Alterations to Historic Newburyport

I’ve walked the South End of Newburyport, particularly the area closest to Plum Island (Ward 1) now for 30 years.  I love to walk, and I walk everyday. (It started when I first moved here in 1981 and walked my new puppy and then added my little boy in his stroller, walking around the South End of Newburyport, pushing the stroller and dragging Sadie, who was then no longer a puppy, behind.)

Back then, when I started walking, the area was sometimes in bedraggled shape, but historically intact.  I would fantasize about living on certain streets in the South End.  A new house or major alteration would go up here or there.  In the beginning it was so minor that it was “quirky.”

Yesterday, I took a walk along some of the streets in Newburyport’s South End, some of the streets that I often fantasized living on.  What I realized yesterday, was those streets have been altered so much over the years, bit by bit, a little by homeowners, a lot by developers, that I would now never want to live there.  In fact parts of those streets no longer look like an historic city, they look like narrow streets with a sometimes a jumble of houses that have created not particularly, in my mind, compared to what once was there, an attractive area.  I was really taken aback.  I would no longer want to live in those areas (including an area mentioned in an opinion piece in today’s Newburyport Daily News).

High Street, so far has mostly avoided that fate and so has downtown  Newburyport and the areas close to it, in Wards 2 and 3, the area for the proposed LHD (800 houses not 2,800 houses-good grief).

If those areas are doctored little by little, just like the areas on my walk, and become a jumble of architectural styles, Newburyport would change so much that it would just be another suburban place to live, not the place we live in today.  That wouldn’t work for a lot of people. The LHD (and I understand people’s concerns over property rights) would make sure that that did not happen. If it can happen and is still happening in the South End at a rapid rate (by developers), it could happen anywhere in Newburyport.

Protecting the integrity of Newburyport is so important for us. And, oh my, I am concerned.  There is a very loud and vocal opposition (not the more quiet folks concerned with property rights, that one can have a real back and forth conversation with), that are using misinformation and innuendo to express their point of view.  I am concerned that the a real “discussion” about a Local Historic District for Newburyport could get derailed (which is the forcefully stated intent),  instead of letting the democratic process unfold.