn’t include St. Paul’s and the busy traffic around Green Street and Summer Street.      The opponents want you to believe this is a sleepy quiet neighborhood that will be first disrupted by construction and then a steady line of noisy buses and vehicles.        My natural question is, “When will they even notice?”

As I repeatedly have asserted, the ONLY issue is the aesthetics.      In a city where architecture and history is our bread and butter; it is important the garage blends into the streetscape and has some measure of connectivity with our Federalist-designed downtown.

As a side-note, the area where the garage will be is practically invisible as viewed at the top of the Gillis Bridge. (Take the time to go stand there!)    Unlike the ghastly Sullivan Building, it won’t harm the historic overall appearance of our skyline.

The majority of citizens in Newburyport have fought for years for expanded park on the waterfront and the garage will be a powerful path forward to seeing what has been sought for over 40 years.     Making it come to pass will be a complicated process and I do trust our elected officials to see it through.

-P. Preservationist

PS.  Oh yes!    Concerning Monday’s vote: thank you city councilors for supporting the garage!

Posted in Architecture, Businesses, Downtown, Economics, Environment, Infrastructure, Landscapes, Parking, Planning, Streetscape, Streetscapes, Tourism, Traffic, Waterfront | 2 Comments

The Infrastructure Queen vs. the Preservation King

I am not sure what to make of this next election.   If you are looking for a nice, clean difference between the two – then good luck.     But then, it never has been that way in politics.     In our Republic, you often get a choice between bad, less bad, a little bad; good, somewhat good and sufficient good.

But in our case as a community; the candidates are actually overshadowed by the larger demographics and cultural shifts going on in and around the city.      Each household represents the attitudes and belief systems of a block of voters.

The real question is, are there enough of a particular block to reach that magic 51%?

We have an increasingly growing amount of people who are moving in that are more affluent, and have an absolute ignorance of our history and the culture that has resulted from it.     They have intimate knowledge of what is going on in DC and the Statehouse; but know little of local politics.    They have well-formed opinions that are cemented on a national level but haven’t the foggiest idea or even have a stance on local issues.      The one plus is that they are here because of our city’s quality of life.     They may not know the details or the origins that created that wonderful environment but they certainly don’t want it to go away.

Then we have the Preservationists.     Let’s just be blunt.      They just like it here!    Words such as ‘wonderful’, ‘restful’, ‘secure’ are just inadequate to describe the city.     Maybe ‘friendly’, ‘family’, ‘accepting’, etc.    Maybe it is just that the low-crime rate and the sense of community set in an internationally-looking setting gives almost a utopian feel to the place.      It doesn’t hurt that we are surrounded by ancient architecture and beautiful ecology.

Unfortunately, this group can often feel like Thurston Howell the third  wondering why the riff-raff are allowed to come into the country club.    They see accommodations made increasingly to visitors while they have to pay the taxes to support the infrastructure and services.     Many come to the unfortunate conclusion of wanting to kick out the unwanted guests to ‘preserve’ all the goodies. (not realizing it’s those increasing visitors that provide all those goodies!)

Putting aside actual facts on any given issue; each candidate has to persuade this amorphous block to vote enough for them to reach a majority.     First, they have to get that newcomer block up to speed (like the NRA is not the NRA; and no; we should not chop all the nasty street trees off the sidewalks and some such silly responses on various subjects.)     Second, they have to fight this Zenophobic ‘Agin’it’ attitude from the second block of voters.

I am just one vote and I have already decided whom I’ll be choosing; but knowing the facts doesn’t help to persuade these two large masses of humanity.      There will be hyperbole, there will be hysteria and an urge to persuade by asserting ridiculous conclusions.

In the meantime, I’m just a spectator – reading the news and watching the events.   I’ll put in my two cents in the hope that I can at least give some guidance before that fateful day in November.

Let the politics begin!

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Education, News & Politics, News and politics, Quality of Life | Leave a comment

A New Experience for Me!

