Monthly Archives: February 2012

False Statements on the “Say No to LHD” Mass Mailing

Disclaimer here:  Dr. Heersink who wrote a Letter to the Editor on on February 27, 2011 is my favorite doctor in Newburyport. As a doctor he is amazing.  I just happen to disagree with his stance on the proposed Local Historic District (LHD).

In the letter, among other things, Dr. Heersink defends the “Say No to LHD” (which he is a member of) literature that was mass mailed (2,700 pieces of mail) about 10 days ago.  The frogs and I on the Newburyport Blog have put our heads together and where to begin to counter all the allegations made in this disingenuous mailing.

Now usually I don’t like the comment section of the Newburyport Daily News, but the Newburyport Daily News has clarified their comment policy recently, so it looks like I won’t be called a “Nazi controlling zealot” any more, because that would be “racist and abusive.”  So whew! (I hope.)

There was a reply to Dr. Heersink by “GloryBe456″ (another poster thought it was moi, not so).  It’s a little strident for the Newburyport Blog’s taste, but since it makes so many points that the frogs and I agree with, I thought I would quote it on the Newburyport Blog (and it may capture the anger and frustration that is out there with “Say No to LHD”).

GloryBe456  (Whoever you are, and the spelling was corrected by moi-I am the Editor of The Newburyport Blog after all.)

“If Dr. Heersink is a member of “Say No to LHD”, then he should know that, considering the people he’s working with, the errors are not inadvertent, but on purpose.

If the members of this group knew city law, they would know that all members of all boards and commissions have to be city residents.  But, “inadvertrently” they stated in their mailing that LHD commission members didn’t have to be.

Another “inadvertent”  error is that people are going to be fined left, right and sideways if they do something the LHD commission doesn’t like.  Well, isn’t that interesting – did you know that the ZBA, Planning Board and Conservation Commission and Tree Committee and Building Inspector can levy fines, too? Guess when the last time was that happened?  That’s right, never.

Yet another “inadvertent” error was that all work requiring a permit will force homeowners to go in front of the LHD Commission.  Oh, really? WRONG!!!! a small fraction of work currently requiring a permit would require review by an LHD Commission.

Shall I go on?

Funny, the “Say No” group states that LHDs will DECREASE the value of your home.  At the same time, in his letter, Dr. Heersink, a Say No member, states that it’s irrelevant if the LHD INCREASES your property values.  Really? Which is it, Dr.?  Show me your data, Say No, that LHDs decrease property values.  You can’t.

Let’s keep going – “Say No” claims that “no construction, alteration, moving, demolition, etc.” will not be permitted without a “certificate of approval”.  WRONG AGAIN!  It’s called a “check off” at the building department that what the applicant is looking to do doesn’t come under the LHD commission’s jurisdiction.  Same was planning and zoning stuff is taken care of now.

Another incorrect “fact”. That the study committee has agreed to a “phased approach” to implementing the LHD throughout the national register historic district. WRONG! there is no ‘agreement’ to “phase in” more of the district.  IF anyone wanted to try such a thing, the ENTIRE process that the study committee has gone through would have to be started ALL OVER AGAIN – and good luck with that!

Costs of owning your home will increase by being in an LHD. WRONG! they are not requiring expansive features, finishes, etc.  Like vinyl siding? You’ll SAVE money in the end by not installing it because you won’t trap moisture in the walls of the house (which would lead to mold and moss growth, sheathing that will never dry out and have to be replaced – the removal of these things later will end up costing you way more than you think you “saved” on painting and regular maintenance had you not put it on to begin with.

Finally, all of the things the “Say No” people have listed as “at your expense” and “at the homeowner’s expense” are NO DIFFERENT than how the ZBA and planning boards work now.  the building inspector himself has ordered people to hire structural engineers “at the homeowner’s expense” if he sees a problem with a project.  So, stop the fear-mongering. Better to spend your time learning how your government works first.”

Marsh During a Storm-A Martin Johnson Heade Painting

Salt Marsh Hay by Martin Johnson Heade

Salt Marsh Hay by Martin Johnson Heade

Martin Johns Heade, 1819-1904, Salt Marsh Hay, c.1865, Oil on Canvas, 13″ x 26″, Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio

The Newburyport Blog has been on a hunt for marsh paintings by Martin Johnson Heade, who painted the marshes around Newburyport. I love this painting of the marsh during a storm.

