Monthly Archives: January 2007

Newburyport, Tawdry Exploitation

Readers of the Newburyport Political Blog have asked me why I have introduced Georgiana Tadpole and that picture of a love-struck George Cushing.

The question to this editor of the Newburyport Political Blog, “Is their love life really anybody’s business?”

Well, to be frank, sex sells.

Don’t worry, the editor, namely moi, will keep it clean. No “sleazy” photographs of George and Georgiana, a la Paris Hilton (I mean, how many “hits” do her sites get? A lot. It’s tempting. But, no, I won’t go there.) And, hey, they’re frogs, so they are already naked. Right? So not to worry on that one.

“Romance” sells. What can I say, crass commercialism can seep into anything at anytime. Tough luck folks. This is America.

And “gossip” sells. Good grief. Got to give folks something to “gossip” about. Can’t gossip about the “environment.” What fun is there in that?

People can gossip away about George and Georgiana’s “relationship.” I don’t care. And if the “cute couple” doesn’t like it they can leave the Newburyport Political Blog. THEY are the ones who got “love-struck” for goodness sakes. And they expect me NOT to exploit that? Please.

Plus having this tawdry thing going on with FROGS, no less, makes me, the editor of the Newburyport Political Blog, seem rare and important. So there.

So for the readers of the Newburyport Political Blog who are offended by my tawdry exploitations of the frogs that are hormonally hopping around here, well tough luck. Either stop reading the Newburyport Political Blog or just skip those posts, for goodness sakes.

(And if you have no idea what in the world I could possibly be talking about, please read “About George.” The link is on the “Home” page at the side of the Newburyport Political Blog.)

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Historic Heritage, Historic Assets

When perusing through the Newburyport Public Library photo archives online, I found these wonderful photographs of downtown Newburyport, MA.

This first one is taken from the Customs House and is looking down at Market Square and then the skyline, I believe, is towards the West. There are 5 Church steeples. I know what 3 of the steeples are, but I don’t know the other 2. I also do not know the date of this photograph.

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Downtown Newburyport from the Customs House
Market Square
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
at the Newburyport Public Library

This second photograph is looking (I believe) up the Merrimac River towards Amesbury. It does give an idea of how much of downtown Newburyport was lost during the demolition of downtown Newburyport, MA in the late 60′s, 1970 (I’m not sure of the exact dates.) My guess would be that this photograph was taken sometime during the 1930′s, but I do not know for sure.

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Downtown Newburyport, MA
Looking up the Merrimac River
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
at the Newburyport Public Library

And this third photograph is of Newburyport’s waterfront harbor. The Old South Church is at the very right of the skyline, so I would imagine that this photograph is looking across the South End towards Plum Island. I have no idea what date this might be, with the ships and all, but I think the picture gives a fascinating look into our historic heritage.

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Newburyport Waterfront Harbor
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
at the Newburyport Public Library

And we have an historic heritage. Please, let us not squander what little we have left of it now.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Historic Assets Lost

I had seen these photographs before, but had never been able to find them again. And they were right under my nose, online, on the website of the City of Newburyport, under the Newburyport Public Library, photo archives.

The pictures I was looking for were those of Newburyport’s historic High Street that were taken right before Route 1 went in and all those houses on High Street were destroyed in (I believe) 1934.

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High Street between Summer Street and Winter Street
Area destroyed for Route 1
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
at the Newburyport Public Library

This next photograph I believe was taken a little later. It is also the area of High Street between Winter and Summer Streets, historic assets that were lost and that can never be replaced.

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High Street between Summer Street and Winter Street
Area destroyed for Route 1
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
at the Newburyport Public Library

And I also found this photograph in the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center of that neighborhood after the destruction. The photograph is of the bridge being build between Winter and Summer Street.

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Bridge being built between Summer and Winter Street
For Route 1
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
at the Newburyport Public Library

For me that is a devastating photograph, especially knowing now what would have been there. And when one looks at the automobiles in the photograph above (although, yes, I know things have slightly changed, for goodness sakes) one wonders if the loss of all those neighborhoods, family homes, historic assets was worth it. It feels like part of the soul of Newburyport, MA was slashed away.

We are still losing our historic assets in Newburyport’s Historic District. It’s just not quite as obvious, dramatic or shocking.

And as a community, not just the 15% (maybe) ( and if you are reading the Newburyport Political Blog, you are probably part of that 15%) that pay attention, do we care? And how do we get the other 85% to look around and think about what is happening now in Newburyport, MA?

Unless something is happening in someone’s backyard, most people in Newburyport, MA are “asleep at the wheel,” so to speak. How do we wake up the rest of the residents of Newburyport, MA from their vapid stupor?