The last blog post gave me an unfortunate first experience with Internet trolls.      These bizarre creatures roam about trying to disrupt civil discourse by any means possible.

I realize that many fellow bloggers have removed comments from their sites but I prefer to keep them as far more intelligent people than I can constructively add to the thread of discussion.

But I suspect Facebook groups such as Newburyport Commons or the big NNA are ill-equipped to spot them or have the time to weed them out.

They are very annoying like mosquitos buzzing about the head.   Unfortunately readers can often be sucked in by their phony persuasion and apparent passion and re-direct the whole conversation into some bizarre off-topic.

Sadly, I will learn how to deal with them as they have no decency, ethics, or morality.

As we all know, mosquitos can inflict a lot of damage!

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Computers and Internet, Education, News & Politics | Leave a comment

The Rail Trail Roadblock

To give you a visual as to the issue at hand – this is the unused and quite available opening under Route 95 blocked by a property owner for so many years with the vain hope of having a hotel built on his site. (He failed.)

We have a chance of getting this resolved tonight and with caring citizens from the surrounding communities writing letters in the next ten (10) days.

Here are some of the pictures that could be “itched away” within a year!

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Health and wellness, History, Infrastructure, News & Politics, Planning, Quality of Life, Recreation, Tourism, trails | Leave a comment

The Keystone to Everything!

In Bladerunner , one of the synthetic  protagonists complaining of his short life which he can do nothing to fix says, “Ever had an itch that you can’t scratch?”   Well that is true when it comes to a little short stretch of the rail trail network that isn’t finished.

And yet, it is the link that makes everything come together!

The Ghost Trail ends rather unceremoniously at Rabbit Road.       To travel over to the Amesbury Rail Trail, you must travel along a dangerous section of busy Route 110, go under Route 95, dodge cars to get to the Stop n Shop Plaza where  you can finally link back up to the trail.        Your life expectancy is tenuous at best!

And yet, there is a clear opening under Route 95 that just lies there.      To avoid opening old wounds, I won’t get into the particulars but a self-centered property owner blocked the use of this obvious connector.     Could care less about the safety of trail users and their families and blocked the way.        It has taken the advocacy of our local legislators all the way to the State House to unblock the way.

Crossing Diagram

Well, tonight is the public hearing at the Amesbury Senior Center in the Provident Room at 7:00 as they make way to finally promote safety and clear the way.

Busy schedule – can’t make it at such a last minute?       Don’t sweat it.     The following document is available which has a section that you can submit up to ten days afterward with your comments.

People!    Whether it’s the Amesbury Rail Trail, Clipper City Rail Trail, or the Ghost Trail or the Gloria Braunhardt Bike Trail or the Salisbury Marsh Trail or even the Whittier Bridge Trail – it all falls apart unless this one link is glued in!

Take the time to attend or to mail your support so that the trail network that has been in the process of becoming reality becomes a Great Trail Network.

-P. Preservationist

Posted in Health and wellness, Infrastructure, News & Politics, Planning, Quality of Life, Tourism, trails | 2 Comments

PRCWA – Hard to Explain but Vital to the Area

If you hold a cat by the tail, you learn things you cannot learn any other way.

-Mark Twain

This Sunday, the Parker River Clean Water Association (www.parker-river.org) is having its 2017 Annual Meeting.        The Turtle Rescue League will come and present their program of preserving the turtle populations of New England.      It will be held from 1:00 to 3:00 pm at the Newbury Public Library in Byfield just off exit 55 on Route 95.       If you are a resident of this area, you shouldn’t miss this meeting.      It really is the only way to understand this group.

Parker River Clean Water Association is just one of those organizations that is hard to explain and yet, they have been wildly successful in each of their endeavors to the point that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and many local communities carefully monitor what this group does and covets many of their reports.

It’s not just an environmental group, it’s not just a group that wants to make sure the water in the Parker River is clean.     It’s not just a group that keeps an eye on the Parker River’s health.      In fact, if  you see all that this organization does – it would frankly make you want to scratch your head in puzzlement.

