Central Church, Newburyport

I came across this wonderful picture of Brown Square and Central Church on the online Newburyport Archives.


Central Church
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
The Newburyport Public Library

What is now the Garrison Inn, can be seen on the left next to the church. It looks as if there could be a glimpse of City Hall to the right (I’m not sure). And then there is the beautiful archway of trees with what is now Central Congregational Church at the end. In the Newburyport Archives it is listed as “Central Church (North).”

I thought that this image, along with all the rest of the remarkable historic photographs and prints that are now available to the public, in the public domain, through the Library of Congress and the Newburyport Archival Center, that have recently been up on the Newburyport Blog, would be a good way to wish the readers of the Newburyport Blog (who I am most grateful to), a very Happy Holiday.

Old South, First Presbyterian Church

I came across this print of Old South, First Presbyterian Church on the Library of Congress online archives. I’d never seen this print before and I thought it was pretty amazing.


Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-10021 (b&w film copy neg.)
N.W. view of the First Presbyterian Church, Newburyport, Mass

This is the entire page, and here is more of a detailed image without the writing.


Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division
Detail, First Presbyterian Church, Newburyport, Mass

I also love the drawing of the original steeple, which was severely damaged by the hurricane of 1938, and in 1949 it was removed and capped with a 105-foot-tall cupola. (The New York Times, May 13, 2006)


Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division
Detail, steeple
First Presbyterian Church, Newburyport, Mass

The church hopes eventually to fully restore the steeple to its original shape. Please press here to read an earlier entry about Old South Church, and to see the comparison of what the steeple of Old South Church looks like today.

And I also love the street scene to the right of the church. The two houses in the picture, I believe still exist. As I remember it, the first house was where the famous preacher, George Whitefield lived (I have not confirmed this) when he was pastor of Old South, First Presbyterian Church in Newburyport, Massachusetts.


Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division
Detail, street scene
First Presbyterian Church, Newburyport, Mass

Mary Eaton

Editors Note: This is a correction and clarification from an astute reader of the Newburyport Blog:

“Mary, I don’t believe George Whitefield was ever the pastor of Old South. I don’t think he ever stayed in one place long enough to become a pastor. He was a real roving evangelist.

The first house behind the church was the birthplace of William Lloyd Garrison. There is a plaque denoting that on the house.

George Whitefield was staying with the pastor in the parsonage when he died, because he was to be the guest preacher in the church the next day. The story goes that his fans surrounded the house the night before and demanded that he talk to them, so he preached from the house steps for something like six hours. He was already sick, and he didn’t survive the night.”

Too Mush and Much Snow

I ask the young lady on the other end of the phone, who has been unbelievably patient with me, if she is in “snow hell.”

She replies that yes, her office is in Boston, and she is in “snow hell.” And that she has had a “snow hell” commute.

I reply that I too am in “snow hell.”

We immediately bond. Which is a very good thing, because the transaction (not due to either of our “expertise” in the matter) takes like forever.

I try to pretend that I am in “snow denial.” But this appears to be impossible. The snow reality is just too obvious.

The minute I find out that our last remaining hardware store in Newburyport, MA gets yet another order of salt in (I’ve missed all the others), I rush over and hoard bags of salt madly. (Apparently I am not alone, since each order apparently disappears in sometimes under an hour.)

My balance, on the slippery stuff, quite frankly, “stinks.” (I was going to use a stronger word, but I decide not to.)

I look skeptically at the icicles forming off my roof. I used my roof rake so this is not supposed to happen. However, it is. I look around at my neighbor’s dwellings and everyone has dagger like icicles hanging from somewhere. We are all in icicle land together.

This is somehow comforting.

The owner of the hardware store (this is why I love my small New England city, because of things like conversing with the hardware store owner) says the same thing. He has a hardware store, and it looks like even he could be in “snow hell” (although he would never admit such a thing). That we are all in this together.

This is very reassuring as I carry my hoarded bags of salt out to my automobile, and everyone at the hardware store seems to think that this is perfectly normal.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Fruit Street

I am not a big snow lover. Ok, today’s snow was fluffy, but there was still a whole lot of it (at least on my street) again. Oy veh.

I found this warmer (it must either be early spring or late fall), snowless photograph of Fruit Street looking towards the water on the online Newburyport Archives.