One of the remarkable things that we have all around our country is the small and art-rich museums. This particular painting comes from the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown Ohio.  And it’s not just an artist like Heade that is represented, but also painters like Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper.

Not all of us from New England can get to Youngstown, Ohio, but you can vistit the Butler Institute of American Art here.

Frank Thurlo, Painting of the Chain Bridge

thurlo-chanbr

Frank Thurlo,1828-1913, watercolor of Newburyport's Chain Bridge

Every now and again the Newburyport Blog goes on a fun hunt.  In 2007 I went on a hunt for all the stuff I could find about Newburyport’s historic gardens.  And in 2012 it looks like I’m going on a hunt for Newburyport historic paintings.  How fun.

And in my hunt, I found another painting by Frank Thurlo, a watercolor of Newburyport’s Chain Bridge.  And you can see the same boat that Frank Thurlo had in the previous painting (see previous post), as well as the birds.

And Frank Thurlo was what we would call a true “native.” Frank Thurlo was a descendant of Richard Thurlo, a native of England, who held land in Rowley, MA in 1634 and moved to Newbury in 1651.  He was the son of Moody and Ann (Little-there’s that old name again) Thurlo, and went to the Brown High School in Newburyport.

Frank Thurlo lived from 1828-1913, and lived and died in Newburyport, MA . And all the images of his paintings are in the public domain.

Frank Thurlo Painting, Plum Island River

thurlow

Frank Thurlo, 1828-1913, watercolor on paper, Plum Island River, 4 1/8″ x 12 1/8″

Thurlo is an old Newbury name, and in my search for paintings in the public domain of Newburyport I came across this painting.

The Painting is by Frank Thurlo who lived from 1828-1913. It is a watercolor on paper, of Plum Island River and Marshes,  4 1/8″ x 12 1/8″. And it is signed lower right. You can click the image to enlarge.

Almond Meal-Flour Cookies (They are Gluten Free)

And now for something completely different.

Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour at Market Basket and Natural Grocer in Newburyport, click to enlarge.

Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour at Market Basket and Natural Grocer in Newburyport, click to enlarge.

A lot of people arrive at the Newburyport Blog looking for “Newburyport, Gluten Free.”  I get emails from folks wondering if there is a Newburyport gluten free support group.  Nope, there isn’t, but I’ve sure have learned a whole lot about good old gluten free stuff, including the wonders of Almond Meal, incredibly good for you (whether you are gluten free or not), if you click the thumbnail of the back of the almond meal package, you’ll see.

The wonders and nutritional value of almond meal, press to enlarge.

The wonders and nutritional value of almond meal, press to enlarge.

Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour can be found at Market Basket here in Newburyport as well as Natural Grocer.  It’s magic.  Aside from easy to bake cookies, that have changed my gluten free life, it’s also an amazing coating along with parmesan chess on things like fish, it has its own oil.  Who knew.  Now the readers of the Newburyport Blog know.  The frogs wish that almond meal had come into their lives decades ago (were they around decades ago, I don’t think so. Frogs!!).

_______________________________________________

Vanilla Almond Meal Cookies (and variations)
(Adapted from Elana’s Pantry, elanaspantry.com, Elana Amsterdam, website and cookbook)

1 ¼ cups blanched almond flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
Dash pumpkin spice or cinnamon (optional)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup oil, canola or grapeseed oil (each has slightly different effect, I use canola oil)
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons GF vanilla

  1. Combine almond meal, salt, baking soda in a bowl.
  2. Stir together sugar and water, add vanilla in a smaller bowl and then oil and combine.
  3. Mix wet ingredients into dry.
  4. Form ½ inch balls and press onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  5. Bake at 350° for 5-6 minutes
  6. Cool and serve (can also freeze, I freeze in plastic square containers separated by wax paper, can put in microwave to unfreeze or eat frozen!)
  7. Makes around 27 cookies, about 60 calories each
  1. For chocolate cookies use 2 teaspoons vanilla and 2 Table spoons cocoa powder (put into the dry ingredients)(I also like a dash/shake of cinnamon).
  2. For orange cookies use 1 teaspoon orange extract and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I like a good shake/dash of pumpkin spice).
  3. For peanut butter cookies work in 1-2 teaspoons peanut butter at the end.
  4. For marble black and white cookies, take half  the mixture and add 1T of cocoa. Take one half vanilla and one half chocolate mixture for each cookie. (You can also add a teaspoon of peanut butter to the vanilla mixture to make marble black and white peanut butter cookies.)
  5. For lemon cookies use 1 teaspoon lemon extract and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Zest from one lemon optional, but delicious, and I like a good shake/dash of pumpkin spice.
  6. For chocolate chip cookies, use the vanilla recipe and add Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels, the tiny ones. (You can also add chopped slivered almonds, and chopped dried mango is also fantastic. Any of those three ingredients, separate or together, are terrific.)