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, George Washington Statue

Way back a year ago, January 27, 2006, I wrote this as part of a post for the Newburyport Political Blog:

“Todd Woodworth, one of Newburyport’s beloved local historians, told me a fascinating story. Now, because Todd Woodworth told it to me, I believe it is true. (I’ll admit, I haven’t double and triple checked it with Todd.)

Todd Woodworth told me a story about the statue of George Washington that is at the Newburyport Mall (which for those of you who have never been to Newburyport, is on historic High Street above Newburyport’s historic downtown.)

Apparently after completing the statue of George Washington, the artist was so upset with the people of Newburyport that he put his own name below the statue on the marble pedestal instead of George Washington’s name.

According to my conversation with Todd, it took the Newburyport Historical Commission 50 years to get the City of Newburyport to change the name from the artist and put George Washington’s name below the statue instead.”

Many readers of the Newburyport Political Blog thought that this was a fascinating story, but that it was probably an “urban legend.”

In my experience, Todd Woodworth was never one to make things up (especially historic things up).

And low and behold in the Newburyport Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library (the Newburyport Archival Center is also online on the city’s website- really amazing stuff) there is an old photograph of the statue of George Washington (I do not know what year it is.)

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Statue of George Washington
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
at the Newburyport Public Library

One of the interesting things about this photo is that it looks like the statue is connected to the promenade of the Bartlet Mall, just the way (I believe) the promenade was originally designed. (There is now a small strip of roadway separating the statue of George Washington and the rest of the Bartlet Mall.)

And in “zooming in” on the name below the statue of George Washington at the Bartlet Mall, this is what I saw.

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The inscription below
the statue of George Washington.
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
at the Newburyport Public Library

Not the name of (George) “Washington” folks. It looks to me to be something like, “Presented by Daniel I. Tenney.”

I wanted to run over and tell Todd Woodworth what I had found. But of course Todd would have known all about the Newburyport Public Library Photo Archives and for that matter ever other photo archive in the city of Newburyport and the surrounding areas.

But Todd Woodworth would never have said that. Instead he would have just smiled and had that wonderful Todd Woodworth “twinkle” in his warm and very wise eyes.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Wisdom, Our Schools

Our new superintendent of the Newburyport school system, Kevin Lyons appears to me as someone who is “wise.”

I’ve never met the man, I’ve just read the papers and heard people speak of him, but he strikes me as a “wise” man.

It’s my own opinion that “wisdom” is a much overlooked quality in our society today and to find it in a leader is rare.

I toddled off to Google (I know, Google might not be equated with “wisdom”) for a definition of “wisdom” and these are a few of the things that I found.

1) “Having experience, knowledge and understanding together with the power of applying all three with prudence, practicality, discretion and common sense;”

2) ” “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things” (Henry David Thoreau).”

3) “Knowledge with information so thoroughly assimilated as to have produced sagacity, judgment, and insight.”

Wisdom requires experience and yes, time. It is why the young are rarely “wise.” They are many, many other things , thank goodness, but “wise,” is rare.

And it is not enough to have knowledge, it is the application and assimilation of that knowledge that produces “wisdom.”

And it is my experience that “wise” people are often “trusted” people. And it is my impression is that Superintendent Kevin Lyons is already “trusted” by many who have come in contact with him.

Not something to be sneezed at.

One of the dilemmas I see in Newburyport, MA, is that young families feel pitted against the community, and that there is a great deal of resentment towards the young families because of the possibility of raised taxes for all sorts of things, including a huge proposed elementary school building extravaganza.

But Mr. Lyons appears to be “wise,” using his experience to defuse that growing tension and applying his knowledge to better teaching and innate problem solving within (at least at this point) the existing educational structure. Showing, in my mind, incredible “wisdom.”

May this man continue to be the “gem” that he appears to be. “Wise gems,” in my experience, are often few and far between.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Winter Carnival

George is a wuss.

George Cushing, from Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, the political consultant to the Newburyport Political Blog is a wuss.

George Cushing will not go to the Winter Carnival, this Saturday January 27, 2006, sponsored by the Newburyport Park’s Commission, which will be held yes, you guessed it, at FROG POND at the Bartlet Mall (on High Street from 10AM to 4:30PM.)

And why George, are you being a wuss?

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George Cushing being a wuss

Because it’s cold?? The whole point is that it is cold, for goodness sakes. Frog Pond is frozen over so that people can skate.

(I’ve even tried wrapping George Cushing in a scarf, so he won’t be cold. But, no, that won’t do. He doesn’t like any of the scarfs. None of the colors work for him or they’re too scratchy??)

