Newburyport, Protecting High Street

In the Library of Congress, there is yet another set of wonderful photographs, this time of the “Pierce-Knapp-Perry House” at 47 High Street.

Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, Historic American Buildings Survey Frank O. Branzetti, Photographer Nov. 1, 1940.

This is a photograph of that magnificent house taken in 1940.

Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, Historic American Buildings Survey Frank O. Branzetti, Photographer Nov. 19, 1940.

And this is a photograph of the house entrance and fence also taken in 1940.

And I think this is very cool. Sally Chandler took this beautiful photograph of the same house entrance and fence in 2004 for the book “Gardens of the New Republic.”

Sally Chandler © 2004
Image courtesy of Historic Gardens of Newburyport

I think that it is a really amazing preservation success story. And what a loss it would be to Newburyport, MA if this house no longer existed.

Ah, protection of High Street, the Grand Dame of Newburyport, so important to the city’s economic welfare.

To quote Ted Nelson on the proposed subdivision by Todd Fremont-Smith at the back of the historic Wheelwright property.

“That someone had the audacity or could be as brazen to put a subdivision at that spot…” Newburyport Current, January 19, 2007.

And this quote from Doug Locy, the chair of the Newburyport Planning Board in today’s Newburyport Daily News, January 22, 2007.

” “I think there is less and less open land available to build on,” … That problem, he added, may lead to more developments like the one planned by Wills Lane Investments LLC, which is planning to put up four homes on a plot of land behind the Wheelwright House, 75 High St.

“I think those parcels that are available for by-right subdivisions, people are going to try to pick up and begin constructing homes,” he said.”

Chilling. At least for this blogger.

So what can we do?

Property owners can follow the lead of Ester Macomber and put a Conservation Restriction on their land–those acres and acres of land behind those historic High Street homes. That is the easiest and quickest fix that I can think of.

Any thing is possible now. Who would have thought that anyone would have been “brazen” enough to build on the historic Wheelwright property?

An overlay to protect the large amount of land in front of those historic High Street homes has already been proposed to the Newburyport City Council. Don’t think it couldn’t happen, because it most certainly could.

And an overlay to protect the acres and acres of land behind the historic High Street homes. What a travesty it would be to have a very possible continuation of the “brazen” subdivision behind the historic Wheelwright property.

We as a city have an enormous amount of historic assets to lose. We can prevent further damage from being done. However, that means continuing to create awareness of this dilemma, as well as having the will to address this very real problem, not just talking and worrying about it, until it is too late.

Mary Eaton