Category Archives: Civics

About the city of Newburyport, MA, the people who live here, and the actions and the events that effect their lives.

Rev. Thomas Cary and 182 High Street, Newburyport, MA

One of the things that I liked the best about “If This House Could Talk,” which happened this summer, were the posters about the houses with portraits of people who lived or worked in them. I was so excited to find Stephen Hooper’s (see earlier post) portrait, that I thought I would start with a portrait and see if I could find a house to go with it. I Googled “Portrait, Newburyport” and came up with the name “Rev. Thomas Cary.” Rev. Cary was quite a guy, but I couldn’t find a house that he might have lived in — and that was the whole point, so I just dropped it. And then, working on another “mystery” I stumbled, out of the blue stumbled, on a deed with his name on it. It was a 1871 deed. Go figure.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has a portrait by the Rev. Thomas Cary — the MFA, really. The portrait was done in 1770,  probably when he received his part of the inheritance from his father. **

 Reverend Thomas Cary of Newburyport, 1770–1773 by John Singleton Copley, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Reverend Thomas Cary of Newburyport, 1770–1773 by John Singleton Copley, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Reverend Thomas Cary of Newburyport, 1770–1773 by John Singleton Copley, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Thomas Cary was born  October 7, 1745 in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He went to Harvard with Stephen Hooper (really!!)**, and has been described as a “man of wealth.”*  Thomas became the minister of the First Church of Newburyport (now the Unitarian Church on Pleasant Street) on May 11, 1768 in the original meeting house (not the church that exists today), which was 45 by 60 feet and stood in the “market place with the steeple fronting the river and faced Fish Street” which is now State Street.* His parish was described as “the best in the port” with a membership that reached 2,000.** In 1775 he married  Esther Carter of Newburyport who died in 1779.  His second wife was Deborah Prince of Exeter, New Hampshire. He had a total of 11 children, two who survived, one from each wife.**

The top of the handwritten address that was delivered by Rev. Thomas Cary

The top of the handwritten address that was delivered by Rev. Thomas Cary

The top of the handwritten address that was delivered by Rev. Thomas Cary for the ordination of Samuel Spring as the minister of the Second Congregational Church of Newburyport on August 6, 1777, Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School

The complete handwritten 1777 address by Rev. Thomas Cary

The complete handwritten 1777 address by Rev. Thomas Cary

The complete handwritten 1777 address by Rev. Thomas Cary, Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School

In 1788 Cary had a stroke from which he partially recovered, and was assisted at the church by the Rev. John Andrews as a “colleague-pastor.”  He died on  November 24, 1808.  In a memorial Thomas was described as, “A good and respected citizen, a kind husband, a most affectionate father and a most ardent friend. He was just, candid and sincere, charitable without ostentation, affable without pride, proving his faith by his works, and looking to Jesus for his reward.” ***

I found several references that he lived on High Street, and that his funeral started at his home on High Street and proceeded to the church where he had been the minister for so many years.

An excerpt from the 1871 deed

An excerpt from the 1871 deed

An excerpt from the 1871 deed

And quite by chance I came across a 1871 deed with Rev. Thomas Cary’s name in it. I was so excited. It was for a house on High Street and I matched the names Ebenezer Moseley and Edward Moseley on the deed with names on Newburyport Historic Survey for 182 High Street. It looks like a match and I’m going with that.

Exterior of 182 High Street, 2007

Exterior of 182 High Street, 2007

The exterior of 182 High Street taken in 2007

Interior of 182 High Street, 2007

Interior of 182 High Street, 2007

The interior of 182 High Street taken in 2007

182 High Street was built in 1792 and Cary died in in 1808, so obviously he lived somewhere else (I have no idea where) before that. And 182 High Street is a gorgeous house, the photos are from 2007 when it was last bought. And from everything I hear, the house has been magnificently restored. I think Rev. Thomas Cary would be very pleased.

*A history of the First Religious Society in Newburyport, Massachusetts,  Minnie Atkinson , 1933

** John Singleton Copley in America, Metropolitan Museum of Art , 1995

*** ‪A Sketch of the History of Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury, from 1635 to 1845‬, Joshua Coffin, 1845

Riches to Rags, Alice Hooper (Fowle Cutler), Newburyport, MA

After I put up the post on Stephen Hooper (see earlier post) I got an email about his sister, a clue, which, with some research, gave me a huge glimpse/understanding of what his life must have been like back then in the second part of the 1700s.

Portrait of Alice Hooper, 1763, by John Singleton Copley

Portrait of Alice Hooper, 1763, by John Singleton Copley

Portrait of Alice Hooper (Stephen Hooper’s sister), 1763, by John Singleton Copley, The Milwaukee Art Museum

Stephen Hooper had a number of brothers and sisters, including two sisters who came to Newburyport.  Ruth, who married Tristram Dalton (The Dalton Club, that Dalton) and Alice, who first married Jacob Fowle Jr, and then as a widow married Joseph Cutler. Stephen, Alice and Ruth were the children of Robert “King” Hooper (see earlier post) the wealthiest merchant in Marblehead.

Alice Hooper Fowle Cutler is not one of those Newburyport folks who has been forgotten. A brief biography is on the website of St. Paul’s Church and she is mentioned on the website of the Clipper Heritage Trail. John Singleton Copley did a portrait of her that now hangs in the Milwaukee Art Museum, which was painted around 1763, depicting the young lady who was at that time seventeen years old, and whose portrait was painted in honor of her engagement to Jacob Fowle, Jr.

Alice moved in the same social circles as her brother Stephen Hooper, her sister Ruth (Mrs. Tristram Dalton) and their friends such as Nathaniel Tracy (Tracy mansion, the Newburyport Library, that Tracy).

I found this incredible and fascinating description of what life was like for these then “rare and important” people in Newburyport in the second half of the 1700s in Newburyport.

“Tristram Dalton, on his marriage with Miss Hooper, of Marblehead (Ruth), reached home (Newburyport) in this style: “His splendid new carriage was drawn by six white horses, decorated with white feathers; they hold four outriders, and footman and coachman dressed in new liveries.” So they rode down State Street, with the carriage-top thrown back.” *

And this extraordinary and really interesting description of Nathaniel Tracy:

“Nathaniel Tracy’s education was the best the country could afford. He was graduated at Harvard in 1769, and was in the vigor of his early manhood during the Revolution. His residence was the building on State Street now used for the Public Library, and, with his means and cultivated taste, it was one of the most attractive places in the Commonwealth. It abounded in all that heart could wish. His slaves — for that was the era of negro slavery in Massachusetts — served the guests at his tables, and they were not unfrequently the most distinguished men of this and foreign lands. His carriages, with liveried drivers, six in hand, and outriders, were such as have never been seen in the town since his day. He owned several country seats, summer retreats, hunting-grounds, and fine fish-ponds, with other conveniences and attachments such as would have become a British lord.” *

What is amazing is that Stephen Hooper’s father, Robert “King” Hooper, was bankrupt when he died. Stephen Hooper’s fortune was only a fraction of what it was when he died in 1802. Both Tristram Dalton and Nathaniel Tracy lost everything by the time that they died.  Yikes.

32 Green Street, Newburyport, MA

32 Green Street, Newburyport, MA, Google Maps

32 Green Street, Newburyport, MA

Alice and her second husband, Joseph Cutler, settled at 32 Green Street in 1787, a gorgeous Georgian three story brick building that still exists today.

According to the gentleman who emailed me, both of Alice’s husbands when they died left her with children, no fortune, and no means of support. Apparently she ran a rooming house in that beautiful building on the corner of Washington Street and Green Street as a way to make ends meet.  According to the Newburyport’s historic survey on the house, as well as the deed, in 1810, the house was divided in two, and Alice must have lived in one half and the wife and heirs of Joseph Bartlett lived in the other half.  Alice died in 1826 at the age of 81.  Alice is buried at St. Paul’s church between her two husbands, Joseph Cutler on the left and Jacob Fowle Jr on the right. ( Joseph Cutler died in 1801 and her first husband Jacob Fowle Jr died in 1778.)

Alice's grave at St Paul's Church in Newburyport, between the graves of her two husbands, Joseph Cutler on the left and Jacob Fowle Jr. on the right.

Alice’s grave at St Paul’s Church in Newburyport, between the graves of her two husbands, Joseph Cutler on the left and Jacob Fowle Jr. on the right.

Alice’s grave at St Paul’s Church in Newburyport, between the graves of  her two husbands, Joseph Cutler on the left and Jacob Fowle Jr. on the right.

* “‪Standard History of Essex County, Massachusetts‬: ‪Embracing a History of the County from Its First Settlement to the Present Time, with a History and Description of Its Towns and Cities. The Most Historic County of America‬” by  ‪Cyrus Mason Tracy‬,  ‪Henry Wheatland‬, ‪C. F. Jewett & Company‬, 1878

The Two Schoolhouses that Once were near Frog Pond on the Bartlet Mall, Newburyport, MA

The School House and Pond Street, Bartlet Mall, Newburyport, MA

The School House and Pond Street, Bartlet Mall, Newburyport, MA

When I ended up researching Pond Street, on the 1851 map there are a lot of things on Bartlet Mall which do not exist today, including two schoolhouses. I went on a hunt at the Newburyport Archival Center at the Library and I found a wealth of photos that I had never, ever seen before of Frog Pond and the Bartlet Mall. I never knew that there was one schoolhouse on the Bartlet Mall, much less two.

The photograph at the top of the post shows the school house at the “southerly end” of the Mall, the statue of George Washington in front, and at the left, the center chimney two story house where Stephen Hooper lived  (see previous post).

The 1851 map that shows the two schoolhouses and the houses along Frog Pond.

1851 Map showing the schoolhouses

1851 Map showing the schoolhouses

In 1796 the good people of Newburyport voted to build a brick schoolhouse at the “southerly end” of the Mall on land owned by the town near Frog Pond.  A second story was added to the schoolhouse in 1809.*

The 1796 Schoolhouse, from the “History of Newburyport Mass: 1764-1905, Volume 1,”  by John James Currier

The 1796 Schoolhouse

The 1796 Schoolhouse from the “History of Newburyport Mass: 1764-1905, Volume 1,” by John James Currier

The front of the 1796 School house, courtesy of the Archival Center, the Newburyport Public Library.