You want to stay here because it’s nice and toasty warm?? But George, this is your beloved Frog Pond. Right?

All your friends and relatives at Frog Pond are estivating?? Oh, good grief, George, what is “estivating?”

Estivating is what I would call hibernating? All your friends and relatives will be hanging around below at the mud at Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, so that you won’t have any frogs to frog-on with?

Ok, I give up. You can “estivate” at the Newburyport Political Blog and stay snuggy warm. Happy?

However, just because George Cushing has decided to “estivate” and not go to his beloved Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, doesn’t mean that everyone else can’t have a great time at the Winter Canrnival.

The Winter Carnival
Sponsored by the Newburyport Parks Commission
The Bartlet Mall
High Street (near CVS)
10:30AM to 4:30PM
Lots of fun, skating, hay rides, sledding and snowboarding (if there is snow,) games, races and free hot chocolate (courtesy of the White Hen Pantry) to keep everyone toasty warm.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Engineer Looking Over Wheelwright Property

Georgiana Tadpole, George Cushing’s new “love interest,” spotted a snippet in the Newburyport Daily News, January 22, 2007 on page A3.

(George Cushing is the Political Consultant for the Newburyport Political Blog. If you would like to know more about George Cushing please see “About George” at the right hand side of the blog’s “Home” page. A very handsome picture of George, if I do say so myself. And George Cushing is quite pleased about it as well.)

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Georgiana Tadpole
George Cushing’s “love interest”

The Newburyport Planning Board (a subcommittee, Jim McCarthy, Bonnie Sontag and Dan Bowie) and Newburyport’s Planning Director, Nancy Colbert met Friday January 19, 2007 with an independent engineer (Phil Christiansen) to go over the plans for the back of the Wheelwright property subdivision proposed by developer Todd Fremont-Smith.

This is in part because of the concerns voiced by residents of Newburyport, MA. And the independent engineer is “to raise concerns about particular aspects of the development.” (See it pays to show up and speak out. How about that.)

” “Christiansen will look into the board’s concerns to help it decide whether to approve the development.

“This is a tough site,” he (Christiansen) said.”

In fact Mr. Christiansen has been asked to make a whole list of concerns, no less, for the Newburyport Planning Board to consider.

I do like that. Good for Georgiana for spotting that one.

(Georgiana is hoping that the engineer can ward off this hideous proposal.)

Georgiana also pointed out another project. (It has been mentioned before on the Newburyport Political Blog, but what the heck, it’s definitely worth mentioning again.)

Georgiana is particularly concerned about this project because it would abut the March’s Hill park, where in the spring, in particular, she likes to “splash” around with I guess other frogs??

The lot at 39 High Street is being divided. This is the house with the tennis court up near the Newbury line. A new house will be built (all legal and everything) in the new split-off lot.

Poor old High Street. The old Grand Dame is taking quite a beating. Not to mention all that beautiful open space all around her gorgeous, gorgeous self.

Sigh.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Plight of the Political Consultant

Forget about all this planning stuff, this wailing and gnashing of teeth about the proposed subdivision at the back of the Wheelwright Property by Todd Fremont-Smith.

Let’s talk about something really important–George’s love life.

You see, George Cushing of Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, the political consultant for the Newburyport Political Blog has fallen, yup, you guessed it, in love.

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A love-struck George Cushing

As you can see from the above picture of George Cushing with, yes, that’s right, a heart around his neck, George Cushing is love-struck.

This is all I need. A bunch of love-struck, hormonal frogs around the Newburyport Political Blog. Good grief.

Anyway, the “Twins” G. C. Cushing and C. G. Cushing of Frog Pond at the Bartlett Mall are gleeful.

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The “Twins” being gleeful

Well, first of all they think it’s “neat-o’ ” that George Cushing has a “girl- frog- friend.” However, I think the Twins have an ulterior motive here. I think they are hoping George Cushing is so love struck that he will be useless as a political consultant for the Newburyport Political Blog. And then they, the “Twins,” will go from “aspiring” consultants to actual political consultants.

Oh, the drama.

No such luck kids. I’m not that stupid.

So here’s George’s new love, Georgiana Tadpole.

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George’s new “love,”
Georgiana Tadpole

(Kind of fuzzy for a frog. Looks an awful lot like George’s cousin, Georgette Cushing. Remember her?? Oh dear.)

Georgiana claims to be from the “Vernal Pool” at the back of the Wheelwright house. (This has not been verified.) That’s how they claim they met, over this whole Todd Fremont-Smith fiasco. (Who knows if that’s actually true.)