Fruit Street Looking Towards the Water
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
The Newburyport Public Library

And in the detail it looks like there is an early automobile. And there is also still, at least one hitching post for horses right above it.


Detail, Fruit Street Looking Towards the Water
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
The Newburyport Public Library

Mary Eaton

Fruit Street, Newburyport Winters

I remember when rooting around in the Archives at the Newburyport Public Library coming across a beautiful winter scene. But for the life of me, I do not remember where in the Newburyport Archival Center online I had seen it.

But then, eureka, it is discovered once again.

And yes, the historic photograph most certainly is charming and captures not only the feel of Newburyport, for goodness sakes how many years ago, but also, in my mind, the charm and feel of Newburyport’s neighborhoods today.


Fruit Street, Looking up towards High Street
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
The Newburyport Public Library

And one of the reasons Fruit Street has a similar feel in the year 2007, is because the architecture of the street is basically the same. And a lot of that would be due to just plain “dumb luck,” since The National Architectural Trust says that we have lost one third of our historic housing stock since 1984. But, Fruit Street is now the one street in Newburyport, MA that is protected. Because this year Fruit Street became Newburyport, MA’s first Local Historic District.


Detail, Fruit Street, Looking up towards High Street
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
The Newburyport Public Library

And looking at the photograph closer, I enjoy the horse and buggy (yet another horse and buggy) coming down Fruit Street, the little boy at the side, and what looks like folks shoveling (no snow blowers here) further up the street. And I wonder, how in the world back then did they plow the streets. I have no idea.

Mary Eaton

Charming New England Winters

Winter in New England is often described as “charming.”

This winter scene from c. 1860 of Green Street from the Newburyport Archives would certainly be considered “charming.”

Green Street c. 1860
Courtesy Newburyport Archival Center
Newburyport Public Library

And this beautiful detail of the same photograph. The church in the background I believe is the church on Green Street that has been made into a restaurant.

Detail, Green Street c. 1860
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
Newburyport Public Library

Ah, but so often the realities in Newburyport MA look and feel much more like this:

A winter storm

Stephen Tait in the Newburyport Daily News wrote, what in my mind was a fairly “scary” article on what Mr. Karp and the “super-wealthy” have done to Nantucket. (After reading Mr. Tait’s article, “High-End Homogenization” to me seems “quaint.”)

“… it (Nantucket) has lost its innocence..” “I think Karp is going the wrong direction. He wants everything to be upscale and sophisticated…”

“…the island attracting the wealthy, the middle and upper middle class families are no longer traveling to the island for vacation because it is too expensive…”

“.. the super rich don’t necessarily add to the local economy since they fly in their own chefs, their own staff and host parties at their residences…” (Newburyport Daily News, December 17, 2007, by Stephen Tait. Read the whole thing. In fact, it’s a “must read”.)

And the charm of Newburyport, which attracts and has attracted so many, may well be only for a chosen few. And in my mind that would wipe out the “charming” image of Green Street, and replace it with the image of the winter storm.


New England Driveway Snowdrifts

Because of where my dwelling is located and how it is built, I find I am prone to snowdrifts, as in snowdrifts blocking my front door (and my heating vent, see earlier entry).


Snowdrifts, Wikipedia.org
GNU Free Documentation License

No, not quite that bad.

An habitual planner and often obsessive “can I solve this,” attempting problem solver, I set my mind this summer, to the dilemma of New England snowdrifts, particularly, my snowdrifts.

I Google “snow drifts,” and learn all about snow and wind patterns. Who knew. Actually, all interesting stuff.

I decide that, “ah ha,” it would be good to have something at an angle to my dwelling, to direct all those northeasterly winds away from my residence.

I then massively research stationary and possible portable snow-fences.

But then I have this idea. My neighbors park in my driveway. What if we put our cars at an angle and use the automobiles as snowdrift, wind directories, channeling the wind, snow and sleet away from my abode.

My neighbors and fellow driveway dwellers, are obliging.

Sunday, after many, many inches of snow and lots of northeasterly wind, another possible “eureka.” No wild drifts up against my doorway.