(There is also a more detailed almond meal-flour chocolate chip recipe here.)

The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (NRA) in 2012

Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archives, Ancient buildings demolished during Urban Renewal, The Unitarian Church on Pleasant Street in the background, Press image to enlarge

Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archives, Ancient buildings demolished during Urban Renewal, The Unitarian Church on Pleasant Street in the background, Press image to enlarge

My fellow blogger Tom Salemi over at Newburyport Posts has taken a major civic plunge.  No tip-toeing into the Newburyport civic world for Tom.  Nope, a full dive, right in.  Last week Tom Salemi’s appointment to the NRA (Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, not the National Riffle Association) passed the Newburyport City Council unanimously.

Everyone here at the Newburyport Blog, me and the frogs, are mighty proud.

It would be hard to pick a more controversial board or committee in our fair city of Newburyport than the NRA. (This is a vast understatement.)

The lots that the NRA are in charge of, have literally been fought over for the last 40+ years.  And if P.Preservationist is right, “It is known that the Committee for the Open Waterfront are cracking open their old file cabinets and rallying to restart their efforts.  This sounds like a huge brouhaha coming!”  And that would surprise me not in the least.

I‘ve always thought that the issue of the waterfront, the NRA’s two dirt lots down by the waterfront, would never be resolved in my life time (to see long ago post, press here).  Maybe this is the golden moment, who knows, we will see.  But I am not holding my breath.

I’ve always thought that those two dirt lots are cursed (the history is so complex, who could begin to explain). And in my wanderings to find stuff about the proposed Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD), which includes downtown Newburyport, I came across the picture in this post (I think it was taken in 1968, but I’m not 100% positive), in the Newburyport Public Library Archives.  The caption reads, “First Unitarian Church on Pleasant St. rises from area cleared of ancient buildings as Newburyport’s urban renewal program moves ahead.”  And the photograph looks as if it is taken way, way back from the Unitarian Church, on those two dirt lots. (If you press the image, it will enlarge.)

The photograph is haunting.  It is a reminder to me that when stuff is gone, it is gone for good. All those “ancient” houses gone for good.  And I always wondered if that area, not to sound silly, is haunted.  It has been so difficult to get anything accomplished over the last 40+ years, so many people have tried, that I really and truly wonder.

(If you download the image would you please give The Archival Center at The Newburyport Public Library and The Newburyport Blog credit.  Thank you.)

“Say No to LHD” Campaign

It is possible that only Tom Salemi could approach the whole Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) thing with humor, marked with wisdom and humility. (Alas, the Newburyport Blog‘s experience is what my fellow blogger recommends in his Newburyport Today article, that we be “a community” and “stay classy,” might not actually be possible in what has been dubbed, and what I thought had disappeared, but has seemingly been resurrected, “Cannibal City.”)

A bagel

A bagel

Tom opens his article with his experience of being aggressively approached in front of Abraham’s Bagels by one of the “Say No to LHD” folks on their anti-LHD campaign, at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, as he was trying to get some breakfast (great bagels from Abraham’s Bagels, a thumbs up from this born and raised in New York, New Yawker, who knows from bagels, a “blow in,” a “newby,” moi, who has “only” lived here, in Newburyport, for 31 years) for his family.

In his piece in Newburyport Today, Tom Salemi (the author of the well loved blog, Newburyport Posts) writes, “But let’s all do this right.  Let’s handle this with the same grace that we’ve employed with the IBEW protests.  We don’t need to roll in the mud.”

And I agree with Tom, what is necessary is “an informed and engaged public,” Tom’s words.

And what Tom Salemi points out with grace and dignity, is at this point, the “Say No to LHD” folks are giving people information filled with inaccuracies and omission of the facts.

And, yes, this makes it difficult to have  an informed and thoughtful discussion.

I guess aggressively handing out information in front of Abraham’s Bagels was not enough. The “Say No to LHD”  folks have made a mass mailing-2,700 pieces of mail (which one of my neighbors, when they received the mailing, thought was going to be an anti-drug missive), including the flyer handed out in front of Abraham’s Bagels, full of misinformation, scare tactics and omission of the facts.