Georgiana asserts that her “swanky” address is about to be compromised by this nifty subdivision of Mr. Fremont-Smith’s. (Can’t argue with her there.) Apparently Georgiana is an “activist frog.” Who knew that such a thing as “activist frogs” even existed. Not moi.

Georgiana Tadpole (Tadpole??) also feels that her address is “swankier” than George Cushing’s address, i.e. Frog Pond. (Very bad way to start a relationship if you ask me. But I’m trying to stay out of this one.)

We’ll have to see where this whole George being love-struck thing goes (if, in fact, it goes anywhere at all.)

A flipped-out, love-struck frog. Lots of “stuff” happening here at the Newburyport Political Blog.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Protecting High Street

In the Library of Congress, there is yet another set of wonderful photographs, this time of the “Pierce-Knapp-Perry House” at 47 High Street.

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Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, Historic American Buildings Survey Frank O. Branzetti, Photographer Nov. 1, 1940.

This is a photograph of that magnificent house taken in 1940.

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Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, Historic American Buildings Survey Frank O. Branzetti, Photographer Nov. 19, 1940.

And this is a photograph of the house entrance and fence also taken in 1940.

And I think this is very cool. Sally Chandler took this beautiful photograph of the same house entrance and fence in 2004 for the book “Gardens of the New Republic.”

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Sally Chandler © 2004
Image courtesy of Historic Gardens of Newburyport

I think that it is a really amazing preservation success story. And what a loss it would be to Newburyport, MA if this house no longer existed.

Ah, protection of High Street, the Grand Dame of Newburyport, so important to the city’s economic welfare.

To quote Ted Nelson on the proposed subdivision by Todd Fremont-Smith at the back of the historic Wheelwright property.

“That someone had the audacity or could be as brazen to put a subdivision at that spot…” Newburyport Current, January 19, 2007.

And this quote from Doug Locy, the chair of the Newburyport Planning Board in today’s Newburyport Daily News, January 22, 2007.

” “I think there is less and less open land available to build on,” … That problem, he added, may lead to more developments like the one planned by Wills Lane Investments LLC, which is planning to put up four homes on a plot of land behind the Wheelwright House, 75 High St.

“I think those parcels that are available for by-right subdivisions, people are going to try to pick up and begin constructing homes,” he said.”

Chilling. At least for this blogger.

So what can we do?

Property owners can follow the lead of Ester Macomber and put a Conservation Restriction on their land–those acres and acres of land behind those historic High Street homes. That is the easiest and quickest fix that I can think of.

Any thing is possible now. Who would have thought that anyone would have been “brazen” enough to build on the historic Wheelwright property?

An overlay to protect the large amount of land in front of those historic High Street homes has already been proposed to the Newburyport City Council. Don’t think it couldn’t happen, because it most certainly could.

And an overlay to protect the acres and acres of land behind the historic High Street homes. What a travesty it would be to have a very possible continuation of the “brazen” subdivision behind the historic Wheelwright property.

We as a city have an enormous amount of historic assets to lose. We can prevent further damage from being done. However, that means continuing to create awareness of this dilemma, as well as having the will to address this very real problem, not just talking and worrying about it, until it is too late.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, A Choice Not Taken, The Wheelwright Property

The Wheelwright property in today’s Newburyport Current, January 19, 2006, an article by Ulrika Gerth.

Apparently two gentleman generously offered the developer of the proposed subdivision at the back of the Wheelwright property–a choice. Ted Nelson and Nathan Felde offered Mr. Todd Fremont Smith a buy-out plan with the intention of donating the land for public use in perpetuity with the idea that Mr. Todd Fremont-Smith could be a hero.

My understanding is that Ted Nelson and Nathan Felde felt that they were negotiating in good faith to the point where they were making plans on how to raise the needed money, offering the chance for Mr. Fremont Smith to be well loved by Newburyport, MA.

It appears that Mr. Todd Fremont-Smith was, unfortunately, not interested. Not a hero, I’m afraid Mr. Smith.

I guess the back of the Wheelwright property, abutting the historic Oak Hill Cemetery will not be one of Newburyport’s preservation success stories. How unfortunate.

Once again, I found these photographs in the Library of Congress.

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The Abraham Wheelwright House, 77 High Street, built in 1810
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, Historic American Buildings Survey Frank O. Branzetti, Photographer November 19, 1940

This is a photograph of 77 High Street, the Abraham Wheelwright House. The William Wheelwright House, 75 High Street, is down the street, next door to the left in this photograph.

What this photograph does, I think, is give an understanding of the majestic quality of the houses on historic High Street. And how important it is to Newburyport, MA to retain that majestic quality.