The 1796 Schoolhouse courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center

The 1796 Schoolhouse courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center

The back of the 1796 Schoolhouse, courtesy of the Archival Center, the Newburyport Public Library.  The Courthouse is in front.

The back of the 1796 School house, courtesy of the Archival Center, the Newburyport Public Library.

The back of the 1796 School house, courtesy of the Archival Center, the Newburyport Public Library.

The back of the 1796 School house, Frog Pond and the Courthouse courtesy of the Archival Center, the Newburyport Public Library.

The back of the 1796 School house, Frog Pond and the Courthouse courtesy of the Archival Center, the Newburyport Public Library.

And in 1823 a new brick school building was built on the northwesterly side of the Mall.*

The 1823 Schoolhouse, from the "History of Newburyport Mass: 1764-1905, Volume 1," by John James Currier

The 1823 Schoolhouse, from the “History of Newburyport Mass: 1764-1905, Volume 1,” by John James Currier

The windmill (that can been seen on the 1771 survey of Frog Pond) was moved near the burying ground in 1774, when the hill was cut down as a training field.*

The 1771 survey of Frog Pond from "History of Newburyport Mass: 1764-1905, Volume 1," by John James Currier

The 1771 survey of Frog Pond from “History of Newburyport Mass: 1764-1905, Volume 1,” by John James Currier

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The statue of George Washington was given to the city in 1878 by Daniel I. Tenney, a Newburyport jeweler and silversmith, with a rededication ceremony in 1879 on George Washington’s birthday.*

In 1868 the one-story school house was destroyed by a fire. And in1883 the two-story brick schoolhouse was sold at auction and taken down the following summer. And in 1882, the house owned by Stephen Hooper (see previous post) was sold and removed.*

State and High Street with Pond Street on the left.

State and High Street with Pond Street on the left courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center.

State and High Street with Pond Street on the left courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center.

This is a detail of a photograph from the Archival Center at the Newburyport Library taken from State Street that shows High Street on the right and Pond Street on the left. The streets look like they are possibly dirt or gravel and not paved the way that the roads are today. The statue of George Washington and the schoolhouse are in the center.

I look at the two story schoolhouse in back of the George Washington statue and think how much we would value that building today. It breaks my heart that it was removed because I love, love, love it, and I wonder how many different ways we could think to re-purposed that beautiful building in this particular moment in time.

The houses on Frog Pond, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library.

The houses on Frog Pond, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library

The houses on Frog Pond, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library

And here are the houses that were on Frog Pond (for more detail see previous post). A lot of people, including me, wondered about the houses behind the ones on Frog Pond that were eventually taken down. And they still exist – 17 Pond Street, 19-21 Pond Street and 23 Pond Street which today, if you are standing in front of CVS are to the right towards Low Street.

17 Pond Street, 19-21 Pond Street and 23 Pond Street today.

17 Pond Street, 19-21 Pond Street and 23 Pond Street today

17 Pond Street, 19-21 Pond Street and 23 Pond Street today, Google Maps

*”History of Newburyport Mass: 1764-1905, Volume 1,”  by John James Currier

Stephen Hooper and the Houses by Frog Pond, Newburyport, MA

Detail of the 1851 Map of Newburyport showing houses on the Bartlet Mall across from where CVS is now located.

Detail of 1851 Map of Newburyport showing houses by the Bartlet Mall

Detail of 1851 Map of Newburyport showing houses by the Bartlet Mall

When I ended up researching Pond Street (see previous post), on the 1851 map there are a lot of things on Bartlet Mall which do not exist today, including houses. So I went on a hunt at the Newburyport Archival Center at the Library and I found a wealth of photos that I had never, ever seen before of Frog Pond and the Bartlet Mall, including photos of the houses that were once on the Mall by Frog Pond.

Houses Across from CVS once on the Bartlett Mall, detail courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Library.

Houses Across from CVS once by Frog Pond the Bartlet Mall, detail courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Library.

Houses Across from CVS once by Frog Pond the Bartlet Mall, detail courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Library.

And I wanted to know all about those houses, or at least something about those houses, but there is no address (somewhere on Pond Street across from CVS is not a Newburyport address). Somehow, when I Googled “Frog Pond, Newburyport” I got the name Stephen Hooper — no clue who in the world Stephen Hooper was.

I went to FamilySearch.org (which is free btw) and put in Stephen Hooper, Newburyport, which gave me a start, at least the right century, which was the 1700s.

And then I went to the new archived newspapers, which are now online, from the Archival Center, put in “Stephen Hooper” and found out that in 1856 the Newburyport Daily Herald had this to say, “Its (the Free Mason Lodge, now located on Green Street) first Master was Stephen Hooper and its second Nathaniel Tracy two eminent and wealthy merchants who will always be remembered in our history.”

A lot/most/many folks in Newburyport may know or heard of Nathaniel Tracy (as in Tracy Mansion, the Newburyport Library), but Stephen Hooper??  I’m pretty sure that Stephen Hooper is one of those folks, although he was “rare and important” at the time, has long been forgotten. So, it was time to find out who in the world Stephen Hooper was.

Somehow I figured out that Stephen Hooper and Tristram Dalton were acquainted (Tristram Dalton as in the Dalton House, The Dalton Club on State Street, that Tristram Dalton), and that Tristram had married the daughter of Marblehead’s wealthiest merchant, who turns out to have been Ruth Hooper, who was the sister of Stephen Hooper. So that means that Stephen was the son of the wealthiest merchant in Marblehead. And then, when I figured that out, things started to fall into place.

Stephen’s father was Robert “King” Hooper of Marblehead. Robert’s house is now the Marblehead Art Association, and his portrait was done by none other than John Singleton Copley, which is now in the Pennsylvania Academy for Fine Arts (museum) so we know what he looks like, and the portrait is pretty grand.

Robert “King” Hooper, by John Singleton Copley

Robert "King" Hooper, by John Singleton Copley

Robert “King” Hooper, by John Singleton Copley

I found in John James Currier’s book* this piece of information “Stephen, son of Robert Hooper, graduated at Harvard college in 1761, and came to Newbury soon after that date. He married Sarah Woodbridge October 10, 1764, owned and occupied a dwelling house on the southerly side of Frog Pond in Newburyport.”  Eureka!!

And I also found this in as essay by Martha J. McNamara** on Frog Pond,  “Domestic buildings at Frog Pond included a two-story, center-chimney house owned by Stephen Hooper.” Another Eureka!

Stephen Hooper’s two-story, center-chimney house on Frog Pond, detail courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Library. (And I think that the house is at the left in the photo at the top of the post, and the twin chimney is a later dwelling.)

Stephen Hooper's two-story, center-chimney house, detail courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Library

Stephen Hooper’s two-story, center-chimney house, detail courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Library

And then there is this map from 1771 that shows Hooper’s land on Frog Pond (which is found in both accounts by Currier and McNamara). Pretty cool. You can see the outline of Stephen Hoopers land, a drawing of his house, which would have been across from what is now CVS.

Survey by John Vinal of “Plan of land and Buildings in the Vicinity of Frog Pond,” 1771, Courtesy of the City of Newburyport.

Survey by John Vinal of "Plan of land and Buildings in the Vicinity of Frog Pond," 1771, Courtesy of the City of Newburyport.

Survey by John Vinal of “Plan of land and Buildings in the Vicinity of Frog Pond,” 1771, Courtesy of the City of Newburyport.

Who is Stephen Hooper? This is one of my favorite description of who he was, “Merchant and shipbuilder, son of Robert “King” Hooper of Marblehead, settled in Newburyport and became one of the town’s most prominent residents. Active in the West Indies trade, he was a partner in numerous privateering ventures during the Revolution. Although in 1786 he was the second richest man in Newburyport, by 1790 his net worth was only a fraction of what it once had been.” (From of all places, “The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, Volume 6,” Columbia University Press, By Maeva Marcus).

And I found a portrait of Hooper done by Henry Pelham (the stepbrother of John Singleton Copley), a miniature, set in gold,  painted in 1773, it’s a watercolor on ivory and it’s in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I’m not kidding.

Stephen Hooper, by Henry Pelham, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Stephen Hooper, by Henry Pelham, the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Stephen Hooper, by Henry Pelham, the Metropolitan Museum of Art

There is a portrait of Hooper’s wife by Copley, which was loaned to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston around 1911, but it’s in a private collection, so there is no way to see what she looks like.

And Stephen Hooper moved in the rarified society of Newburyport, he “hung out” with folks like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Aaron Burr, General Lafayette, and yet, now in 2016, it’s really, really hard to find out much of anything about Stephen Hooper, an eminent and wealthy merchant who it was thought would always be remembered in our city’s history. There is Dalton Street, the Dalton House, Tracy Mansion (the Newburyport Library) all reminders of his contemporaries, business partners, brother-in-law, friends, but no hint that I know of, that Stephen Hooper was once a “player” in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Signature on a letter dated 1776 by Stephen Hooper

Signature on a letter dated 1776 by Stephen Hooper

Signature on a letter dated 1776 by Stephen Hooper

Piece of the envelope for the letter from Hooper, Newburyport 1776

A Piece of the envelope for the letter from Hooper, Newburyport, 1776

A Piece of the envelope for the letter from Hooper, Newburyport, 1776

*”History of Newburyport Mass: 1764-1905,” 1906, by John James Currier

**”From Common Land to Public Space: The Frog Pond and Mall at Newburyport, Massachusetts, 1765-1825″ by Martha J. McNamara, in “Shaping Communities, Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture,” The University of Tennessee Press, 1997

Romance, Politics, the Civil War Statue and a House on Pond Street, Newburyport, MA

Civil War Statue at Atkinson Common - Newburyport, MA

Atkinson Common – Newburyport, MA. Detail of a photograph by Scott Patterson of the Civil War Statue (found on flickr, the Creative Commons (CC) license)

One of the things that I love about “If This House Could Talk,” is that the stories that were told were not of Newburyport residences who Newburyport tends to think of as “rare and important,” but of folks, regular folks who had compelling stories, and people who had long been forgotten and who were remembered once more.  In looking for the next story, I was researching the Civil War statue at Atkinson Common and came across a name, “Walter B. Hopkinson,” and I thought, “Let’s find out about him.”