My first nor’easter, testing trial. But as in any good “scientific” experiment, this would only be a first good indicator. Fingers crossed and automobiles angled.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, E. Ross Carriage Work

The lone horse and buggy in the photo of the Chain Bridge (see earlier entry) sent me searching in the Archives of the Newburyport Public Library.

And I found this wonderful (and warm) photograph of E. Ross Carriage Work.


E. Ross Carriage Work
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
Newburyport Public Library

It also goes back to my thoughts about the different mix of people and places that added color, interest and vibrancy to Newburyport, MA. I am thinking, once again, of New England Development, Mr. Karp and “High-End Homogenization.”

The Newburyport Daily News has an excellent story today, December 17, 2007, by Stephen Tait, about the possible future of Newburyport, MA, judging by how Nantucket, another one of Mr. Karp’s outposts, has evolved.

“Whitey Wilauer, the chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said he often hears complaints from retailers, mostly regarding the ever-rising rents.

“He (Karp) is very sophisticated in his approach,” he said. “He has a staff down here, and they are looking at each property and trying to determine if they are profitable or not profitable. He is trying to bring profitable outfits into the town. That’s what happens when you have investors to please; the actual cultural aspects aren’t paid much attention to…” 

“They just have that attitude that they don’t care: either pay it or they’ll find somebody else who can,” Brownell said…” (Newburyport Daily News, December 17, 2007, by Stephen Tait)

And here is a close up of the group of men standing in front of Mr. Ross’ establishment.


Detail, E. Ross Carriage Work
Newburyport Archival Center
Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library

One of the things I also love about this photograph is the advertising on the roofs. Obviously an era long before modern billboards.

What an ingenious way to market a product. I’ve seen “advertisements” painted on existing brick walls, and on brick walls in old photographs of Newburyport, MA. But this is the first time I’ve ever noticed advertising on roofs.


Detail, Roofs
E. Ross Carriage Work
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
Newburyport Public Library

(And the fact the roofs are snow and ice free, today, December 17, 2007, is also quite enjoyable.)

Mary Eaton

New England Snow and Rain, Nor’easter

What an odd day today, Sunday, December 16, 2007 in Newburyport, MA.

The weather folks seem to be so happy when there is the potential of a major storm. Top of the hour or half hour, instead of the last of the show. Sometimes almost the entire hour.

Snow On Trees, wikipedia.org
Creative Commons Attribution

Me, I bless the computer. I check weather.com or weatherperhour.com, sometimes, even more reliable, to find out the vagaries of snow, wind, sleet and rain.

It looked like another good foot of snow on our small New England Street. And before the sleet and rain started, the neighborhood came out to shovel and snow-blow. My neighbor’s snow blower is named “Betsy.” The snow blower, in all honesty looks like a “Betsy.” Well named and much appreciated.

We all manage to get most of the snow moved off driveways and cars before the sleet and rain started. And my neighbor is right, it ends up raining hard.

I feel virtuous having checked the weather on my trusted computer. And now I’m out in the rain trying to make room in the slushy street, so that the water from the driveway can find its way beyond my dwelling to some hopeful municipal water depository.

I feel like a small girl again, playing in the trickles of waterways, in upstate New York, as my father takes his beloved fly rod and heads up stream to find a willing brown trout.

I have one of these heater vents that looks like a nipple, that sticks out from the side of the house.

And when it snows, yes, my heating vent, like so many side heating vents all over New England, gets covered with snow.

After fretting about what to do for it, it seems like forever, I might actually have come up with a solution. A sheet of metal, corrugated roof, cut to six feet, lined with duck tape to make the edges less sharp, is propped up against the side of the house at an angle, and weighted down with a four bricks, so as not to blow away.

I actually sleep through the night, not worried about the nipple vent being covered with snow. And go out in the morning, with great pride, to inspect my so far, un-snowed in heating vent. A possible “eureka.”

My neighbor seems as impressed and pleased as I am at this possible “solution,” knowing my frustrations over the years. A suggestion is made to “patent” the idea. But I’m not sure that corrugated, roofing sheet metal, sold almost everywhere, could be patented. Alas.

And I go out in the rain with my roof-rake, bought in some previous New England winter. I discovered that removing a mere 1-2 feet of snow towards the edge of the roof, somehow allows possible appropriate melting, and few icicles or possible ice backup. So I’m happy to go out in the rain and send soaking snow, plopping down from the roof.