And yes, indeed, right next to the Abraham Wheelwright House you can see Wills Lane. I am sure that the Wheelwright family never imagined that Wills Lane would afford the “frontage” for a subdivision by Todd Fremont-Smith to be built in back of their beloved property.

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Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, Historic American Buildings Survey Frank O. Branzetti, Photographer August 19, 1940

And this photograph is in back of 77 High Street looking southwest towards the historic Oak Hill Cemetery.

I think this photograph gives a sense of why the land in back of the High Street houses, often acres and acres, adds to their majestic quality.

Obviously Mr. Todd Fremont-Smith does not think so.

I would imagine that this blogger will start blogging a whole lot more again on the unfortunate circumstance that this stately and imposing land (as well as the residence of Newburyport, MA) sadly finds itself in.

Another Newburyport preservation disaster that had the opportunity of being a resounding Newburyport preservation success.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Demolition, Restoration

On the Library of Congress’ website I found another one of these fantastic photographs. This one is of 8 Summer Street.

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8 Summer Street, Newburyport, MA
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, Arthur C. Haskell, Photographer. June, 1934.

Yup, you guessed it, 8 Summer Street no longer exists. This beautiful home was another house in that neighborhood that was demolished to make way for Route 1.

And I also found this accompanying document from the Library of Congress.

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Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, Historic American Buildings Survey

The document (obviously from the survey) says:

“8 Summer Street, Thibault House, History-Built c. 1815, Demolished June 1934 for Cut Off”

Ah, the price of “progress.”

Chilling.

At least for this blogger.

Ok, I don’t know the back story of this demolition extravaganza, whole Newburyport neighborhoods demolished and destroyed. Restoration did not appear to be on the radar screen.

But, this sorry tale, certainly applies to Newburyport, MA in the year 2007. Do we as a city have regard for the retention and restoration of our historic assets, the “intangibles” that make this town so economically vibrant. Or, are we going to throw our historic and economic assets in the dumpster for today’s quick buck?

And in my mind, our historic assets include things like the acres and acres of land behind (or beside) the stately homes on High Street. Yes, I am thinking of the land that once belonged to the Wheelwright property that abuts the historic Oak Hill Cemetery. Been out of the press for a while.

And apparently there are projects in the works for 30 High Street and 321-323 High Street.

In yesterday’s Newburyport Daily News, January 17, 2007, John and Sandra Welch are requesting a division of their very large lot, 39 High Street (that is the house on historic High Street with the tennis court up by March’s Hill.)

The plan according to the Newburyport Daily News, is that John and Sandra Welch, who are retired, will sell the existing house and then build a new house “within the year” on the remaining 12,078 square feet, which would become 30 High Street. Plenty of room legally for a new dwelling.

Sigh.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Old South Church

Old South Church, on Federal Street, on the corner of School Street, is an ongoing preservation success story.

Ben Laing graciously allowed the Newburyport Political Blog to use this photograph that he had taken of Old South Church.

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Benjamin Laing © 2006
Image courtesy of Benjamin Laing Photography

Old South Church
An Ongoing Newburyport Preservation Success Story!

Many thanks to Benjamin Laing Photography.

Old South Church, one of the quintessential New England churches in Newburyport, MA was built in 1756. The church bell was cast by Paul Revere. The Great Awakening preacher George Whitefield is buried in the church’s crypt.

The steeple of the church, which had guided sailors back to Newburyport, MA was severely damaged by the hurricane of 1938 and in 1949 it was removed and capped with a 105-foot-tall cupola. The rest of the church structure remains in its original state. (The New York Times, May 13, 2006)

Recently, Old South Church discovered, much to its dismay, that the existing steeple was leaning and in need of immediate repair.

The $200,000 plus needed for this very important project came from a combination of private and public funding.

We as a community watched in 2006 as the steeple was lowered, as it was restored and repaired and as it was once again hoisted back to its proper place on Old South Church and Newburyport’s historic cityscape.

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Image courtesy of this blogger, Mary Baker Eaton
Old South Church
An ongoing Newburyport preservation success story!

Old South Church is also one of the few structures in Newburyport, MA that is protected by a preservation restriction, one of the strongest preservation strategies available, setting a great example for the rest of Newburyport, Massachusetts. (Newburyport Reconnaissance Report, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Essex National Heritage Commission, May 2005– which by the way is an incredibly informative and insightful document.)

The restoration of Old South Church is ongoing. Funds are being raised for the much needed restoration and repainting of the outside walls of the building.

For more information on one of Newburyport’s historic gems, please visit the website of Old South Church.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, the Loss of our Historic Assets

The 2 historic documents that I put up on the Newburyport Political Blog from the Library of Congress were such a hit that I thought I would put up a couple of more.

