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.