As one friend said to me, on one of my many walks around my beloved historic city, “It’s hard to get a positive message out there when the default reaction is ‘No,’ and you are dealing with lies” (their word, not mine).

You can read Tom Salemi’s article at Newburyport Today, February 16, 2012, “Take the Bagels, Leave the Petition,” here.

The online petition in favor of Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) can be found here.

For quick facts about the LHD press here.

The Newburyport LHD Wars

From what I can make out, and George and the other “political consultants” to the Newburyport Blog can make out, there are two groups of folks who are against Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD).

The “Say NO to LHD” folks, who appear to be Tea Party folks, who are misrepresenting and distorting the facts (see previous posts here and here).

And it also appears that the opposition, also often very hostile opposition, which might be the “masses” that Newburyport City Councilor Dick Sullivan was referring to in his quote in the article on the Local Historic District by Brenda Buote in the Boston Globe that can be read here.

The film "A Measure of Change"

The film "A Measure of Change"

There is an amazing film made about Newburyport in 1975 called “A Measure of Change” that can be seen here.  I think two of the comments below the video sum up what some of the more “silent” opposition to the LHD are feeling.

“…our heritage replaced by tourist traps, overpriced specialty shops, higher taxes, impossibly high rents for working-class citizens…  I loved the old town, but it wasn’t rebuilt, it was essentially destroyed, and replaced with some architectural designs that our ancesters would never have tolerated. Why do you think so many former Newburyporters ARE former Newburyporters??  They can no longer afford to live there. The city has been taken over by special interests from out of state… This pathetic attempt to put lipstick on this pig won’t make it acceptable to me, for one.”

And another commentator in reply:

“You said it in a nut shell!  I was born and raised there, but by the time i was 30ish my parents had to put their house on the market because they could no longer afford to live there. And they both grew up there as well, and hated to leave. They spend the rest of their day in NH.”

And from one of the opposition LHD petitions.

“…tell the do gooders to get a life and get out of ours.”

“Work in town. This is a really bad idea. Old time nbpter, not a blow in.”

“Another layer of socialist bureaucracy, by a board of permit komaczars who answer to no one with unlimited autocratic authority…And to think this whole nonsense began because some newby didn’t like the way his neighbor kept his property. Disgusting!”

Lots of anger there.

But at this point, and it could most certainly change, the pro-LHD petition now has 300 signatures, mostly from “blow ins,” who “blew in” 30 to 40 some years ago, to more recently. And the two anti-LHD petitions, one has 24 signatures, and the other has 4 signatures (I don’t think “Oecpexgrmu” counts).

So the “masses” that Dick Sullivan has referred to, might be the folks who are not “blow ins” or “newbies” or “do gooders,” but “old time Newburyporters” (“nbpter”).

I’ve been told that local historic districts don’t create friction in the community, but they do bring to the surface the frictions that already exist.

The “No LHD” Folks and Distortion of the Facts

One of the real problems I have with the “Say No to LHD” folks is not only presenting wrong information as the truth (see previous post), but also the weird distortion of the facts about Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD).  The point of the misinformation and distortion of the facts appears to be 1) to scare folks into either being terrified that this “socialist” agenda, or 2) just scaring them in general with distorted and false information.  And that distorted information gets out there, and is perceived by good and well intentioned folks as fact.

I wish I was making this up.

The proposed Newburyport LHD is based on state law. Each state differs in their laws about a LHD.  Our state law is called Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40C, which can be read here.  The draft of the proposed LHD ordinance references Chapter 40C.

Folks have emailed me and I have read many “alternatives” to having a LHD.  Have the guidelines under the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Planning Board, the Building Inspector to prevent another layer of government.  Have a voluntary LHD the way they do in Rhode Island.

Our state law is very specific.  And a LHD cannot be voluntary (it maybe in other states, but not in our state).   By law, the Zoning Board, Planning Board and the Building Inspector do not have a say over what a LHD in our state would cover.

And if the LHD passes, by state law, the ordinance can only be amended by a super majority of the Newburyport City Council, 8 out of the 11 councilors.  If the city wanted to expand the LHD, it would have to go through what it went through to create the proposed LHD. There would be a new investigation,  the new area would be reviewed by the Massachusetts Historical Commission, there would be a public hearing and it would need to be approved by the council by a super majority, 8 out of the 11 councilors.  This is laid out in Section 3 of our state law, which can be read here.