Atkinson Common, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library

Atkinson Common, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library

Alice Tappan Whittier Hopkinson

Walter B. Hopkinson was born in 1866 and was the son of William N. Hopkinson who served in the Civil War and lived at 339 High Street. As a very young man Walter married Alice Tappan Whittier. They lived at Bartlett Spring Farm, which if you go towards Maudslay State Park from Three Roads on Ferry Road, and go right (instead of left towards Maudslay) over the bridge, you end up where the the MerrimacK River bends towards the mouth of the river, and that is where the farm was located. It must have been gorgeous.  Alice, who was described as a “lady of rare accomplishments and universally beloved,” died in 1898, leaving young Walter Hopkinson a widow.

Where Bartlett Spring Farm would have been,

Where Bartlett Spring Farm would have been, Google Maps

Eleanor S. Hopkinson

Evidently Walter fell in love again, this time with his younger sister’s good friend Eleanor Robinson.  Walter was very much involved with the Republican party. And I found this wonderful story in The Chicago Tribune, Friday, June 22, 1900.

“THE CONVENTION BRIDE

Although Walter B. Hopkinson of Newburyport , Mass., has not attracted great attention on the floor of the Republican convention at Philadelphia, few of the delegates have the object of more interest. Mr. Hopkinson’s claim to fame lies in the fact that he brought with him to Philadelphia  the only bride who attended the convention. According to the current story Mr. Hopkinson has been engaged for several years to Miss Eleanor Robinson of Newburyport, but has had great difficulty in getting the young woman to name the day. Finally he determined on desperate measures. “I am going to be a candidate for election as a delegate to the National convention.” he said one evening. “If you will consent to fixing our marriage at an early enough date I will take you with me if I am chosen.” Miss Eleanor consented, and then Mr. Hopkinson had a bad week or two, during which time he feared he might not be successful in getting the appointment. He was finally chosen, however, and the couple ate their wedding breakfast in Philadelphia last Monday morning. After the breakfast some of the Massachusetts delegation heard how matters stood and arranged a reception, which was attended by all the Massachusetts men, including Senator Lodge, who made handsome little speech of congratulation. National Committeeman Sam Fessenden of Connecticut, and other notables. Since the reception Mrs. Hopkinson has been known as the  ‘convention bride.’ ”

The Chicago Tribune: Friday, June 22, 1900

Walter B. Hopkinson, from the 1900 Chicago Tribune

Walter B. Hopkinson, from the 1900 Chicago Tribune

Walter B. Hopkinson was the 42nd mayor of Newburyport

I found out by chance in my search that Walter B. Hopkinson also became the 42nd mayor of Newburyport from 1917-1918. Apparently at the time he was “rare and important” –  just now completely forgotten, who knew? So I went to the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library where they have a history, written by Todd Woodworth, of all the mayors of Newburyport, and yup, Walter B. Hopkinson turns out the be a very important person in the history of our city. Again, who knew? And how quickly “we forget.” Walter’s portrait hangs in the foyer in City Hall, right by the stairs on the right hand side as you go upstairs.

It turns out that Walter was a descendant of one of the first settlers of Newbury (this is a very big deal). He was a tea importer, employed by a Boston firm for 40 years and was president of that firm for 12 years. He was mayor of Newburyport during World War I, from 1917-1918. And he was chairman of the committee which presented the Civil War Volunteer monument at Atkinson Common to the city, as well as presenting the Civil War tablets that are there. He researched records from all over the country to make sure that the list was accurate . Walter was also a Republican delegate to the national convention in Philadelphia in 1900 and an alternate delegate in 1904. And when he died all municipal flags were flown at half-mast, and the members of the city council met at City Hall and went to the funeral together. He died in 1946.

Portraits of four mayors of Newburyport, Walter B. Hopkinson is the portrait on the lower right hand side.

Portraits of four mayors of Newburyport, Walter B. Hopkinson is the portrait on the lower right hand side.

Portrait of Walter B. Hopkinson at Newburyport City Hall

Portrait of Walter B. Hopkinson at Newburyport City Hall

7 Pond Street

Walter and Eleanor lived at Bartlett Spring Farm, and in 1905 decide to move into town. They move to a lovely Victorian Queen Anne house, built around 1881 at 7 Pond Street. What’s really interesting is that the deed is not in Walter’s name, but is in Eleanor’s name and it stays that way until she, as a widow sells the home in 1949.  It is given to Eleanor for a dollar by Chauncey Dodge of the Newburyport Dodge Shoemaking empire (the story there – I have no idea, but another instance of a woman being given a piece of property for one dollar, like Abbie Foster of 74 High Street).

7 Pond Street, Newburyport, MA

7 Pond Street, Newburyport, MA – Google Maps

Everything is Infill

I went on a map hunt for Pond Street which is by the Bartlet Mall.  In the 1851 Map of Pond Pond Street and a large area close to Frog Pond is completely undeveloped.  According to the map, there is a school house where the George Washington statue now exists. Frog Pond is a different shape, and there are houses right next to Frog Pond.

1851 MAP

1851 Map

1851 Map

In the 1872 map, the railroad had come into the area (where CVS is now), but the lot where 7 Pond Street will be built is still empty. Walter and Eleanor’s house was built around 1881 and was part of 3 plots that were sold at that time.

1872 MAP

The Mall 1872 map

The Mall 1872 map

Detail of the 1872 map

Detail of the 1872 map

The 1924 map from the Newburyport City Assessors Office shows the area completely built up, and you can see where 7 Pond Street is located, along with the other three “developments,” three other beautiful Queen Anne homes.

1924 MAP

The 1924 map

The 1924 map

Detail of the 1924 map

Detail of the 1924 map

 

How a Yankee from Newburyport Massachusetts got Involved with some Passionate People from Louisiana and Learned about the Horrific Louisiana Floods of 2016

The spirit of courage and generosity of the people of Southern Louisiana

The spirit of courage and generosity of the people of Southern Louisiana

The spirit of courage and generosity of the people of Southern Louisiana

I have a pretty obscure Mary Baker Art Facebook page, 100 “likes,” no one much goes there. However, on Friday August 26, 2016 I started to get obscene and threatening comments, messages and emails, and they were off the charts enough that I called our local Newburyport Police Department just to make me feel better (and what you are supposed to due if cyberbullying occurs, as well as make copies of what is happening, and there are a few examples of cyberbullying comments/insults in this post).

A cyberbully insult

I finally got up the courage to ask one young man who I got a message from and who looked like he was in high school, what was going on. What was going on was there was another Mary Baker from Florida who was saying hurtful things about people in Texas and Louisiana and the people of Southern Louisiana who are experiencing unbelievable horror of the August 2016 Floods.

A cyberbully insult sent in an email

I put up a short statement at the top of my obscure Mary Baker Art Facebook page explaining that I was not that Mary Baker. And I thought that would do it. The next morning when I checked, that did not do it. So I took a look around Facebook and to my horror I found that the post about the other Mary Baker had gone viral. At this time it has been shared over 16,000 times, and as far as I can tell, it seems that a large portion of the population of Louisiana knows all about Mary Baker of Florida, and they even nicknamed the hurricane that has just hit Florida after her. Yikes!

A cyberbully insult for Mary Baker

On that Saturday, August 27th I put up another clarification, that I was from Massachusetts not Florida and that this post that had gone viral was making this Mary Baker’s life very unpleasant and that I was very upset that anyone would think that I would say those things. And then I began to get comments on that post, people apologizing and then telling me about the heartache and unimaginable and ongoing devastation that they were experiencing.

I learned that 80% of South Louisiana has been flooded and in the recovery process most people, including folks who replied to the post are now in the middle of gutting their homes. And I also learned about the Cajun Navy — private citizens who were taking their private boats down the flooded streets to rescue people and pets who were stranded. “First responders just couldn’t get to everyone fast enough. Now, there is a Cajun Army, going around helping those who need to remove destroyed belongings, sheetrock, etc. from homes that were flooded. All done free of charge. Others are providing free meals for flood victims. ” From a poster named Jan Hiatt

Two of the organizations that the people “on the ground” in Southern Louisiana seem to respect and trust are the Convoy of Hope and the  Samaritan’s Purse,  who are collecting and distributing clothes, cooked meals and money for survival and rebuilding, if you would like to make a donation.

And at the Cajun Navy is amazing. I am so impressed. Please check out their Facebook page and learn about all the courageous and incredibly generous people of Southern Louisiana.

The Cajun Navy 2016

The Cajun Navy 2016

Here are some of the photos and statements that show the horror that these folks are going through.

Louisina Floods 2016

Louisina Floods 2016

Louisina Floods 2016

Louisina Floods 2016

From the Cajun Navy

From the Cajun Navy

Louisina Floods 2016, photo via the Cajun Navy 2016

Louisina Floods 2016, photo via the Cajun Navy 2016

A PLEA FOR HELP TO THE CAJUN NAVY THAT WAS ANSWERED IN THE MOST AMAZING WAY

A plea for help to the Cajun Navy

A plea for help to the Cajun Navy

Louisina Floods 2016

Louisina Floods 2016

What the Floods were like. Photos from the Cajun Navy 2016

Louisiana Flooding 2016, photo from the Cajun Navy 2016

Louisiana Flooding 2016, photo from the Cajun Navy 2016

Louisiana Flooding 2016, photo from the Cajun Navy 2016

Louisiana Flooding 2016, photo from the Cajun Navy 2016

Louisiana Flooding 2016, photo from the Cajun Navy 2016

Louisiana Flooding 2016, photo from the Cajun Navy 2016

And as far as Mary Baker from Massachusetts, that ended up having a happy ending.  Here are a few of the astounding and unbelievably heartwarming comments that were left on the Mary Baker Art Facebook page — very, very different from the original comments.

GOD BLESS THE PEOPLE OF SOUTHERN LOUISIANA

“Mary you are an amazing woman! God sent us an angel!!”

“I am from Louisiana, Livingston Parish to be exact. It was one of the hardest hit places by the flood. I myself am in the 10% that was not effected but the devastation that my family and friends have suffered is unimaginable. In searching for Mary Baker I came across your post and I just wanted to thank you. Thank you for turning something so ugly into something worth sharing. People like you are the reason why the rest of us keep faith in humanity. Thank you for your prayers and thank you for sharing those sites. Bless you!”