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5 Birch Street, Newburyport, MA
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey. Arthur C. Haskell, Photographer, April, 1934.

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7 Birch Street, Newburyport, MA
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey. Arthur C. Haskell, Photographer, June, 1934.

What I love about these 2 photographs is that they give such a sense of Newburyport’s history. Such a sense of the feel and soul of Newburyport, MA. Even though I moved here in 1981, Newburyport at that time still had the same feel and texture, if you will, that is captured in these 2 historic photographs. Very different from the “glitzy” feel that it is beginning to acquire in the year 2007.

Can you imagine the look of the gentleman’s face in the top photo if he was told that some houses in Newburyport, MA would sell for millions of bucks and that we were so “upscale” that Starbucks had arrived.

One can imagine that the gentleman would have said that was “nuts.” And of course he probably would have said, “Starbucks? What the heck is Starbucks?”

Anyway, I went on a hunt for Birch Street. I finally found it. It is a tiny street between Market Street and Summer Street, near the YWCA, that parallels High Street.

2 and 3 Birch Street exist (that’s as far as the street goes,) but no 5 or 7 Birch Street. The 2 houses in the photographs above no longer exist.

Wow.

So I went back to the Library of Congress and did a little more digging. These photo’s were taken during the Depression (1934). It looks like the photos were part of a survey done at that time concerning the houses that were going to be demolished to put through Route 1, so that traffic would not have to go through downtown Newburyport, MA.

So, it appears that 5 and 7 Birch Street would have been, yes indeed, in the middle of Route. 1.

One can only imagine the upheaval around that massive demolition, although, so far, I have not located any written documentation. (I am sure there is tons of stuff in the Newburyport Public Library archives and many people in town who remember the event.)

As a person who loves old homes, the fact that 5 and 7 Birch Street (not to mention that whole area of town) no longer exists, is chilling and just downright sorrowful. I would call this not a “Newburyport preservation success story,” but a “Newburyport preservation story disaster.”

And just as a reminder, demolition is still a happening thing. Demolition has been happening all over our National Historic District. It just isn’t as dramatic as losing entire neighborhoods to the bulldozer or whatever.

And not to be a broken record here, but to be a broken record here, Newburyport, MA has a few stalling tactics up its sleeve now, but no real protection for our historic assets. And this, in my mind, is chilling and just downright regrettable.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, The Federal Street Overlay

One of the things that really bugs me is the fact that often the Federal Street Overlay District gets a bum-rap. This really pisses me off.

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Image courtesy of Mary Baker Eaton
The Federal Street Overlay
Looking towards the Old South Church,
in back of the Johnson and Bartlett houses

A little history here. The Catholic Church owned the land that is now the Federal Street Overlay District. On that land were/are two very historic homes. The William Johnson house (1777) and the William Bartlett house (1797.)

There were no promises from anyone, the corner office of Newburyport, MA at that time or the Catholic Church, that the Johnson and Bartlett houses would not be destroyed.

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Image courtesy of Mary Baker Eaton
The front of the William Bartlett house

And in 2001 the William Bartlett house and the William Johnson house made it onto Preservation Massachusetts’ “Ten Most Endangered Historic Resource List.”

Today because of the Federal Street Overlay District and the good will of the Catholic Church, the Bartlett and Johnson Houses have been saved and lovingly restored.

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Image courtesy of Mary Baker Eaton
The back of the William Johnson house

The William Bartlett house and the William Johnson house and the Federal Street Overlay District are one of Newburyport’s very proud preservation success stories.

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Image courtesy of Mary Baker Eaton
The back of the William Johnson house
and the Federal Street Overlay from Ship Street

And we as a city owe many, many thanks to all the untold heroes that made this Newburyport preservation success story a reality.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

The Newburyport Bartlet Mall

I remember when the renovation to the Newburyport Bartlet Mall started. To say there was some opposition would be an understatement.

Over the years the original design of the Bartlet Mall had been lost and an arbitrary and unplanned planting plan had gradually taken place. The plantings may have been randomly placed, but the whole thing was “comforting” to many of the populace of Newburyport, MA.

The Master Plan for the Bartlet Mall had been worked on for a very long time, by a whole lot of people, and was finally finished in 1998. Restoration to the Bartlet Mall took place in 2001, 2003 and 2005.

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Sally Chandler © 2004
Image courtesy of Historic Gardens of Newburyport

The Newburyport Barlet Mall
Another Amazing Newburyport Preservation Success Story!

The promenade along High Street, lined with Elms, extends from the George Washington statue at the eastern end to the Kelly School playground on the western side. Special Allee Elms were used in an effort to recreate the historical overarching canopy that originally existed long the promenade.