State law requires a LHD Commission, and that is laid out in Section 4 of Mass General Law 40C which can be read here.

Also their claim that only 2 city residents will be on the LHD Commission is false.  Our own Newburyport City law 2-62 states very clearly:

“Persons appointed to City of Newburyport boards, committees, commissions and authorities that are established by ordinance shall be residents of the City of Newburyport. This shall pertain to new appointments made after the date of approval of this section.”

The creation of the proposed Newburyport LHD is also a work in progress.  As an example, this is from the Newburyport Daily News, February 13, 2012, by Dyke Hendrickson.

“The Local Historic District Study Committee has voted to avoid the potential of expensive roofing bills by deleting a measure in its draft that would have required slate roofs to be replaced by slate roofs on structures within the proposed historic district.

The committee met Thursday night, and in discussing feedback it has received, it was stated that homeowners have expressed concern about a proposed requirement stating that a building owner had to replace slate with slate.

In mulling the matter, co-chair Doug Locy called on his own experience to say that a slate roof could cost $110,000, while a roof of another (appropriate) material could cost about $10,000…

The five-member study committee agreed to delete “slate” from its final report, and thus the use of asphalt shingling or other surfaces will be included in the proposed ordinance the committee sends to the City Council in late spring.”

The revised guidelines for the proposed Newburyport LHD will be put up on the City’s website after March 1st.  And the proposed 2nd draft of the LHD has not yet had a Public Hearing, or gone before the Newburyport City Council, where it will most, if not very likely, if not definitely be further amended.

The No LHD Literature-Wrong Information

I was given a copy of the literature (one piece of paper) from the “Say No To LHD” folks.

2 things immediately stand out as just wild misinformation !!  Just plain WRONG information!!  Hello.

1) Their claim that  the LHD Commission would only require 2 Newburyport residents.  WRONG!  FALSE!

Every member on the LHD Commission would be a Newburyport resident, just like any other Newburyport board and commission.  It was assumed that people would understand this.  But since there is so much misinformation out there, the wording on the second draft of the LHD ordinance will clarify that the Commission will be made up of Newburyport residents only, not “outsiders.”

2)  Their claim that any changes, including enlargement of the LHD or additional restrictions, would require a simple majority vote in the Newburyport City Council. WRONG!  FALSE!

A) Any change to the ordinance would require a super majority vote in the council, 8 out of the 11 councilors.  (Mass General Law 40C, Section 3)

“Any ordinance or by-law creating an historic district may, from time to time, be amended in any manner not inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter by a two-thirds vote of the city council in a city..”

B) And if the LHD were to be enlarged, the city would go through the exact same thing that it has gone through with the creating this LHD. There would be a new investigation, the new area would be reviewed by the Massachusetts Historical Commission, there would be a public hearing, and it would need to be approved by the council by a super majority, 8 out of the 11 councilors. (Mass General Law 40C, Section 3)

“An historic district may be enlarged or reduced or an additional historic district in a city or town created in the manner provided for creation of the initial district…”

Please, facts are important.  Get the facts right!!

Marsh Painting by Heade, Sudden Showers

Martin Johnson Heade Sudden Showers, Newbury Marshes, c 1865-1875

Martin Johnson Heade Sudden Showers, Newbury Marshes, c 1865-1875

Martin Johnson Heade, “Sudden Showers, Newbury Marshes,” c 1865-1875, Oil on Canvas, 13.25″ x  26.31,” Courtesy of the Yale University Art Gallery, Yale University, New Haven, Conn. (Press image to enlarge.)

Another amazing painting of the Newbury marshes by Martin Johnson Heade, thanks to Wikipedia (see previous post). The image is in the public domain.

I‘ve spent decades painting the marshes around Newburyport, and Heade is one of my all time favorites artists.  And this reminds me of the marshes along Rt 1A between Newburyport and Rowley.  A real treat for the Newburyport Blog.

A Martin Johnson Heade Painting of the Marshes

heademartinjohnsonsunlightandshadow

Sunlight and Shadow: The Newbury Marshes (c. 1871-1875), Martin Johnson Heade

Sunlight and Shadow: The Newbury Marshes (c. 1871-1875), Martin Johnson Heade, Oil on canvas, Size: 12″ x 26.5″ John Wilmerding Collection (The National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.)  Press image to enlarge.