“Louisiana ❤️’s Mary Baker of Massachusetts!”

“As the original poster…I’m glad to see so many apologies and hope 1000s more come your way….Mary Baker Art has been VERY gracious about this entire thing and someday I shall buy her lunch…..crawfish and jambalaya of course.”

“Louisiana loves Mary Baker Art and Massachusetts! Thank Mary for your love and support! God bless you!”

“Thank you for bringing attention to us in south Louisiana and Mississippi. There are so many hurting right now…..physically, mentally, emotionally, financially or all of the above. I have worked with an animal shelter here in New Orleans and there have been so many precious pets that were abandoned or were already homeless. Folks were underinsured or not insured because they were told they didn’t need it because they weren’t in a flood zone. This isn’t another Katrina, it is a disaster all on its own. Thank you, Mary Baker Art, for rallying around us at this time!”

“a beautiful and thoughtful post. So sorry that you received all the responses meant for the other Mary Baker. I personally didn’t know anything about it til just now. Hope you can now obtain some peace!”

“Thank you Massachusetts Mary for you graciousness during the confusion. As you can see my fellow Louisianan’s can show their spicy pride and hot temper that match our boiled crawfish! We are a passionate people and use our boot-shaped state to kick right back when we feel insulted. We are sorry for the hurt and fear some have given you. Please accept our apologies.”

Hope and Recovery for Southern Louisiana, Flooding 2016

Hope and Recovery for Southern Louisiana, Flooding 2016

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Editor’s Note:

This is what I learned.

1)  Bad things can happen on the internet fast, and once they happen it’s almost impossible to undo them, and cyberbullying is very real.

2)  An apology goes really far. The apologies from the posters from Southern Louisiana meant the world to me. And because of their apologies I could hear their stories, and because I could hear their stories, my heart was broken for them, and because my heart was broken for them I wanted to do everything I could to get the word out to help them.  If the original Mary Baker had apologized, showed empathy and compassion, she would have saved me and herself a whole lot of heartache.

3)  Southern Louisiana has such a different culture and way of looking at the world than my Yankee Massachusetts world view. And the people of Southern Louisiana are such big hearted and generous people. Their story of survival, helping each other and ongoing recovery is so inspiring. If you want to learn about their story and follow their story, I check out the Cajun Navy 2016 Facebook page every day. I hope the national media does a story on the Cajun Navy 2016 because it is an amazing testimony of courage and hope and the goodness of humanity. And in a way I am really glad that this weird “Mary Baker mixup” thing happened, because otherwise I never would have understood about this heartbreaking Louisiana Flooding of 2016 and the magnanimous spirit of the people who live there.

The amazing Cajun Navy 2016

The Cajun Navy 2016 - "Love is all you need" (original photo via the Cajun Navy)

The Cajun Navy 2016 – “Love is all you need” (original photo via the Cajun Navy)

 

167 Water Street, Newburyport – Gordon Welchman (and Bossy Gillis too)

167 Water Street

167 Water Street

167 Water Street

This is another story discovered from “If This House Could Talk-Newburyport” – 167 Water Street.

167 Water Street, poster for “If This House Could Talk”

167 Water Street, poster for "If This House Could Talk"

167 Water Street, poster for “If This House Could Talk”

For those who remember the film “The Imitation Game” which was about how the German code was broken in during World War II, there was one person who was there and who was left out of the film – Gordon Welchman, a hero who along with his colleagues shortened the war by two years and saved millions of lives.  There is a recent documentary in 2015 by the BBC called “Bletchley Park: Code-breaking’s Forgotten Genius” about Gordon Welchman. It was aired on the Smithsonian Channel as “The Codebreaker Who Hacked Hitler.”

Book on Gordon Welchman

Book on Gordon Welchman

Book on Gordon Welchman

Gordon Welchman is a fascinating person and a very big deal. He moved to America and became an American citizen. In 1972 he moved to Newburyport and bought 167 Water Street. He died here in 1985. 167 Water Street is now a B&B and has a Gordon Welchman plaque.

Plaque for Gordon Welchman on 167 Water Street

Plaque for Gordon Welchman on 167 Water Street

Plaque for Gordon Welchman on 167 Water Street

The house next door was also part of “If This House Could Talk” and their sign gives the the information that the Greek Revival Row House (which includes where Gordon Welchman lived) was built in 1845 and was part of the factory complex of the James Steam Mill.

Poster for 169 Water Street – “If This House Could Talk”

Poster for 169 Water Street - "If This House Could Talk"

Poster for 169 Water Street – “If This House Could Talk”

1851 Map Showing Row Houses on Water Street

1851 Map Showing Row Houses on Water Street

1851 Map Showing Row Houses on Water Street

And in my hunt to find out a little bit more about 167 Water Street I discovered that in 1945 it was bought from the City of Newburyport by Bossy Gillis a multi-time mayor of Newburyport (Bossy Gillis has had books written about him – another big deal). And during “If This House Could Talk-Newburyport” Yankee Homecoming 2016, it turns out that Bossy Gillis owned two other properties that were documented in this very cool project. It doesn’t appear that Bossy Gillis actually lived at 167 Water Street, I’m guessing that he rented it out.

Bossy Gillis 1945 Deed for 167 Water Street

Bossy Gillis 1945 Deed for 167 Water Street

Bossy Gillis 1945 Deed for 167 Water Street

And the last fascinating tidbit that I found was that Bossy Gillis’s deed in 1945 was signed by the treasurer of Newburyport not the Mayor.  And 1992 it was brought before the City Council for clarification. The person who sponsored it was then City Councilor and future mayor Lisa Mead. Then City Councilor (and former mayor)  Ed Molin moved that it be approved and was then signed by mayor Peter Matthews. (There may be a story about Bossy Gillis’s 1945 deed, maybe a clerical error, I do not know.)

1992 Deed Claification by the Newburyport City Council

1992 Deed Claification by the Newburyport City Council

1992 Deed Claification by the Newburyport City Council

Bossy Gillis

Bossy Gillis

Bossy Gillis

Abbie Parish Noyes, Newburyport, MA

ABBIE PARISH NOYES

Abbie P. Noyes

Abbie P. Noyes

When I did all the research into Abbie Foster to find out all about her, one of the things that really struck me was how little valued women were, especially single women, during the time of my research which was from about 1850 to 1913. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was. Abbie was an entrepreneur, she had a business downtown for over 10 years. She built a gorgeous house on High Street. Little praise would be an understatement, even in her obituary. Obituaries of married women were different, the church and civic organizations that they belonged to and a flattering portrait of their character were mentioned, but for Abbie Foster, none of that.

However, during the research for “If This House Could Talk,” I did find a lot of research on another Abbie, Abbie Parish Noyes who inherited 85 Lime Street. The glowing write-up was not in Newburyport, but in Utah. You got that right, Utah. Abbie P. Noyes was a missionary to the Mormons in Utah and she appears in the the book Women in Utah History. She also appears in the Utah Division of State History, in “The Abbie Parish Noyes Papers, A Register of the Collection at the Utah State Historical Society.”

85 LIME STREET

85 LIme Street

85 LIme Street

“Abbie Parish Noyes was born in Dedham, Massachusetts on 28 August 1861. Her parents are something of a mystery: her father was evidently a school teacher, for she later described her own teaching experiences to him as she would discuss them with a colleague. In an autobiographical sketch written later in life, she indicates that her mother died on 4 January 1871, yet her letters home during 1889-1890 are addressed to “Mother” or “Folks,” which seems to indicate that her father remarried and that she developed a close relationship with her stepmother. She also had a brother, James Young Noyes, who was born 7 March 1864. She visited and wrote to her brother in Colorado Springs during the school year of 1889-1890, while he was evidently a student at The Colorado College, another Western outpost of the Congregational Church, though he is not listed among that college’s alumni.

Illness and death seemed to plague the Noyes family during her youth. In addition to her mother, her paternal grandmother and an uncle died in January 1871. Most critical in terms of her own life, however, was the death of her mother’s father while Miss Noyes was visiting her grandparents in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Her grandmother was seriously afflicted with rheumatism and unable to care for herself and Miss Noyes agreed to live with and care for her. It must have been a difficult decision for she had just graduated from high school and a friend in Dedham, Miss Martha Burgess, had offered to finance her college education.

Miss Noyes stayed with her grandmother until her death eight years later. No doubt aware that she was devoting the best years of her youth to the care of an invalid, she determined to make the most of the situation and to mitigate her loss of college training by seizing any other educational opportunities that presented themselves. Her grandmother, fortunately, was herself well educated and appreciated Miss Noyes’ willingness to read aloud to her. During the summers, too, she took advantage of the close proximity of a Chatauqua program at Framingham and completed nearly the entire course for a diploma. Immediately upon her grandmother’s death, Miss Noyes wrote, “I felt myself free to offer myself to the New West Education Commission to teach in some one of their many schools.” The Commission accepted her application and sent her in 1889 to Ogden, Utah to teach in the Ogden Academy.” From the Utah State Historical Society.

So I was very impressed to see this young lady, who inherited 85 Lime Street get the credit she so richly deserved.

THE POSTER 85 LIME STREET FOR “IF THIS HOUSE COULD TALK”

Poster for 85 Lime Street "If This House Could Talk"

Poster for 85 Lime Street “If This House Could Talk”

All of this was discovered because of “If This House Could Talk.” The poster that the owners of 85 Lime Street made includes Abbie Noyes as well as the history of this beautiful house.

Abbie and her husband S. Foster Jaques along with their daughter Mildred Noyes Jaques are all buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Newburyport.

Where Abbie Foster got the Money to Build 74 High Street

74 HIgh Street, the house that Abbie Foster built

74 HIgh Street, the house that Abbie Foster built

A while back I wrote a post about Abbie Foster who built that beautiful, fancy mansion at 74 High Street. I found out that she was given the land for $1.00 but wasn’t able to figure out how a working/middle class, 48 year old lady got the kind of money to build such an amazing house. Well, I found out.

Ghlee Woodworth had suggested it was probably from an inheritance, but when I wrote the first piece on Abbie, I couldn’t figure out who might have given her that much money. Some more digging and mystery most probably solved.