And the rain is letting up, and maybe the street and sidewalks will drain a little before the weather gets cold again, setting mushy watery stuff, into solid ice.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Chain Bridge

Finding the photographs of the clam shacks yesterday had me rooting around in the archives of the Library of Congress too, trying to find photographs that have not been on the Newburyport Blog.

I found this image of the Chain Bridge that I do not remember seeing before.

Since yesterday was so stressful for so many folks, with all the snow and the unbelievably bad commute for some, I thought I would put up this calm, serene and warm photograph of the Merrimac River and the Chain Bridge on the Newburyport Blog.


Chain Bridge, bridge spanning water, Newburyport, MA
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division
Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Frances Loeb Library, Gund Hall, Cambridge MA
Reproduction Number: 119600

And I also love this detail of the horse and buggy crossing the Chain Bridge from the same photograph.


Detail, Chain Bridge Newburyport, MA
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division
Frances Loeb Library
Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Mary Eaton

Newburyport Clam Shacks

When I was in the Newburyport Archival Center this week, at the Newburyport Public Library, low and behold my favorite photograph of the men shucking clams in front of the clam shacks was there. Eureka.


Clam Shack Workers
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
at the Newburyport Public Library

“Images capturing the men at work, with the small shacks at their backs, were some of the most popular and recognized photographs of Newburyport… “It was like the motif No. 1″..” (Newburyport Daily News, August 23, 2007, by Steven Tait)

And in thinking about the “flavor” or “color,” the “spirit and essence,” the “diversity” of Newburyport, MA on the Newburyport Blog for the last 10 days or so, the image of the men clamming at Joppa kept coming to mind.

…”the clam shacks that once lined the north side of Water Street helped to define an era in Newburyport and distinguished a neighborhood that instilled a sense of pride in its residents that lasts to this day.” (Newburyport Daily News, August 23, 2007, by Steven Tait)

The clam shacks, one is still left, were located where Union and Water Street meet in Newburyport’s South End.

And In the Newburyport Archival Center I also found this photograph of the “clam houses.”


Clam Houses
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
at the Newburyport Public Library


Detail, Clam Houses
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
at the Newburyport Public Library

Mary Eaton

Holiday Photographs

Ben Laing was an early contributor to the Newburyport Blog and has always been wonderfully supportive. And I appreciate that so much. Among other things Ben is currently a photographer for the Newburyport Daily News.

Ben took a wonderful photograph which he graciously allowed the Newburyport Blog to use, and I’ve been trying to figure out how best to utilize it all this time.

With all the rain in Newburyport last night and all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, this photograph of Market Square in downtown Newburyport seems incredibly appropriate.

Benjamin Laing © 2006
Image courtesy of Benjamin Laing Photography

Ben also took this wonderful photograph of the Firehouse Center for the Arts. Although it has been used before on the Newburyport Blog, it is also seems wonderfully appropriate for this holiday season.

Benjamin Laing © 2006
Christmas at the Firehouse
Image courtesy of Benjamin Laing Photography

Many thanks to Ben Laing and Benjamin Laing Photography.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport’s Master Plan

One of my frustrations, although it is interesting, is that there seems to be a pattern, that with new influx of folks, that there is often a push for the goals for Newburyport to change.

One of the things I like about the Newburyport Master Plan is it’s supposed to be a long term guide that was developed in a super-duper democratic process. And to repeat myself (see previous post), folks like John Moak, Ann Lagasse and Jim Stiles contributed to the Master Plan’s existence. And it was voted on by the Newburyport City Council to boot.

One of the things the Master Plan assumes is that Newburyport’s Central Waterfront would be mostly park, and that parking would be found somewhere else.

I understand Mayor John Moak’s frustration of wanting to get the parking thing done once and for all. But aside from the fact that it goes against all the surveys from the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority since 2000, it also goes against the tenet of the Newburyport Master Plan.

And all this chit chat about having more development down on the Central Waterfront. Well that is addressed in the Newburyport Master Plan as well. The answer is “No.”

I hear rumblings of municipal politicians wanting to “redo” the Master Plan.

Yes, the Newburyport Master Plan is a “living document.” And I do understand that folks who have moved here since 2001 might not be aware of the Newburyport Master Plan.

But, good grief, can’t we make up our mind to stick with a decision/guide and just get on with it?

It may not be perfect. Nothing is perfect. But if we as a city want to change our municipal goals every 2-5 years, how frustrating and exhausting.

And maybe, it could be a good idea to trust the judgment and the wisdom of a huge diverse number of folks who came up with the Newburyport Master Plan, even though everyone might not agree with everything that could be in there. That document is as close to a consensus as I have seen in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

For those who are really, really interested, the Newburyport Master Plan can be found at:

Mary Eaton

Newburyport Master Plan–Not High-End

When the Newburyport Master Plan was taking shape, I gotta admit that I didn’t get it, or sadly, appreciate its value to the community of Newburyport, MA.

I sure do now.

And one of the remarkable things about the Newburyport Master Plan is the wide variety of folks who contributed to it, including, among many others, Ann Lagasee, John Moak and Jim Stiles.

The Newburyport Master Plan is dated September 2001, but as I remember it, the document took a good year and a half to come together.

And one of the things that I find so interesting, as Newburyport, MA evolves, is that new influxes of folks have differing ideas. This seems to have been true ever since I moved here more than 25 years ago.

I happen to think that the Newburyport Master Plan is an incredible document, one to be used as an overall guide. And is as applicable today as it was in September 2001.

In the year 2000 when the Newburyport Master Plan was taking shape, Newburyport, MA seemed to be at a “place” where it was “balanced,” politically and in its socio-economic make up, which the Master Plan reflects.

And there were a lot of amazingly smart and thoughtful people involved in the Master Plan’s creation.

It was also pre-Karp and pre-New England Development.

Two of its “Guiding Principles” are:

Economic Vitality: “Ensure that growth is balanced and measured….”

Social Equity: “Foster and respect Newburyport’s socioeconomic diversity, giving consideration to the needs of lower-income and fixed-income residents.” (Page 7)

And on the previous page:

“The City’s traditional neighborhoods around the central core will continue to be revitalized, while preserving the diversity that makes them interesting and inviting places to live–a diversity of people as well as of physical structures.” (Page 6)

And one of the themes of the pre-Karp Newburyport Master Plan is an emphasis on economic diversity to make Newburyport “interesting and inviting.”

And when it comes to the Merrimac River itself, there is no mention of high-end marinas. Instead the emphasis is to, “Reinvigorate marine industries such as commercial fishing and boat building and repair.” (Page 28)

“High-End Homogenization” (see two previous entries) appears to be to me the antithesis of the Newburyport Master Plan.

One could argue that the values of the Master Plan would not be applicable to businesses. But I would feel that since a land-holder of New England Development’s magnitude would effect the future of Newburyport, MA physically, economically, socially and environmentally, that that it would be a good idea to take the Newburyport Master Plan into consideration, when making any economic plans for Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton

Homogenization and High Street

One of the things that popped into my brain when I was thinking about Mr. Karp and “High-End Homogenization” (see previous post) was what the Massachusetts Highway Department had in mind in 1998 for High Street, our historic byway.

“Making High Street as straight and uniform as possible from one end of the city to the other.” (Citizens to Save High Street, January 1999)

And good old Microsoft Word’s definition of “homogeneous” again: “Having a uniform composition or structure.”

The idea of making High Street, with all its beauty, charm, and historic qualities, “uniform” enraged the citizens of Newburyport, MA in 1999, to the point where the city was unified in their fight for the historic roadway, the gateway to our small New England City.

Part of the outrage was that MassHighway’s plan would have wiped out part of the story of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Would have wiped out the small incremental things that had evolved over the centuries, that made High Street unique.

Wouldn’t we as citizens be equally outraged by an economic “high -end homogenization” of downtown Newburyport by yet another “outsider,” who would be imposing a business plan for Newburyport, without the input, much less the blessing of its citizens?

Yes, I realize that Mr. Karp and New England Development have paid millions of dollars for the downtown and waterfront property, so in some way “it’s out of our hands,” and “none of our business.” But, one could argue that a change to a community of that magnitude, would be very much “our business.”

The change to downtown Newburyport appears to be happening not in one fell swoop. We could see the plans for High Street, and realize the long term implication.

The change to downtown Newburyport appears to be much more subtle, happening slowly and incrementally. My remembrance is that New England Development has always been very upfront about this approach, never saying that the development of Waterfront West (and now Waterfront East) would be done all at once, but more likely over a period of 10 years or so.

But in someway having an overall plan to see, would be much more beneficial to the citizens of Newburyport, MA, than an incremental development, where one does not have the privilege of seeing, right off the bat, a “master plan.”

But we still have the option, before it is too late, of an economic overlay for downtown Newburyport, MA. And again, it is a matter of “political will.”

Mary Eaton

High-End Homogenization

One of the readers of the Newburyport Blog sent me a fascinating email in response to the previous post and the label “vanillaization” of Newburyport by Mr. Karp and New England Development.

The phrase my reader used, was “high-end homogenization.”

Oh my. Talking about nailing it.


I looked up homogeneous in the dictionary and got this from Microsoft Word: “Having a uniform composition or structure.” And, “All of the same or similar kind or nature,” from wordnet.princeton.edu.

Thinking about our downtown, one could certainly see this trend possibly on its way.

So the issue really isn’t, in many ways, about chain stores or not to chain store, but do we as people living (not visiting) Newburyport, MA want “High-End Homogenization” dictated by Mr. Karp and New England Development?

For me arguments for non-regulation, whoever’s got the best stuff to offer floats to the surface, yada, yada, yada (yes, I’m sure that could piss a few folks off) would be quite beside the point.

To me, this could be a power and control thing over our city, the city of Newburyport, MA, with someone, some entity, with enough money to go there. Boy, I don’t know about you, but the power and control thing just doesn’t sit well with me.

An argument could be that the “High-End Homogenization” would be “classy.”

Well, there you go. “Classy.” “Class” in the old sense–money and class. “A group of people within a society who share the same social and economic status; the structure of divisions in a society determined by the social or economic grouping of its members” (Good old Microsoft Word again).

And it really, for me, doesn’t have anything to do with either being sophisticated or tacky. It has every thing to do with being exclusive. My guess would be that different but equal socio-economic groups might not be wanted here.

I think that is what BuyLocal/supportNbpt.org is attempting to address. And since they are the only ones out there willing to take this fairly courageous stand, those who do not want the specter of “High-End Homogenization,” well, yes, it’s a matter of “political will.”

As I understand it, the thought could be that the Newburyport Planning Board might be a way to begin to address this issue. And since much of the research has already been done, I would imagine that the Newburyport Planning Board would look at this slowly and with care. We are often very lucky with the volunteer boards that we have in Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton

Where is Tom Ryan

What has happened to Tom Ryan, former editor of The Undertoad?

Last year Tom Ryan, with his dog Atticus almost climbed New Hampshire’s 48, 4,000 foot peaks twice in one winter to raise money for cancer.

I remember watching Tom at a Newburyport City Council meeting after that experience was over, and thinking to myself, “The mountains have captured him.” And they had.

And there was the ultimate, “Shall I stay in Newburyport, or not stay in Newburyport” question, when Mr. Ryan threw his hat into the ring as a mayoral candidate this fall.

It sounded as if when it came to Newburyport, MA, that in the end, “all passions were spent.” And Mr. Ryan left Newburyport, MA on October 1, 2007 for the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

And this year Tom Ryan and Atticus are attempting the same feat, but this time to raise money for MSPCA-Angell, a not-for-profit organization that helps thousands of animals each year. All the money that is raised through this hiking marathon would go directly to Angell Animal Medical Center.

Tom and Atticus’ adventures can be followed on Tom and Atticus’ Blog.

I have wondered, however, having spent 11 years immersed in Newburyport politics and writing the Undertoad, if it could be difficult for Tom Ryan to let Newburyport, MA “go.”

And one of the blog entries that I have enjoyed most so far, is Mr. Ryan’s post about the bears that were outside his cabin last year, complete with photographs of bear and adorable bear cubs up in a tree:

“In my two months up north I can feel myself transforming from that life to this one. Following Thoreau’s dictum to “simplify, simplify, simplify”, I’ve found it rather easy to leave the intrigue and often rough and tumble world of political reporting and journaling behind.