An historic photograph of how the Bartlet Mall originally looked can be found on the first page of the High Street website.

Benches were installed, as well as period lighting, new granite stairways among many, many other things.

All of this was funded with a public-private partnership. Half of the funding came from state grants and over a quarter of the funding came from private local charitable foundations.

In addition, a new volunteer Bartlet Mall Commission has been established to oversee the park. There is now a paid part-time caretaker, as well as a small endowment to provide small permanent annual funds.

No small accomplishment.

And of course, George Cushing, the political consultant to the Newburyport Political Blog, is delighted that I am finally blogging about his beloved Bartlet Mall, in particular because within it is, yes, Frog Pond, which also has a sculptured cast iron fountain aerating the water and which occupies the center of the pond and park.

A very proud frog.

And much to my delight, I have discovered that there are postcards of Newburyport that are in the public domain. And low and behold there is a postcard of Frog Pond at the Newburyport Bartlet Mall.

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Frog Pond, Bartlet Mall
From a c. 1905 postcard
Image is in the public domain

Many thanks to Geordie Vining of the Newburyport Planning and Development Office who has helped me with the copy of this post (I hope I’ve gotten most of it right!)

Geordie Vining, in my opinion, is one of the unsung heroes of Newburyport, Massachusetts. All the myriad of things that Geordie Vining has done for Newburyport, MA is quite amazing.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, The Firehouse Center for the Arts

One of the things that has always concerned me is that downtown Newburyport, MA is NOT a Local Historic District. Local Historic District–major protection for our historic assets.

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Inn Street looking towards Market Square
Downtown Newburyport, MA
Mary Baker Eaton © 2007

All the work has been done by the Newburyport Historical Commission. It is just a matter of the Newburyport City Council giving it an OK. Why the Newburyport City Council has never done this, well this is Newburyport, MA and we seem to be allergic to Local Historic Districts. (We hope that this is about to change with the first possible ever, my goodness, Fruit Street Local Historic District, which is in the works. It needs a majority of votes by the Newburyport City Council to become a reality. So, if you care about protecting Newburyport’s historic assets and the Fruit Street Local Historic District in particular, please call your Newburyport City Councilor ASAP.)

One of the buildings that I believe is protected is the Firehouse Center for the Arts.

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The Firehouse Center for the Arts
Downtown Newburyport, MA
A Newburyport preservation success story!
Mary Baker Eaton © 2007

The Firehouse Center for the Arts was originally built as a market house and lyceum by the citizens of Newburyport in 1823. The structure, located in Newburyport’s Market Square, served as the Central Fire Station from the mid 1800s until 1980.

A combination of public and private efforts restored the building, which reopened in 1991. (And I’ve always wanted to put this on the Newburyport Political Blog because I am so proud of it) The Firehouse Center and Schwartz/Silver Architects, Inc. won an “Honor Award For Architecture” from The American Institute of Architects.”

(The information on the Firehouse was taken from the website of the Firehouse Center for the Arts.)

I’ve always thought that the Firehouse is an amazing example of historic preservation in Newburyport, MA, a real Newburyport preservation success story. And I for one am very happy that it exists.

Ben Laing took this gorgeous picture of the Firehouse and has graciously allowed the Newburyport Political Blog to use it.

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Benjamin Laing © 2005
Image courtesy of Benjamin Laing Photography

The Firehouse Center for the Arts
A Newburyport Preservation Success Story!

Many thanks to Benjamin Laing Photography.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

(Editor’s note: I have found the image of Inn Street used on the Web a great deal. It is copyrighted by Mary Baker Eaton and cannot be used without her permission.)

Newburyport, Historic Memory Loss

I just made this amazing discovery. The Library of Congress has some amazing photographs that can be used in the public domain. I never knew about this until yesterday, even after all these years.

One of the things that concerns me about Newburyport, MA in the year 2007, is that we often have very little historical memory, sometimes it feels like we have downright historic amnesia. I keep thinking that might be one of the reasons we appear to be so reluctant about being more pro-active about having more zoning laws protecting our historic heritage.

Believe me, this has nothing to do with the Newburyport Planning Board, who in my opinion are doing everything that they possibly could do. I’m thinking here, about the general population and just possibly lack of leadership on this issue from the corner office.

I believe that this is a photograph of High Street. I can’t figure out where on High Street it is, and if the Library of Congress does say where it is, I cannot find it. It is a pretty cool photo.

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Courtesy of the Frances Loeb Library, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, the Library of Congress, Historical American Buildings Survey Collection.

This photograph, also from the Library of Congress, is a beautiful Georgian House on High Street.