Abbie married Daniel Foster in 1891. Daniel was 20 years older than she was and they were married for a couple of years before he died.

I found Daniel’s father’s will in the digitalized version of the newspapers, and it turns out that his father, Thomas Foster left everything to Daniel, with the hope  that if he had no children, he would like his money to be divided between various religious and civic groups.

During the time after his father’s death, Daniel seemed to lead a fairly modest life. He boarded and then eventually lived as a married man and died in Abbie’s maternal home at 14 Spring Street, which she shared with her sister Helen. No fancy stuff.

And then eureka, I then found Daniel’s will.  He left Helen, Abbie’s sister, $6,000, which was a whole lot of money back then, he left Abbie the rest of his estate and made her the executor of his will. He left various family members very small amounts of money.

Daniel’s family then, according to the newspapers, contested the will. They lost. Daniel clearly loved Abbie and liked her family a whole lot better than his own.

So that is how Abbie Foster came to be able to build that gorgeous Queen Anne Victorian at 74 High Street.

Young Victorian Woman

Young Victorian Woman

And it is so frustrating no to be able to find a photograph of Abbie. I did however find a couple of photographs of Victorian woman around the time Abbie would have been alive.  One is of Abbie P. Noyes (maybe more about her later) who was about Abbie’s same age and owned a Victorian home in the neighborhood on Lime Street. The other is of Frances Folsom Cleveland, the wife of President Grover Cleveland – a bit of a stretch, but I so much would like to give Abbie Foster of Newburyport who has been forgotten all these years a voice and a “face.”

Young Victorian Woman

Young Victorian Woman

Everything is Infill, Horton Street, Newburyport, MA

Horton Street form the Newburyport Historic Surveys.

Horton Street from the Newburyport Historic Surveys.

Doing research for “If This House Could Talk” (which was/is awesome) I learned a lot about our neighborhood.  Horton Street is a small Street that is just below High Street and runs between Federal and Lime Street.

THE OLD ALMSHOUSE

The old Almshouse, built in 1794, Newburyport, MA

The old Almshouse, built in 1794, Newburyport, MA

Most of that area was owned by the City of Newburyport and that is where the old Almshouse used to be with its gardens and orchards going all the way back to almost Lime Street. The old Almshouse was built in 1794 and was on the corner of what is now Prospect and Federal Streets. The Newburyport Archival Center has a photo of it, and the building looks gorgeous.

THE NEWBURYPORT HISTORIC SURVEY ON HORTON STREET

Horton Street, Newburyport HIstoric Surveys

Horton Street, Newburyport HIstoric Surveys Page 1

Horton Street, Newburyport HIstoric Surveys Page 2

Horton Street, Newburyport HIstoric Surveys Page 2

Reverend Horton left money in his will for a new Almshouse, and the old was was demolished in 1888. Horton Street was laid out in 1887.

REV. WILLIAM HORTON

Rev. William Horton

Rev. William Horton

The old Almshouse shows up on various maps.

1872 MAP

1872 Map showing the old Almshouse

1872 Map showing the old Almshouse

1884 MAP

1884 Map showing the old Almshouse

1884 Map showing the old Almshouse

1880 BIRDS EYE MAP

1880 Birds Eye Map showing the Old Almshouse

1880 Birds Eye Map showing the Old Almshouse

And then I found a 1900 map that show all the houses, all the new development, the incredible infill that had been built pretty much all at once on Horton Street and also along Federal Street and part of Prospect Street where the old Almshouse had once been.

1900 MAP

1900 Map showing Horon Street and all the new development

1900 Map showing Horon Street and all the new development

ONE OF THE HOUSES BUILT ON HORTON STREET

Horton Street House

Horton Street House

Victorian in Newburyport, Everything is Infill, 20 Orange Street

Alex Dardinski wrote awhile back ago that the during the Victorian era, Victorian architecture was what we would call “major infill” from about 1885-1900.  20 Orange Street, which is gorgeous (as well as 74 High Street, see earlier entry) was infill.

20 Orange Street

20 Orange Street

Craig Bobby a Victorian house enthusiast from Northeast Ohio contacted me and wanted to know if I could locate a house that he thought might be in Newburyport. And, yup, it is in Newburyport – 20 Orange Street, an absolutely gorgeous Victorian built around 1890. Mr. Bobby had matched the house to plans by an architect by the name of D. S. Hopkins, author of “Cottage Portfolio” and “Houses and Cottages.”

THE PLANS BY D.S. HOPKINS

Plans by architect D. S. Hopkins

Plans by architect D. S. Hopkins

Plans by architect D. S. Hopkins

Plans by architect D. S. Hopkins

Plans by architect D. S. Hopkins

Plans by architect D. S. Hopkins

I’ve included a detail from a 1851 map of Orange Street, and I’ve circled where the house is now. And, yes indeed, back in 1890 that house was major, major infill.  The house is now historic. Its original owner was Henry T. Moody. It is a Queen Anne Victorian and is part of the historic surveys done to make our small New England City a National Historic District.

THE 1851 MAP SHOWING THE LOCATION

Orange Street, Newburyport, 1851 Map

Orange Street, Newburyport, 1851 Map

THE NEWBURYPORT HISTORIC SURVEY

20 Orange Street,Henry Moody House, Newburyport Historic Survey

20 Orange Street,Henry Moody House, Newburyport Historic Survey

20 Orange Street,Henry Moody House, Newburyport Historic Survey

20 Orange Street,Henry Moody House, Newburyport Historic Survey

THE ORIGINAL 1889 DEED

The original 1889 Deed for 20 Orange Street, page 1

The original 1889 Deed for 20 Orange Street, page 1

The original 1889 Deed for 20 Orange Street, page 2

The original 1889 Deed for 20 Orange Street, page 2

20 Orange Street

20 Orange Street

The House that Abbie Built, Newburyport, MA, Abbie L. Currier, Abbie L. Foster 1846-1913

The house that Abbie Built

Abbie L. Foster's House, 74 High Street Newburyport, MA

Abbie L. Foster’s House, 74 High Street Newburyport, MA

Abbie Foster seems to be one of those forgotten people with an intriguing story, and the story so far has a huge hole. In 1895 Abbie Foster built a HUGE Victorian McMansion on High Street. I’ve figured out a whole lot about Abbie Foster, but not how she got an astounding amount of money at age 49 to build that glorious Queen Anne house.

I started to get curious about all of this thanks to Jack Santo’s project of “If This House Could Talk.” Jack is trying to get folks to write something very short about their house and put it on a poster board during this year’s Yankee Homecoming so that folks can walk around Newburyport and learn about the city’s history. It’s very cool.

I started to look into the history not only of my house but of our little Newburyport neighborhood.

In our neighborhood there is a short little dead-end street called Foster Court, and I found out that it was named after a woman, Abbie Foster.  I don’t know of any street in Newburyport that is named after a woman, so I wanted to know more.

Abbie Foster was born in Newburyport to David Currier a shoe maker and his wife Mary Currier. They were working/middle class folks, Abbie had one brother and two sisters. Her sister Helen Currier never married and they lived together all of their lives, either with their parents, then boarding with their mother and after their mother’s death, together.

I found an article in a 1886-1887 city directory about a “Fancy Goods” shop downtown, “A. L. Currier” and yup, that’s Abbie. Here it is:

Miss A. L. Currier, Laces, Trimmings, Jewelry, etc., No. 58 State Street. –The attractive lace, trimming, and jewelry establishment of Miss A. L. Currier, No. 58 State street (where the Book Rack is now, on the corner of Pleasant and State Streets), has for ten years been one of the popular shopping places for ladies of Newburyport and vicinity.  The store is arranged with taste, and the stock is always select and desirable.  Every fashionable article in laces, trimmings, gloves, and notions generally, the latest novelties in ladies’ fancy goods, and all kinds of elegant jewelry, are to be had here at lowest possible prices, and satisfaction is uniformly guaranteed.  Miss Currier is a very prompt and reliable business lady.  She is a native of Massachusetts.”

A description of Abbie's store from a 1886 City Directory

A description of Abbie’s store from a 1886 City Directory

Abbie was single until she was 44, and in 1891 she married Daniel Foster who was 60. This was Daniel’s second marriage, there were no children from his first. He came back to Newburyport in 1887 and seems to have boarded in different places, including where Abbie’s family lived, which was 14 Spring Street.  Daniel died in 1893 only 2+ years after they were married.  Abbie was a widow for 20 more years.

AFTER Daniel dies, in 1894 the heirs of Solomon Haskell and Mark Haskell gave Abbie the land that she built her house on on High Street and the land that what was once known as Haskell field and is now known as Foster Court. They gave the land to her for $1. Abbie gives the right of way to the City of Newburyport in 1898 and it is named after her because she owns the land. Foster Court does not show up on any map until 1940.

The first question I had was why in the world would these folks give land for a $1 to Abbie?  I talked to Ghlee Woodworth and Melissa Berry and they both suggested that there was probably a family connection between the Curriers and the Haskells. And yup, after a lot of digging around, there was a connection, and I’m going with that they were distant cousins, and they gave her the land. It’s the only thing that makes any sense.

And Ghlee Woodworth and Sharon from the Newburyport the Archival Center went and looked in City Hall for the tax records, and Abbie starts paying taxes on the land in 1896, which probably means she probably built the house in 1895, however, she did not take out a mortgage, so she must have built it with cash?  The tax records show that the house was worth $9,000 which in todays’ money is somewhere around $250,000 and $300,000 but the house itself in today’s market would be well over a million dollars. It’s a fancy place.  Abbie did take out a mortgage for $10,000 from the Institution for Savings in 1910. I have no idea why.

I looked into Daniel Foster, her husband, thinking maybe the money came from him. But if he had that kind of money, why did he board all those years, why not buy a house. I’ve included the write-up of Daniel as well as the write-up of Daniel’s father Thomas Foster, who among other things was a Revolutionary War hero, and owned N & T Foster with his brother Nathaniel Foster downtown in the building that is now called the Phoenix Building. Nathaniel was a clock and watch maker, and Thomas was one of the “old time” silver smiths, before Towle Silver existed, and many people apprenticed with him.  I thought the  money might have come from there. Some obviously did, but Thomas had a whole lot of children beside Daniel. I haven’t found Daniel’s will yet, it sounds like there was money, but not that kind of money, not the kind of money to build a High Street fancy mansion.

A write-up on Daniel Foster

A write-up on Daniel Foster

A write-up on Daniel Foster's Father, Thomas Foster

A write-up on Daniel Foster’s Father, Thomas Foster

Mark of N&T Foster Silver, Newburyport, MA

Mark of N&T Foster Silver, Newburyport, MA

The other person I thought might have helped Abbie was her brother Warren Currier who lived at 190 High Street.  Among other things he was Mayor of Newburyport from 1873-1874 and was a partner in Summer, Swasey and Currier a very successful shipping merchant business at 45 Water Street. I did find Warren’s will, and he gave Abbie maybe around $1,000, big bucks, but not enough money to build a $9,000 house on High Street.

Helen Currier, her unmarried sister who lives with her all her life and dies in 1901, living at 74 High Street, had first been a school teacher and then the principal at a school on School Street (I’m assuming it was or became the Jackman School). I looked up the salary of a woman teacher and it was miserable, enough to help support her mother and father, but not much more than that. No money there.

So Abbie builds this spectacular house at 74 High Street. The 1900 census shows that she lives there with her sister and a servant.  The 1910 census shows that she is living alone in that great big house with one servant. She lives there for 17 years. This is far, far away from where she grew up as a shoe-maker’s daughter.

And I found someone who knew someone who remembered Abbie, someone who lived in the neighborhood. He referred to her as “Old Lady Foster.” Abbie was in her 50’s and 60’s when she was referred to as “Old Lady Foster.”

And I found a write-up of her funeral. Not an obituary, and no obituary for her sister Helen.  A write-up. Here it is:  “The funeral of Mrs. Abbie Louise Foster, widow of Daniel Foster was held from her late residence, 74 High street, yesterday afternoon. Rev. C. S. Holton officiated. There was a large number of friends and relatives present.”  The pallbearers were her doctor, another doctor in town, her neighbor at 62 High Street and a clerk at one of the banks. No family.  It doesn’t include any glowing details of how wonderful she was, what church and organizations she belonged to the way many of the write-ups in the newspapers seemed to do (at least all the ones I saw when I was going on a hunt for Abbie’s obituary).

The write-up of Abbie Foster's funeral

The write-up of Abbie Foster’s funeral

And I asked around at the Archival Center at the Newburyport Library as to what folks thought it meant. I know when I moved here in 1981 there was still a very strong class system here in Newburyport. There was still the upper crust on High Street and then everyone else, and it was even more pronounced earlier in the century. “Old Lady Foster” for me is kind of a derogatory term. Maybe she “made it” and was accepted by the folks on High Street, or maybe not. I’m hoping that when the old newspapers from the 1890’s which are being digitalized by the Library’s Archival Center come back sometime this summer, maybe I’ll know more. Maybe I’ll find out some more answers about Abbie Foster and the house she built on High Street and where she got all that money.

Many thanks to the Newburyport Library’s Archival Center and all the wonderful people who work and volunteer there. I found a lot of stuff on Google and FamilySearch.org is pretty amazing along with Salem Deeds online, salemdeeds.com.

A Tale of the 204 Newburyport Parking Garage

204 & 244 Newburyport Parking Garage Comparison

204 & 244 Newburyport Parking Garage Comparison

I watched (I thought I wouldn’t, but I did, I just couldn’t help myself) Monday night when the parking garage vote came to the floor of the Newburyport City Council. Is this riveting stuff? it was to me. In the ongoing 41 year hoped-for/battle for a parking garage in Newburyport, the choice had come down to  244 space, a 204 space or a “no” space parking garage. Having counted the votes for a 244 garage (8 out of 11 votes were required), 8 votes simply did not exist, but would those folks who so desperately wanted a 244 settle for the smaller number or let a parking garage die yet one more time in its 41 year old quest.

City Councilor Bob Cronin put a motion (I don’t know what the technical term is) on the floor for a 204 garage.  It was immediately amended to a 244 — sudden death in the making. Councilor Jared Eigerman very calmly asked the 244 folks, that if they did amend to a 244 would they be willing to have no garage. The answer to Councilor Eigerman’s question was apparently “no” because somehow “it” got amended back to a 204 garage.

And then the speeches commenced. My favorite was probably Councilor Joe Devlin’s who read a long, long list of all the insults that had come his way (and he was by no means alone) including being called a misogynist (a misogynist over a garage–really?? Yes, actually really — bat-shit crazy, but really) and ended up his speech assuring the good people of Newburyport that if a large civic project came to their back yard the City Council would have their back. The theme of the strong 204 folks, Bob Cronin, Larry Guinta, Sharif Zeid, Greg Earls and yes, Joe Devlin, was that the people of Newburyport who were most affected by the garage, the abutters, were their major concern.

And then somewhere after lots of speeches a 244 seemed to be being thought about again, and Councilor Jared Eigerman one more time, very calmly reminded the 244 folks that he was only counting 5 votes for their cause — 8 votes not there. The vote for the 204 garage took place with a few grudging “yes” votes,  and after 41 years the Newburyport City Council made history, by taking an incremental step, getting 100 cars off the Waterfront, and moving Newburyport one small to medium step towards its future.

Congratulations to this Newburyport City Council — a job well done.

Newburyport Proposed Parking Garage

Proposed Newburyport Parking Garage footprint

Proposed Newburyport Parking Garage footprint

I admire all the Newburyport City Councilors for wrestling with the proposed Newburyport Parking Garage.  Here is a post from Newburyport Councilor at Large Joe Devlin on his thoughts about the garage and the process.  I appreciate Joe’s thoughtfulness on the subject. The post is from Councilor Devlin’s Facebook Page.

“Parking Garage Update: I have attended several public meetings with the abutters, residents, the mayor and the other members of the city council, the city’s parking consultant, the MVRTA and LAZ Management. I have communicated individually with abutters, local businesses, and Newburyport residents, as well as several professionals in the commercial construction industry. I have also reviewed numerous documents and studies, including those provided relative to the current project, and those from past efforts. To me, the issue boils down to the following questions:

1) Does the city need a garage?
2) Do residents want it?
3) Can we pay for it (now and in the future)?
4) Is this the appropriate location for it?

Initially, I have an issue with the information, both its form and timeliness, provided to councilors and the public alike. For example, although the MVRTA, along with its primary management company LAZ, operates several garage locations in Massachusetts, we were only given the annual budget and expense report for FY2015 and to December 31, 2015, for the MVRTA garage in Haverhill, MA. When councilors, including myself, asked about some numbers in the Haverhill budget that reflected badly on the garage and/or management (i.e. the actual budget through December 31, 2015 was 12.5% higher than the estimated annual expenses), we were told the Haverhill garage was not a good comparison to our city, begging the question why it was provided in the first place. In a report from the planning director, a timeline of the steps in the process to vote for the 100% design funds of $630,000 stated that the 30% design would be done first. However, in questioning the MVRTA representative at one meeting, I was informed that the 30% design had been halted in September of last year, due to the uncertainty with the size and scope of the project. These are just a few of the examples of the information provided.

1) “Do we need the garage?” One person’s “need” is another person’s “luxury”, and a garage is not necessarily a project that will have residents dancing in the streets. Studies of varying sophistication have been done over the years, the last in 2012, based on a study of parking on two days during the summer. Its first conclusion – “overall, the total on-street and off-street public parking system operates under effective capacity except for the infrequent, summer peak weekend condition and during special events” – matches most people’s observations. Despite talk of impending development that may affect our parking situation, a parking garage alone is not a trip generator. In other words, people don’t come here because we have a garage, but rather because we have interesting places to visit, shop and eat. A parking garage is a complement to a successful and prosperous business center, however. On the waterfront, we are also using valuable land in a less than optimal way, so for me, shifting some parking off the waterfront would be a good reason to build a garage.

2) “Do residents want it?” – Again, I do not believe a garage is something that will have residents dancing with joy in the streets. Generally, the people I have spoken to are somewhat in favor of building a garage – so long as it can be done economically and not use monies designated for other important public purposes. Councilor Ed Cameron sent out a survey to several hundred people, and 53.2% of the respondents favored a garage. The Chamber of Commerce polled downtown business, and 57% were in favor of the garage, although at the time of the report from the Chamber a good portion of the businesses had not responded. However, important aspects of making the garage successful (i.e. profitable), have not yet been decided or vetted through the public. According to John Burke, the city’s parking consultant, parking restrictions have to be put in place within a 5 minute walk of the garage, a sea change in our parking structure that could negatively affect the residents’ view of the garage. In the 2012 traffic study, Burke equated a “5 minute” walk to 1200 feet. I walked from the site of the garage and made it past Olive Street to the west, and just past Fair Street to the east, which was approximately 1500 feet. In either event, a very large area of the city will be affected by new parking restrictions necessary to make the garage work.

3) “Can we pay for it?” – The major part of the plan to pay for the garage is to raise parking rates from $.50 to $1.00/hour. This would raise approximately an estimated $250,000.00 in parking revenue if the parking demand remains constant. We have been given projections for the next 10 years, but they make numerous assumptions that may, or may not, come to fruition. As the parking garage is the only variable we can control, and the parking garage is not a trip generator, the conservative approach is to make this decision assuming parking remains the same. Everything else is just a guess, and I do not want to spend the public’s money that way. It has also been argued that we have excess funds ($261,920.00 last year) from the parking program each year to go to overruns and losses, but that money currently goes to downtown improvements, so a loss of that money to fund the garage would mean the parking garage was not a success.

4) “Is this the right location?” – I believe this is the second best location for a parking garage, behind Green Street. I also do not believe it is a location of sufficient size or proximity to address all of our future parking needs. We have several areas of the downtown – call them “West”, “Central” and “East” – and this location will only help the first two. “East Downtown”, from State Street to the Tannery, also has parking needs that can not be addressed by a location at this distance. Sinking all of our money into this location, then, would be short-sighted and tie our hands for future needs.

