Definition of Patina:
“A surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use.” Merriam-Webster
If you ever watch anything on TV that has to do with old stuff, from the tonier PBS “Antiques Road Show,” to the newer “Pawn Stars” on the History Channel, something old would be brought in, and if it has been refinished, and the original finish has been removed, whether it’s an old gun, a coin or an old piece of furniture, the value of that piece, whatever it might be, would be greatly, greatly diminished.
Same thing with small historic seacoast New England cities, i.e. Newburyport.
When I moved her over 30 years ago, Newburyport had a whole lot of soul and patina. I loved walking down the street and feel the stories behind the homes that I would walk past.
Lately, I’ve heard people use the word “slummy,” even for existing parts of Newburyport. Yes, really - “slummy.”
Slummy seems to be the new word for anything that hasn’t been torn down, or torn apart and is looking shiny and new.
What I would call “patina” in Newburyport, is now being rebranded as “slummy.”
An historic home, one that is 75 years old, or in Newburyport’s case much, much older, that has been lovingly restored, retains its soul, its patina. An historic property in Newburyport that has been torn down, or ripped apart so that almost nothing exists, that property, has not only lost its patina, its soul is gone as well, and in my mind, no offense or anything, so has its value, in this particular place, Newburyport, Massachusetts.
A home that has been decimated here and there in Newburyport, Newburyport’s soul and patina still exists. Keep adding to those homes that have been decimated and the soul of the city gradually disappears, and nope, it cannot be regained.
There are many keepers of the Newburyport’s soul in this city. And one of those entities that are entrusted with its soul is our Historical Commission (not the Historical Society, two completely different entities).
And back, quite a while ago, when things were really beginning to be decimated, the city, the Historical Commission and the Newburyport City Council, put Newburyport’s Demo Delay in place. It was a way to get people to stop for a little while, have a discussion about their small piece of the soul of the city. And the Historical Commission could enact a time period, at the moment it is one year, to delay demolition, and to explore options, and hopefully retain that part of the city’s soul. Or not, the owner or developer could tear down the structure at the end of the demo delay, if they chose to, and at that time the city’s building inspector would issue the appropriate permits.
What is so destructive about the new Demo Delay Ordinance proposed by City Councilor Bob Cronin, and co-sponsored by City Councilor Dick Sullivan, who is also running for mayor, is that the ordinance focuses on structural choices, giving the building inspector say over what gets demolished, and what does not. The proposed ordinance does not focus on the soul of the city. And that soul, that patina, is why so many of us come to Newburyport to live, visit, work and play.