I mean take a look:

Well, okay – they do monitor the water quality of the Parker River and that is one of their primary duties; but look at all the other things they do!

Raising rare Blanding Turtles

Removing invasive plants from the waterways

Advocating for watershed protection

Managing a trail network at the headwaters of the Little River

Working to protect farms, open space and wildlife

Monitoring fish counts

Building bird nests for endangered species vital to the ecology

Advocating and assisting in Stormwater Management

Protecting Open Space

Protecting the historic Common Pasture

Protecting the Great Marsh

Advocating for fishing regulations that preserve and protect fish populations

Advising and assisting Conservation Commissions and Water/Sewer Departments in the Parker River Watershed. (Even if they don’t want to hear it)

But listen, the only way you can grasp the important role of this unique group is to show up on Sunday.       It will be fun, instructive and it will also help you appreciate that somehow you got the privilege to live inside a wonderful corner of this state.

-P. Preservationist

Posted in Agriculture & Farms, Conservation, Ecology, Education, Environment, Flooding, Health and wellness, Landscapes, Open Space, Organizations, Preservation, Quality of Life, Sewage, trails, Watershed, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Tunnels – We’re Not Alone

After much research, I have well-documented the fact that smuggler tunnels do truly exist under Newburyport.       While the Looney-Tune* Historians who heavily rely on documents can’t figure out why there are no anecdotal mention of them; the evidence is over-whelming from just after the French and Indian Wars to the War of 1812 that smuggling most certainly did exist and that the tunnels played an important role in our city and the nation’s history.

The problem always ends up, when it comes to archeological evidence, of the absence of the actual tunnels in photography and in just plain physical measurements.

This problem continues to this day for one simple fact:  these tunnels entrances are often in the basement of private residences.

Private homeowners do not enjoy the fact that a highly glamorous and highly public display of our romantic past is down there next to some old Beatles’ LP’s and boxes of personal items.      No one relishes having their houses gawked at, and the most adventurous rifling through to examine these ‘tunnel entrances’.        So, the entrances just sit in the dark.

On my part, the best bet in the meantime would be to locate the exit that runs out near the Oak Hill Cemetery.       But where is the exit?     And looming just nearby or perhaps is even there in their midst; are the memorial stones.           Law-enforcement, and even our society take a pretty dim view of anyone even ‘thinking’ of disturbing the ground.

And of course, we have the detractors who mock and ridicule those who claim that such passageways even exist; or at the very least mis-identified.

It can drive you mad with frustration.

But happily, the recent events in our neighbor to the south, Salem, has come to rescue my sanity!

Roughly three-miles of tunnels have been uncovered.

Not only do they exist, they answer a lot of questions that have been made by skeptics over the years.       How did they finance such a massive project?        How did they hide the fact of all that digging going on right under the noses of the town’s citizens?      What did they do with all that dirt displaced?       And finally, who authorized their construction?

Though uncovered in different parts of the city, Our old neighbor is having the same problems with documentation.     The local residents refuse to have tourists tromping through their basements and have clammed up tight as a Cherry Clam!

Fortunately, from what has been learned from research and on-site discoveries; the evidence has been put into a very entertaining historic tour that is now run every summer.

Salem Tunnel Tours (http://salemtunneltour.com/) is a combination of highlighting the Smugglers and exposing the Tunnels they spawned.          And more importantly, the tour guide, Christopher Jon Luc Dowgin, has produced two books that reveal what has been found out already: Salem Secret Underground: The History of the Tunnels in the City, and the followup as more information has been uncovered, Sub Rosa.

I plan on taking the tours and will read the books as I hope it provides more clues where our tunnels enter and exit.    I encourage anyone else, especially those skeptics at the Hist, and those who are tunnel enthusiast to take the tour.        It will inspire those who do; and it may, with much persuasion, fill those who have entrances in the basements of their homes much guilt which will motivate them, perhaps to let me see and photograph these gateways.

After these many years, the tunnels will hardly be in good condition; and their primary purpose was certainly not to highlight architecture; but we need to know where they are!

-P. Preservationist

* Looney-Tunes had flashing neon-signs indicating “Hide-out” where the gangsters were holed up.      Looney-Tunes would have “Smuggler’s Tunnel Entrance” flashing with animated stars on the borders, near the cemetery.    Then it would be easy to find!

Posted in Archeology, Architecture, Businesses, Education, Heritage Tourism, History, Infrastructure, Tours | 4 Comments

What a view!

I firmly believe that like Seward’s Folly (the purchase of Alaska) that Mayor Al Lavender’s ill-fated host agreement with DEP’s favorite trash mafia; will in the end be a boon for Newburyport.

Everyone has heard about the landfill but very few have climbed it.      Perhaps they are reluctant due to the fact it is private property and technically trespassing to hike it.

Eventually when after all the wrangling, and the landfill becomes officially ‘finished’; it is supposed to be transferred over to the city and Newburyport assumes the liability of this monster.

And monster it is.    According to Mountainzone.com, Turkey Hill, once the highest point inside the city’s borders, is 121 feet above sea level.     Mount Lavender is 9 feet higher at an impressive 130 feet and now the greatest in height.

And I wouldn’t know of course (wink, wink) but the views are absolutely spectacular looking down on the Heights, a high plateau where Storey Avenue is located.  To the southwest is the lovely view of the historic Common Pasture and to the North the busy lights of Anna Jacques.   The close proximity of the hospital  in one’s view explains how the odors managed to shut down the intensive care area a while back.

There is a lovely trail but rather steep that climbs from the Crow Lane Nature Trail Head to the summit.     If you take it, aside from taking in the stunning views, you will see that the top of the landfill is flat for a wide area.

If when, and that is a big WHEN; it comes into the hands of the city; this is a perfect place to put a solar farm.

And why not!?!    the water can’t be absorbed because of the impervious membrane that covers the mound.     All that uninterrupted sun exposure will turn a giant white elephant into a tremendous asset for the city and its taxpayers.

In the meantime, enjoy the view!

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Conservation, Economics, Entertainment, Infrastructure, Landfill, Landscapes, News & Politics, Recreation, Solar Panels, Taxes, trails | 2 Comments

It needs to happen!

I was very encouraged when I found out that the effort to name the southbound bridge after William Lloyd Garrison is still ongoing.      I know our elected officials are doing their best to put pressure on MassDOT which has a long history of not being sympathetic to local concerns. (i.e. the sound barriers!)

I was glad to read that the work of naming the bridge is still being pursued.

The most encouraging word I can offer is,  “DON’T QUIT”.

There is one thing I have learned over the years when dealing with government that persistence is often the long, painful route to success.       The naysayers are legion, and what I think is worse; are the host of the visionless who just don’t see why a particular project is necessary.      These are often your closes allies which turn out to be your toughest to overcome.      It is sad that the memory of these two giants have been forgotten by so many in that monumental task of the 19th century.

It is encouraging that as Parker River Clean Water Association has now oversight of the Little River Trail System south of Storey Avenue; we look forward to the William Lloyd Garrison Bike/Pedestrian Trail connecting to the Gloria Braunhardt Bike/Pedestrian Trail.         We were very encouraged to see a crosswalk with traffic walk signals installed over the busy thoroughfare that lies between these two paths.

Starting (hopefully) in the Fall of 2017; this crosswalk will turn out to be one busy place!

It would be tremendous that this new path on the bridge worked on so hard by the Mayor and others; could be accompanied by the two great structures reflecting the powerful impact that the twin cities in the Northeast of Massachusetts had on the national Abolitionist Movement.

Now to get a bunch of visionless engineers to see it.         That’s the tough part.

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Economics, Education, finances, Heritage Tourism, History, News & Politics, Organizations, Planning, Quality of Life, Recreation, Traffic, trails | Leave a comment