This is also the most intensive use of the Titcomb/Merrimack parcel under our zoning code, with the highest allowable height and no required setbacks. In plain language, it means we can build something that takes up the entire lot right to its edges, and go higher than any other use there. That is a lot to ask of the neighbors, abutters and area of the city. The height for the 244 space garage is also larger than any other structure in the area, and does not fit into the historical character of that part of the city. Putting so much money into such a small spot, which provides no room to expand horizontally, also neglects the parking needs of other parts of the city east of State Street.

To me, the fact that the Green Street lot is always the first lot to be filled attests to the desirability of the location for businesses and customers, it has the most room for future expansion and is surrounded by buildings of significant height. However, we have been told that we are in danger of losing the $2,000,000.00 in Federal funds, which I verified at a public meeting with the representative of the MVRTA, if we do not authorize $630,000.00 for final design by March 31, 2016. To that end, I am unable to further explore the design of a similar-sized garage at Green Street.

The city council is being asked to put the cart before the horse on this matter, in voting on $630,000 for final design before, among other things, we have the information from the 30% preliminary design, any binding vote from the NRA on removing spaces from the waterfront, and an initial plan for parking restrictions, vetted by the public who will be affected. However, the prospect of losing $2,000,000.00 in Federal funds means a “no” vote on the final design funds would also lose the Federal money that, in my mind, are essential for me to even consider the project.

I did not create the problem with this deadline: it has been 6 years since the city council and Mayor voted on the Titcomb street site, and the preliminary design was halted several months before I was elected. However, it is solely based on the prospect of losing the Federal funds, that I, along with Councilors Cronin and Zaid, have proposed a vote to approve the $630,000.00 for final design of a 204 space parking garage. The height of the 204 space is almost 6 feet lower than the 244 proposal and 10.5 feet lower at the elevator tower, and the scale and massing of the 204 space garage is more in-line with the historical architecture of that part of the city. The $3,600,000.00 bond also gives us the most margin for error in case the garage is not financially as successful as we all hope, and flexibility in pricing, parking restrictions and addressing future parking needs in other parts of the city. Most importantly, it will allow us to make a significant reduction of at least 100 parking spots from the NRA lots.

The initial proposal for the garage would have cost a total of $16,000,000.00, with $9,000,000.00 coming from the city. Our proposal achieves two major goals, the building of a centralized parking structure to serve the western part of the downtown and the removal of parking from the waterfront lots. It does so at the most minimal investment to the city, giving us a sizable structure for approximately .33 cents on the dollar. It also allows us to take advantage of the $2,000,000.00 in Federal funds, despite the inadequate time given us to fully vet this particular project.

Please feel free to give me and the other councilors your thoughts and questions on this proposal. Thank you.

Joe”

To contact Joe Devlin please see his Facebook Page.

Proposed Newburyport Parking Garage footprint

Proposed Newburyport Parking Garage footprint

 

VOTE — Tuesday, March 1, 2016 — the Presidential Primary

Where to Vote

Where to Vote

Don’t forget to VOTE next Tuesday, March 1, 2016  in the presidential primary. This is a great link that tells you where to go and what the ballot will look like, whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, United-Independent or Green-Rainbow party member.

Walk Newburyport, If This House Could Talk, a Brilliant Idea to tell Newburyport’s Story

I love, love, love the idea that Jack Santos has come up with, it is so cool!  During this year’s Yankee Homecoming folks in Newburyport can take a pasteboard and a marker and write a story about their home (historic or current), and then hang it out in front of their house for the week. You can read more about it here on Walk Newburyport, if this House could Talk.

It is a simple and brilliant idea.  A phenomenal way to engage everyone in Newburyport’s story, especially the historic district — an idea that that brings people in the city together.

An example of a sign for Walk Newburyport, If This House Could Talk

An example of a sign for Walk Newburyport, If This House Could Talk

I contacted Jack and said that my house was built in 1958, and would that count.

And he wrote back, “Absolutely! could be stories about the house, the family that lives there, anything is fair game, doesn’t have to be historic house related (although I suspect for Newburyport many will be).”

God bless Jack Santos.

And what is so unusual about this idea, is that old or new in Newburyport, every home matters. This is inclusive, not exclusive.  And it’s an idea that’s about people, not just architecture, and I think that’s why the idea has practically gone viral over night.

An example of a sign for Walk Newburyport, If This House Could Talk

An example of a sign for Walk Newburyport, If This House Could Talk

One of the things that I hear about historic preservation is that often wood seems more important than people. Sometimes I think that there is some truth to this. But this idea is all about people and the amazing community that we all live in.

An example of a sign for Walk Newburyport, If This House Could Talk

An example of a sign for Walk Newburyport, If This House Could Talk

And one of my concerns is that the recent “advocacy” that is now happening by historic preservationists in Newburyport is often perceived as rigid, strident and shrill, the very thing that I would like to avoid, and one that I feel is alienating a younger generation, the very generation that Newburyport needs to carry on its story. Jack Santos is taking an absolutely different inclusive approach with Walk Newburyport, if this House could Talk and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

The images are courtesy of Walk Newburyport, if this House could Talk www.walknewburyport.com.

An Amendment to the 40R Smart Growth District that Would Make it Pedestrian Friendly Sooner Rather than Later

I am relieved.

One of my many concerns about Newburyport’s 40R Smart Growth District (SGD) around the Traffic Circle is that the goal is to make the area pedestrian friendly, and it is one of the most dangerous, if not the most dangerous area for any pedestrian in the city. There is no safe way to get from State Street over to the Train Station or visa versa.  There were some vague  promises that the area would be addressed, but there was never anything ever from MassDOT saying, yup, this is exactly what we are planning to do to remedy the situation and this is when we are going to do it.

Area in the Proposed Amendment to the 40R Smart Growth District

Area in the Proposed Amendment to the 40R Smart Growth District

Along comes Newburyport City Councilor Jared Eigerman with a proposed amendment, to temporarily put on hold a small area of the 40R SGD, to encourage the state to come to the table and improve that area of Rt. 1 so that it is finally SAFE.  Yeah!! I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this from Councilor Eigerman, along with the co-sponsor of the amendment, City Councilor Bob Cronin.

There are a couple of maps in this post that outlines the parcels/area in question.

And there is absolutely no reason not to do this.

1) This would not affect anyone’s property rights, as I understand it, the old zoning in that smaller area would apply, until the state made sure it was safe to get to the Train Station from that small but crucial area, and then the 40R zoning would kick back in.

2) It would not affect affordable housing, the 40R still has a bundle of space to build in, until this particular issue is addressed, and then it would be safe to get from the Train Station to State Street, so that it would then actually make some sense to build more housing units on State Street, because it would then be pedestrian friendly.

3) It would not jeopardize the 40R Smart Growth District in any way.

4) And this concept came from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, so why in the world would the state not want to step up to the plate sooner rather than later, to make this whole area, their concept, happen in the way that it was intended.

Area in the Proposed Amendment to the 40R Smart Growth District

Area in the Proposed Amendment to the 40R Smart Growth District

I wrote all of my Newburyport City Councilors and Mayor Holaday expressing my enthusiasm for this proposal, and except for a few responses, it’s been “radio silence,” which concerns me.

Below is the amendment drafted by Councilor Eigerman that went before the City Council and is now in committee.

“4. Intersection of State and Parker Streets. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Zoning Ordinance, until such time as the City’s Director of Public Services certifies to the City Council that U.S Route 1 has been rebuilt, reconfigured, retrofitted, or otherwise improved to ensure safe pedestrian access across U.S. Route 1 within the SGD and south of Parker Street, development of a Project pursuant to this Section shall not permitted at any of the following parcels located near the intersection of State Street and Parker Street: Parcel 34-5 (165 State Street); Parcel 34-6 (3 Parker Street); Parcel 34-9-A (4 Parker Street); Parcel 34-11 (163-165 State Street); Parcel 34-12 (161 State Street); and Parcel 34-13 (151-155 State Street).”

The different parcels are marked on the maps.

Is it possible for historic preservation to have gray areas? Not to be absolutely black and white?

Is it possible for historic preservation to have gray areas?  Not to be absolutely black and white?

The subject here is windows.

I’ve lived in old houses, and quite frankly old windows, in the houses I’ve lived in, were hard to get up and down. But the joy of looking through old pane wavy glass windows is remarkable. I’ve seen friends who did a beautiful restoration and put in new windows, their delight when they showed me how easy they were to put up and down was palatable.

When I talk to historic preservationists, the impression I often get is that keeping old windows is the only way to go. I found this article on the web, a website for old houses, and it discusses the pros and cons of keeping old windows.  And remarkably it is nonjudgmental.  It is one of the best and most balanced articles that I’ve ever read.

Window with pansies, digital image © Mary Baker

Window with pansies, digital image © Mary Baker

Restore or Replace? The Options for Old Windows

Many old homes boast their original wood windows, and in some cases, the architectural detail is magnificent. Unfortunately, the older the windows are, the less likely they are energy-efficient. Upgrading the windows means either restoring them to their original condition or opting for replacement windows.

Window Replacement or Restoration?

Deciding between window replacement and window restoration can be a tough choice. Study the pros and cons of each option before you make a decision.

Replacement Windows

•    Replacement windows can be well-insulated, cutting down on energy costs and noise.
•    You can open the windows with minimal effort, and they stay open, unlike old windows with no springs or pulley systems.
•    You can replicate the architectural designs of old windows, although extensive designs might become a bit pricey.
•    Efficient, thorough weather stripping is a given on new replacement windows.
•    You can install replacement windows quickly, which leads to less disruption for those who live there.
•    Removing the existing windows can damage the surrounding wallboards, stucco, or plaster and can lead to expensive repairs.
•    Replacement windows with pulley systems, bubbled glass, and other historic details necessitate a custom order and can become very expensive.
•    If you are seeking a landmark or historic designation, reviews of the window replacement details can take quite a bit of time, and might hold up the work schedule.

Window Restoration

•    The original materials and design are preserved.
•    Most historic windows were built of durable wood taken from large trees, and in some cases, those woods are now extremely rare–some species have died out or are not plentiful enough for new construction.
•    Any damage to the surrounding area during a restoration is minimal, and usually only cosmetic.
•    Unique, beautiful original glass details can be left undisturbed.
•    If the windows are in good shape to begin with, restoration might be surprisingly affordable.
•    If the historic windows are single-pane, simply restoring them provides no significant energy savings.
•    Restoration can take a great deal of time.
•    Old windows are often painted with lead paint and require costly, specialized removal.

Doing it Right

Professional installation for replacement windows is a must to ensure the full value of energy-efficient upgrades. If you choose to restore the windows instead, restoration professionals can make certain your windows are as secure and energy-efficient as possible while maintaining all the unique features so important to a historic home.

Whether you choose to replace or restore the beautiful windows in your old home, hire a professional to get the job done right!

About the Author
Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

77 Lime Street

77 Lime Street, a before and after comparison

77 Lime Street from Prospect Street, a before and after comparison (the before photograph is from Google maps)

The rancor over the renovation on 77 Lime Street mystifies me.

This is the deliberation from the ZBA meeting in June of 2014:

Mr. Ciampitti commented on the thorough and detailed presentation. He agreed that it is rare to see a historic structure renovation with a reduction in massing and scale. The proposed alteration will exacerbate non-conformities and increases open space. This is hard to do! He was prepared to support.

Mr. LaBay agreed. He commented that there were no neighbors appearing in opposition. Both Mr. Harris and Ms. Niketic noted the sensitivity of the owner to historic structures.

Mr. Pennington agreed. The presentation was well articulated. His only concern coming in was intense massing, and that was not the case. It will be a successful project in the way in the addition is distinct and not to be confused with the original historic structure. He was prepared to support.

A year later, a member of the ZBA had this to say:

Mr. LaBay was pained to have to say that this was not what he thought we were approving a year ago.

And someone speaking at that meeting had was, “angered and saddened driving by this rehab.”

I think for this particular project it was one of expectations.  The historic preservationists in town expected the renovation to be done a certain way, it was not done the way that they had expected.  It was done differently. There has been a renovation of a house on High Street that was done exactly the same way, the expectations of historic preservationists were “low,” I think, and I’ve heard good to great things about the results.

And as a btw, one of the many things that historic preservationists are upset about is that the windows on the third floor are not the original size. I asked, and that is because, if a renovation exceeds a certain percentage, code kicks in, and modern code calls for larger windows, that is why larger windows are on the third floor. And the windows are painted black instead of white (which is the new “thing” for windows), and I think the black color makes them look larger, although (and I asked), except for the third floor, they are exacly the same size.

I’ve put a side by side comparison of the before and after comparisons of 77 Lime Street from Prospsect Street, and I am by no means horrified by the results.

77 LIme from Lime Street, compare before and after

77 LIme from Lime Street, compare before and after, before image is from Google Maps

Editor’s Note: And I’ve just included the before and after comparisons of 77 Lime Street from Lime Street. The before image is from Google Maps.

And I’ve known Gus Harrington and his wife Sue for over 30 years.  Among other things Gus works at Historic New England, previously known as the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA).  Gus is the owner of 77 Lime Street and I’ve talked to him a great deal on my daily walks. I live in the neighborhood and take a walk through Newburyport’s South End every day, and 77 Lime Street is on my “route.”  I have been constantly curious about this project and try and ask questions and have a dialogue about the process. And because I know and trust Gus, maybe I’ve been more open minded.  I think an ongoing dialogue and “listening” on any project is important for community harmony, something that I strive for and is often difficult and at times down right impossible to achieve.  But we are a community, and I would much rather have constructive dialogue and an effort to problem-solve than community animosity.

Historic Preservation was once Revolutionary, Elegant and Sexy

Yup, historic preservation was once revolutionary, elegant and sexy.

When The National Historic Preservation Act was passed in 1966 (see previous post) it was revolutionary.  Historic preservation became the means of reclaiming America from the onslaught of bulldozers, reclaiming its past. Fighting the demolition of Urban Renewal became a noble and heroic act.

“We do not use bombs to destroy irreplaceable structures related to the story of America’s civilization. We use the corrosion of neglect or the thrust of bulldozers… Connections between successive generations of Americans are broken by demolition. Sources of memory cease to exist.” – Albert Rains, who helped prompt the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966

And then there was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who when she was first lady, restored the White House to its former glory and saved Washington’s Lafayette Square from being replaced by ugly government office buildings in the early 1960s.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

And in 1975 Mrs Onassis stepped up to the plate and helped save Grand Central Station, a  symbol of old Manhattan, a city that her grandfather had helped build.

At a press conference for Grand Central Terminal she said, “If we don’t care about our past we can’t have very much hope for our future. We’ve all heard that it’s too late, or that it has to happen, that it’s inevitable. But I don’t think that’s true. Because I think if there is a great effort, even if it’s the eleventh hour, then you can succeed and I know that’s what we’ll do.”

Grand Central Station, NYC

Grand Central Station, NYC

And writing to the mayor of  New York City she penned, “Dear Mayor Beame…is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud moments, until there is nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters…”

Grand Central Terminal was saved.

The wonderful article that can be read here, describes her efforts as “subtle, genuine and classy.”

And we in Newburyport look back at the people who saved our downtown Newburyport in 1968 as heroes.

Restoring downtown Newburyport, from "A Measure of Change"

Restoring downtown Newburyport, from “A Measure of Change”

For years I’ve heard historic preservationists referred to as the “hysterical committee,” or some variation thereof (and recently I asked a person who used this term if it only applied to people in Newburyport, and what they said is, “No, preservationists all over Massachusetts are called that.”)  Somewhere along the way, historic preservationist went from being precieved as heroic and revolutionary, to being thought of as fussy and a nuisance, and quite frankly today, they/we are often on the defense, often losing, instead of on the offense and being identified as revolutionary and heroic.

Restoring downtown Newburyport, from "A Measure of Change"

Restoring downtown Newburyport, from “A Measure of Change”

(The photos of restoring downtown Newburypor are from the video, “A Measure of Change“)

In re-evaluating where historic preservation is in the 50th year of the passing of the The National Historic Preservation Act,  somehow historic preservationists need to get their Mojo back. We need a present day Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, on the local and federal level.  It sometimes feels as if we are right back in 1975 when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wrote, “Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters…”

Truman Nelson, Newburyport, Historic Preservation, a Lost Story

On one of the Facebook Newburyport groups Dick Sullivan (former City Councilor and mayoral candidate) mentioned that Truman Nelson had played a big part in the restoration of Newburyport during Urban Renewal.

My response was that I did not have a clue who Truman Nelson was.  Another member of the group said that he was on the video about Newburyport, “A Measure of Change.”

Truman Nelson from "A Measure of Change"

Truman Nelson from “A Measure of Change”

This is Truman Nelson, the photo is from “A Measure of Change.” I’ve seen that video a ton of times and had never questioned who in the world he was.

And it’s hard to find out information on Truman Nelson.  Going to Salem Deeds Online, Mr. Nelson owned 2 homes in Newburyport on Olive Street, 23 Olive and 15-17 Olive, both bought back in 1966, before Urban Renewal.  Dick Sullivan remembers Mr. Nelson’s family at 23 Olive and Tom Kolterjahn remembers going to Mr. Nelson’s house at 15-17 Olive to talk about how to renovate the old homes in Newburyport that people were working on.

23 Olive Street, Newburyport, MA

23 Olive Street, Newburyport, MA, Google Maps

23 Olive Street is described as, “One of the oldest homes in Newburyport; built 1699. Five working fireplaces,wide pine board floors, gunstock corners, beautiful moldings and trim. Full bath up half bath down.” The information is from Zillow.

15-17 Olive Street, Newburyport MA

15-17 Olive Street, Newburyport MA, Google Maps

15-17 Olive Street is the John Burrill House, c 1790, There is a write up on the Massachusetts Historic Commission, as well as on the Historic Surveys on the City of Newburyport’s website.

And in my hunt to find out exactly who Truman Nelson was, I found this writeup on Amazon, The Truman Nelson Reader:

“Truman Nelson (1911-1987) was a self-educated novelist, essayist, lecturer, and social activist. He never finished high school and supported himself in his early years as a factory worker, labor organizer, actor, and playwright. Encouraged by F. O. Matthiessen, he turned to writing and in 1952 published his first historical novel, The Sin of the Prophet, a study of Theodore Parker and the Anthony Burns case. That book earned him his picture on the cover of Saturday Review and designation as the magazine’s “Writer of the Year.” Two novels soon followed: The Passion by the Brook (1953), on George Ripley and the communal movement at Brook Farm, and The Surveyor (1960), on John Brown’s abolition efforts in Kansas. These three novels established Nelson as a major writer on the history of American radical thought. His later essays and polemical writings were influential in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when Nelson traveled, taught, lectured, and acted in the front lines of the struggle for racial equality.

In recent years, Nelson has been neglected by scholars, critics, and the general public, and many of his writings have been allowed to go out of print. The Truman Nelson Reader is intended to restore his voice and to prompt a reevaluation of his work. The collection brings together excerpts from Nelson’s published novels, selected essays, and a portion of his last, as yet unpublished, novel on John Humphrey Noyes, founder of the Oneida Colony. Also included are essays on William Lloyd Garrison, Henry David Thoreau, John Brown, and W.E.B. Du Bois, as well as selections from the 1960s: “The Torture of Mothers,” written after the first Harlem riots; “The Right of Revolution,” reportedly found on Ho Chi Minh’s desk at the time of his death; and “The Conscience of the North,” a meditation on Theodore Parker’s meaning for the civil rights movement.”

The Truman Nelson Reader

The Truman Nelson Reader

And I found this reference to Truman Nelson on Martin Nicolaus’s website, where he refers to Mr. Nelson’s preserving his colonial-era home in Newburyport:

“One of the speakers at the Town Hall rally after the Cuba trip was Truman Nelson. He was a high school dropout who worked in General Electric factories until he was 40, but meanwhile educated himself during long hours in public libraries and began writing fiction. His first book, The Sin of the Prophet, was published by Little, Brown; it told the story of the abolitionist intellectual Theodore Parker. When I met him, Nelson had recently finished The Surveyor, a novel about John Brown and the Harper’s Ferry raid. He was fiercely interested in Cuba and was a strong supporter of Robert F. Williams. He had just bought a colonial-era house in Newburyport, a short drive from Boston, and was busy removing generations of old paint to reveal the beautiful old woodwork underneath.”