The 2 historic documents that I put up on the Newburyport Political Blog from the Library of Congress were such a hit that I thought I would put up a couple of more.
5 Birch Street, Newburyport, MA
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey. Arthur C. Haskell, Photographer, April, 1934.
7 Birch Street, Newburyport, MA
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey. Arthur C. Haskell, Photographer, June, 1934.
What I love about these 2 photographs is that they give such a sense of Newburyport’s history. Such a sense of the feel and soul of Newburyport, MA. Even though I moved here in 1981, Newburyport at that time still had the same feel and texture, if you will, that is captured in these 2 historic photographs. Very different from the “glitzy” feel that it is beginning to acquire in the year 2007.
Can you imagine the look of the gentleman’s face in the top photo if he was told that some houses in Newburyport, MA would sell for millions of bucks and that we were so “upscale” that Starbucks had arrived.
One can imagine that the gentleman would have said that was “nuts.” And of course he probably would have said, “Starbucks? What the heck is Starbucks?”
Anyway, I went on a hunt for Birch Street. I finally found it. It is a tiny street between Market Street and Summer Street, near the YWCA, that parallels High Street.
2 and 3 Birch Street exist (that’s as far as the street goes,) but no 5 or 7 Birch Street. The 2 houses in the photographs above no longer exist.
So I went back to the Library of Congress and did a little more digging. These photo’s were taken during the Depression (1934). It looks like the photos were part of a survey done at that time concerning the houses that were going to be demolished to put through Route 1, so that traffic would not have to go through downtown Newburyport, MA.
So, it appears that 5 and 7 Birch Street would have been, yes indeed, in the middle of Route. 1.
One can only imagine the upheaval around that massive demolition, although, so far, I have not located any written documentation. (I am sure there is tons of stuff in the Newburyport Public Library archives and many people in town who remember the event.)
As a person who loves old homes, the fact that 5 and 7 Birch Street (not to mention that whole area of town) no longer exists, is chilling and just downright sorrowful. I would call this not a “Newburyport preservation success story,” but a “Newburyport preservation story disaster.”
And just as a reminder, demolition is still a happening thing. Demolition has been happening all over our National Historic District. It just isn’t as dramatic as losing entire neighborhoods to the bulldozer or whatever.
And not to be a broken record here, but to be a broken record here, Newburyport, MA has a few stalling tactics up its sleeve now, but no real protection for our historic assets. And this, in my mind, is chilling and just downright regrettable.