So this morning I woke up thinking not about zoning issues, the latest mayoral appointment, or Steve Karp’s vanillaization of Newburyport, but of the bears.”

But even leaving Newburyport, MA behind, Tom Ryan nailed it, at least for me, in passing, “the vanillaization of Newburyport.”

And for me, that could be what so much of the chit chat on the Newburyport Blog could come down to. Desperately, and possibly futilely, trying to hold on to the color of Newburyport, MA, whether it could be it’s architecture and streetscapes, the colorful mix of people who may inhabit this town, or a distinctive downtown economic makeup.

It often feels as if Newburyport was once a delightful version of some scrumptious ice cream, and may becoming a bland vanilla version, made with skim milk.

Mary Eaton

Chain Stores, Newburyport, MA

Maybe a chain store “ban” might not be adequate phraseology. Maybe an economic overlay for downtown Newburyport that addresses negative chain store issues… possibly?

I think when some folks think of a chain store “ban,” a vision of a Walmart on the Central Waterfront could come to mind. And I don’t think anyone would want to go there. So, the thought process might be that a “ban” would not be necessary.

Buy Local/SupportNbpt.org has thought all of this through.

Tom Salemi over at the Newburyport Posts has some major doubts (as I imagine a few others do too). Check out the Newburyport Posts for Tom Salemi’s pro-chain store thoughts.

Mary Eaton

Gym Class, Newburyport, 104 Students

Back on November 7, 2007 there was an article by Gillian Swart in the Newburyport Current about the Newburyport Rupert A. Nock Middle School which said,

“One grade 7 phys. ed. class has 104 students… “There is no way to fit 104 students comfortably or safely in the gym,” Hopping (Rupert A. Nock Middle School, Principal Barry Hopping) noted, adding that so far, the weather has cooperated and the classes have been held outdoors.”

Well, honey, the weather is no longer cooperating, and it’s cold outside. Real cold out side.

I don’t know what the situation would be now, December 2007, I have not called the Nock Middle School, but I sure am curious.

I mean, that’s crazy, 104 kids in the Middle School gym.

I’d like to see a photograph of what in the world that would look like.

In fact, I’d like to see some footage of that unimaginable gym class with 104 students on YouTube.

If anybody put footage of that gym class on YouTube, I would, at the very least, like to link to it. And with proper permission, I would put the video on the Newburyport Blog.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Downtown Economic Overlay

Why are the Buy Local, SupportNbpt.org folks so important? Because they are fighting for the retail and economic spirit and soul of Newburyport, MA.

It is what Steven Tait wrote about in his article in the Newburyport Daily News, December 3, 2007.

“Whatever product lines they (Chico’s) bring in they are going to be in competition with existing businesses we have in town, for instance the Monkey’s Fist and the Elephant’s Trunk,” said Allyson Lawless, the founder of www.supportNBPT.org, the group that submitted a chain store ban ordinance to the City Council earlier this year.

Unless there is some real oversight we will lose our independent businesses by introducing chain stores like this…”

“Lawless said the concern from chain stores is that they will muscle out the small, independent stores. She said that it will also hurt the local economy. Studies show that for every dollar spent at local stores, 60 to 70 cents stays in the community, whereas with large chain stores just 11 to 15 cents stays locally, Lawless said.

She said that all the other local businesses – such as legal, financial and supply companies – will also be hurt by chain stores.

“All those people are going to be affected,” he said. “Chico’s is not going to be banking at the Institution or the Newburyport Five.”
(Newburyport Daily News, December 3, 2007, by Steven Tait)

Are we powerless over all of this? No we are not. I think that there has been some frustration that there has not been enough traction to get people focused now on some sort of economic overlay for downtown Newburyport, MA that comes from the people via our own municipal agents.

As things stand, the economic overlay for Newburyport, MA appears to be being fostered by New England Development. Is this what we as citizens and residence of Newburyport, MA would like?

Some would be quite happy with that particular overview. But I know for a fact, that a whole lot of folks would not. But if those folks don’t get their rear into gear now, well, who knows.

And if you are one of those folks who wants desperately to get their rear into gear and do not know where to start, by all means contact the Buy Local folks, supportnbpt.org. As far as I understand it, everything is good to go. It’s just a matter of “political will.”

Mary Eaton