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Courtesy of the Frances Loeb Library, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, the Library of Congress, Historical American Buildings Survey Collection.

And Sally Chandler took this photograph of I believe the same Georgian House on High Street in 2004.

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Sally Chandler © 2004
Image courtesy of Historic Gardens of Newburyport

Amazingly the house looks very much like the much earlier photo from the Library of Congress. But folks, we can no longer take our historic heritage for granted. If we do not do something proactive, we have and will continue to lose the very thing that makes Newburyport such an important and compelling place inwhich to work, live, visit and play.

Do we value our historic heritage or are we willing to let it be destroyed?

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

(Editor’s note: I’ve heard from several readers of the Newburyport Political Blog and the location of the High Street photograph from the Library of Congress, is the top of Fruit Street, with the Cushing House Museum being the brick house in the center. Many thanks to the readers of the Newburyport Political Blog.)

Retail Businesses Leaving Downtown Newburyport

I was pretty upset after reading Stephen Tait’s excellent article in today’s Newburyport Daily News, January 11, 2007, “Rented out: As costs rise, many downtown merchants struggle to keep up.”

“Deb Pagley, who owns Homespun Gatherings that recently moved from Newburyport to Amesbury, said “rents basically destroyed my business.”…

Pagley says the downtown is being “monopolized” by the Lagasses, Ann and husband Charles, who manage about 20 percent of the downtown retail spaces. They are partners with developer Stephen Karp, a billionaire mall builder who plans to develop the land between the Black Cow and Route 1, known as Waterfront West…

“They just control it,” Pagley said. “I think they are seeing the effects of it, because I think a lot of businesses are leaving because of the high rent.

“If they really care about Newburyport and they want to keep the variety of stores,” she added, “then they will have to look at what the rent is doing.” ”
(Newburyport Daily News, January 11, 2007)

I think these “Buy Local” folks have come (I hope) just in time.

A website worth checking out is “Hometown Advantage” on www.newrules.org. The Hometown Advantage gives examples of 18 cities and towns across the United States that have decided that they have a choice about what happens in their hometown.

If this is an issue that concerns you, by all means contact the “Buy Local” folks and give your Newburyport City Councilor a call.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Bike Racks Around the City

Bike Racks around the city of Newburyport, MA. What an incredibly good, sensible, obvious and downright fun proposal.

The Newburyport Parks Commission, the Seacoast Energy and Environmental Design Coalition (SEED) and Newburyport City Councilor Larry McCavitt together are working towards this goal. Good grief this really works for me.

This triumvirate hopes to cut down on pollution and help the environment in an effort to “encourage residents to bike rather than drive,” (Newburyport Daily News, January 8, 2006, by Stephen Tait) as well as help on the downtown parking dilemma.

According to the article in the Newburyport Daily News, SEED is seeking “donations from local businesses to support the effort and get more people downtown.” And the Newburyport Department of Public Works will help install the bike racks no less. This just gets better and better. And none of this is going to cost the City of Newburyport, MA a cent. How can we not love this.

And the “styles range from modern and streamlined to more historic-looking racks.” Sounds unbelievably well thought out.

Congratulations to City Councilor Larry McCavitt, SEED and of course the well love Newburyport Parks Commission.

It is a delight to see such a comprehensive and well thought out proposal that is such an incredibly “win-win” solution.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Money for Updates on the Sewer Plant

“City gets $20M for sewer plant,” headline, the Newburyport Daily News, January 8, 2007.

Sounds like really, really good news to me.

A while back there was an excellent story in the Newburyport Current by Ulrika Gerth, December 22, 2006 on the unbelievably bad condition that the Newburyport Sewer Plant is currently in.

A former city councilor told me that the sewer plant was “held together with duck-tape.” I think that’s pretty close to an exact quote. Another words things are in really, really bad shape.

In that article in the Newburyport Current, hard working Public Services Director Brendan O’Regan “said he would apply to the state for a low-interest loan and lobby state and federal delegations for contributions.” And low and behold Brendan O’Regan was successful. Good go’n.

It sounds like from the article in the Newburyport Daily News that discussions with the mayor and the Newburyport City Council are “at the infancy of debate on this issue.”

Mr. O’Regan goes onto say, “The good news is, that if we do decide to go forward with some kind or repairs, it will be a lot cheaper than it would have been without the low-interest loans. We’re talking about millions of dollars in savings.”

Can we not go forward with repairs? Yikes. We’re talking the basics here, air (the Landfill) and water.

Not a terribly “yummy” subject, but one that is real important. And it sure sounds to me that the city’s sewer treatment plant is verging on archaic in the year 2007.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport