We had been amazingly lucky for a long, long time. After Urban Renewal started in the 1970’s, people already in town and people who moved here were excited about restoring the rest of Newburyport’s Historic District.
People were rescuing old, often neglected properties, some that had been broken up into apartments, and would repair and restore the structure.
For quite a while we were pretty good stewards of our own unique American Story. We were lucky. And somehow our luck has changed.
And, for a whole variety of reasons, we have no protection. There are no zoning amendments that protect our historic heritage. That’s crazy.
I know I am going “on and on and on” about this, but I don’t want to lose what makes Newburyport MA unique.
I think about what could have happened to High Street back in 1999. Part of what makes us economically vibrant would have been wiped out and we never, ever would have gotten it back.
All the trees would have been gone and the road would have been straightened and narrowed. All the carriage steps and hitching posts that are scattered along the roadway, which are like hidden treasures, would have been wiped out. Along the Ridge from State Street to about Temple Street, people would have lost part of their property and a large retaining wall would have been put there to create another turning lane. Who knows what in the world would have happened to our statue of George Washington, no plan for that one.
The same thing is happening now, only it’s happening incrementally. We are losing a house here a house there. Large oversize structures pepper Newburyport’s Historic District changing local neighborhood character. It is happening so slowly, we hardly notice that it’s happening at all until it is too late.
What if we took all those changes and put them along High Street, the damage would not seem incremental—it would seem dramatic.
So why aren’t we pestering our City government for amendments to the zoning code that protects what we have left? It seems like we need to start thinking about doing that.
And since Christopher Ryan has decided not to be our next Planning Director, maybe it would be a good idea to start lobbying the Mayor (who picks Newburyport’s Planning Director) for someone who has a strong background in Historic Preservation and would know how to help us keep what we have—what makes us economically alive.