How gorgeous is this painting by Martin Johnson Heade, who did a number of paintings of our local marshes.  This is via Wikipedia, so the image must be in the public domain, and I don’t think I was aware of this painting either (see earlier post).

People end up on the Newburyport Blog all the time looking for pictures and photographs of Newburyport.  And it is always so much fun to find another extraordinary image of this beautiful place.

Boston Globe Article about Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD)

There is an article in today’s Boston Globe on Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD).  There are some excerpts below.  You can read the entire article by Brenda Buote here.

“The proposal has reignited a decades-old dispute between those who believe a local historic district is needed to guide future development and protect Newburyport’s rich heritage, and homeowners who view the proposed commission as an assault on their property rights…

Newburyport is widely considered one of the most architecturally rich areas of the country. High Street, for example, includes many Federal-style homes that were built between 1778 and 1818, at the height of New England’s maritime culture, as well as a number of homes that represent a greater variety of architectural styles, from bungalows to Colonials and Greek Revivals…

“There is a totally different kind of development pressure today than there was in the 1970s,’’ said Sarah White, chairwoman of the city’s Local Historic District Study Committee, noting that “many property owners on High Street have been approached because they have deep lots that could support another structure. For years, we’ve been relying on luck and the largesse of a lot of people who don’t want to sell to developers. The question is, how much longer do we want to rely on luck?’’…

Local historic districts offer the strongest form of protection for structures deemed worthy of preservation, giving a locally appointed commission the authority to review proposed changes to exterior architectural features visible from a public way. Under state law, such districts can be created by local ordinance, but require two-thirds majority approval by the municipality’s city council or town meeting…

White said the study committee is working to address the concerns of those opposed to the local historic district, and will be modifying language in the draft ordinance before the panel’s final report reaches the City Council…

Rather than having authority over buildings that are more than 75 years old, the commission would likely only review proposed alterations to buildings constructed before 1930, White said. In addition, the study committee plans to eliminate language requiring review of roofing materials, and add a residency requirement mandating that all members of the commission live in Newburyport….

White stressed that the levying of fines would be “rare, an absolute last resort,’’ and was quick to point out that if the commission is established, it would not be able to expand the district’s boundaries on a whim; a study committee would have to examine the issue, and any proposed change would have to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the City Council. Likewise, if the commission wanted to extend its powers to include purview over new items, such as paint colors or landscaping, such a change would have to be approved by at least eight of the City Council’s 11 members, White said, to meet the two-thirds requirement.”…

Newburyport’s YMCA

The YMCA, courtesy of the City of Newburyport

The YMCA, courtesy of the City of Newburyport

One of the fun things about the Newburyport Blog getting involved in advocating for Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD), is that I’ve had the privilege of looking through the historic surveys, which you can see here.

There is a photograph of the YMCA, which burned down in July 1987.  The YMCA was at the corner of State Street and Harris Street, where the expansion of our beautiful Newburyport Library exists today.  The YMCA was so decimated by the fire, that it was unsalvageable, eventually demolished, with a few of it’s elements incorporated into the MBTA train station in 1998, a photo of which can be seen here.

The YMCA was built 1891 and was the only example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture.  It was always used as the YMCA.

You can read all about it on the city’s website here.

Painting of the Newburyport Marshes by Alfred Bricher

"Hunter in the Meadows of Old Newburyport, Massachusetts" by Alfred Thompson Bircher

"Hunter in the Meadows of Old Newburyport, Massachusetts" by Alfred Thompson Bricher, click to enlarge

(If you click on the painting by Bricher, the image will enlarge)

I have never seen this gorgeous painting of a “Hunter in the Meadows of Old Newburyport, Massachusetts,” by Alfred Thompson Bricher c. 1873.  It’s oil on Canvas, 22″ x 44″ and the image is courtesy of  Wikipedia, and is now apparently in the public domain.  What a treat.

“The scene appears to be in the vicinity of the Little River. Route 1 offered the major overlook easily accessible to artists. In the far right can be seen the ridge of the right bank of the Merrimack over which High Street runs. Cattle have been turned into the marsh for pasture, a practice still allowed on some marsh farms of the area.”

Comments on the Online Petition in Support of Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD)

Downtown Newburyport, Courtesy of the City of Newburyport

Downtown Newburyport, Courtesy of the City of Newburyport

These are some of the comments on the online petition in support of Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD).  The petition reads:

“We the undersigned are in support of creating a Local Historic District for Newburyport, Massachusetts that consists of High Street, the gateway to the city, and downtown Newburyport.

We support preserving the historic character of these two areas that are vital to the economic well-being of the city.”

The online petition has reached 200 signatures as of today.  One online petition against the LHD has 20 signatures, the other has 1.

The online petition in support of Newburyport’s Local Historic District can be signed here.

Here are some of the comments:

“It is very important that we approve this proposed historic district covering High St. and the downtown area. The proposal is restrained, rational and thoughtful and we are way late in making this designation.”

“This is an important next step for the City of Newburyport. The historical district provides opportunity to assure that its historical character is not lost for future generations.”

“Newburyport must have a designated historic district. It is absolutely foolhardy to not protect these irreplaceable treasures.”

“We live in a historic 1845 home (on High Street) and we think that creation of an LHD will help all of us to preserve the historic character and beauty of Newburyport into the future.”

“I think the LHD is long overdue. My thanks to the committee volunteers for taking on this effort.”

“Absolutely needed!”

“I strongly support the LHD to protect our rights as homeowners. We bought our home specifically because of the consistency of its historic neighborhood. Significant alteration or demolition of historic properties in Newburyport would diminish our experience of living here. Over time, if the historic context is allowed to erode, property values in Newburyport will be far less than they could be.”

“I agree that maintaining the historic nature of our town is what makes Newburyport such a special place to live.”

“LHD is needed to protect the important historical fabric of Newburyport.”

“Please protect our treasured place.”

“The authentic architectural heritage of our city is one of our greatest strengths and adds meaningful value to everyone’s property. We should protect this.”

The John Birch Society Comes to Newburyport City Hall

Newburyport City Councilor Ed Cameron has put up a blog post “Bringing Craziness to the Local Level,” where he quotes an article in the New York Times, February 4, 2012, “Activists Fight Green Projects, Seeing U.N. Plot,” the whole article can be read here.

“Across the country, activists with ties to the Tea Party are railing against all sorts of local and state efforts to control sprawl and conserve energy. They brand government action for things like expanding public transportation routes and preserving open space as part of a United Nations-led conspiracy to deny property rights and herd citizens toward cities.

They are showing up at planning meetings to denounce bike lanes on public streets and smart meters on home appliances — efforts they equate to a big-government blueprint against individual rights.”

Councilor Cameron points out that this has arrived at the local level.  Mr. Cameron points out that this was posted on Bill Hudak’s website:

“January 12, 2012 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Join Bill (Hudak) at the Newburyport RTC Meeting at Stripers in Salisbury for an important information meeting regarding Agenda 21.

Local Agenda 21: Coming to Your Neighborhood.
An information session on Agenda 21 by leading expert, Hal Shurtleff (a member of the John Birch Society).
Thursday , Jan. 12, 2012 at 7:30 PM
Stripers Grille Restaurant Function Room
175 Bridge Road, Salisbury. MA 01952

Agenda 21 has infiltrated Newburyport as well as hundreds of other towns. Elected Mayors and town officials are solicited and encouragement (often with taxpayer funded grants) to participate in the many Agenda 21 programs. These programs often come to a city with nice names like The Green Communities Act, Sustainable Development, and ICLEI. They result in mandates like stretch building codes and the mentality that accepts powerful local historic districts (LHD). These organizations appear locally driven, but they represent the coordination of local governments by global entities and the U.N. with social engineering as a true objective.”

The whole thing can be read here.

It was also posted on our local RNC site here.

The John Birch Society comes to Newburyport City Hall, press the link to YouTube here

The John Birch Society comes to Newburyport City Hall, YouTube link

And Hal Shurtleff, a member of the John Birch Society, has also visited Newburyport City Hall, which you can see on YouTube here.

Editor’s Note: It appears that “Stop Un Agenda 21! Stop ICLEI!”  has put a link to this post on their Facebook page.  Just to let you know, I agree with Newburyport City Councilor Ed Cameron, in his post “Bringing Craziness to the Local Level.”  For me trying to link things like historic preservation, a Local Historic District (LHD), Smart Growth and Green initiatives to a U.N plot with social engineering as its objective, is “crazy.”  And to quote a reader of the Newburyport Blog, ” ‘The John Birch Society Comes to Newburyport City Hall’ (yours and Ed’s blogs) has to be one of the scariest things I have read in a long time….what is going on out there?”

And another reader of the Newburyport Blog, “I’m sorry, the irony of you being mistaken for a Bircher is somewhat hilarious :)”

Newburyport, the Kim Kardashian of the North Shore

“In the 1960′s Newburyport looked like a bomb hit it, it looked like Berlin after the war, it looks great now, we don’t need a Local Historic District (LHD).”

Link to "A Measure of Change"

Link to "A Measure of Change"

In the 1960′s downtown Newburyport did look like a bomb hit it, just take a look at the film “A Measure of Change” made in 1975, it is pretty shocking, and yes, Newburyport has come a long, long way.

It used to be that the wealthy folks lived on High Street, and everyone else lived “below.”  So much money has come into Newburyport, especially in the 7 years, that million dollar homes exist, not just on High Street, but throughout Newburyport. The whole demographic and dynamic has changed. And the almost (we hope never) demolition of 1 Little’s Lane (see earlier post), the stately circa 1800 Tappan House in Newbury, that was bought for 1.6 million dollars, raises a whole new question.  The mindset to tear down as significant a house as 1 Little’s Lane, translates to the mansions on High Street (and lots and lots of other places that are “less significant,”  but in my mind just as significant as 1 Little’s Lane).

The Tappan House, 1 Little's Lane, Courtesy of P.Preservationist

The Tappan House, 1 Little's Lane, Courtesy of P.Preservationist

Newburyport has become a new “it” place.  The, if you will, Paris Hilton (dated) or Kim Kardashian of places to live in New England. The influx of folks with an enormous amount of money (and often no knowledge and sometimes no appreciation of historic houses) is a game changer. When Mr. Karp starts building, that amount of money is going to look like peanuts.  And the “old” houses are now often seen, even if they are beautifully updated like 1 Little’s Lane, as “fixer-uppers.”  Old wiring, no spa bathroom, no walk-in closets, no huge kitchens-family rooms, no media rooms, not enough bathrooms.  Just old New England charm, which often just doesn’t cut it, apparently.

So the almost (we hope never) demolition of 1 Little’s Lane should be a wake up call to us all.   We are way beyond the Newburyport of the 1960′s, we’ve made it to the “big time” — the Kim Kardashian of the North Shore.  Folks come here because of the historic charm,  and if we don’t protect it (Local Historic District-LHD), Newburyport will just one more suburban place outside Boston to hang a person’s hat.

Saving one House at a Time

The Tappan House, 1 Little's Lane, Newbury, Courtesy of P.Preservationist

The Tappan House, 1 Little's Lane, Newbury, Courtesy of P.Preservationist

What fabulous news.  The demolition permit for 1 Little’s Lane in Newbury (see the Newburyport Blog’s earlier post), the stately circa 1800 large Federal style house, for the moment, has been put on hold, according to the story in today’s Newburyport Daily News.

And it is my experience that these things do not happen, and hopefully it will not happen, without an enormous amount of effort by all sorts of folks.

Would the demolition permit be withdrawn without a front page story by the Newburyport Daily News that alerted the community to the demolition permit taken out by the owners, and the story in Sunday’s Boston Globe about the possible demolition of the Tappan House, 1 Little’s Lane, with, in both cases, a photo of the historic dwelling.

One wonders.

And according to today’s story in the Newburyport Daily News, “The Patricans now have a variety of options at their fingertips, provided by a group of local designers and architects who volunteered their time to draw up ways to save the house…

The group’s plans fall into two categories: leaving the house where it is and making physical changes to screen it from the Patricans’ backyard, and moving the house to another location on the property.

The plan to leave the home in its present location calls for tree landscaping between the Patricans’ pool area and the Tappan House. It also calls for attaching “Jamaica shutters” to the Tappan House windows that face the Patrican property. The shutters have a historical appearance and could have legal restrictions placed upon them that would prohibit their removal unless an agreement is reached. It includes three potential scenarios for moving lot lines in order to give the Patricans more land around their main house and creating a lot for the Tappan House that could be resold.

The plans to move the house would push it farther down Little’s Lane, away from the Patricans’ house. It would be located near the edge of the field that is protected by the covenant. The house could then be sold to a new owner, along with the field.”

And I can assure you that an enormous amount of work, by incredibly talented and professional people, went into these plans for free, to provide alternatives for the owners of 1 Little’s Lane, to save the home, built by Revolutionary War privateer Offin Boardman for his son-in-law Amos Tappan, from demolition.

(One of the conceptual plans drawn up for the owners can be seen here.)

Hopefully there will be a win-win situation for this stately and historic property.