Newburyport — Resiliency

Market Square, 1972 from the alley next to the Fire House.
Market Square, Newburyport, around 1972, before Urban Renewal, from the alley next to the Fire House. Courtesy of Sharon Bauer, via the Newburyport History Buffs.

It always takes my breath away when I see photos of Newburyport before Urban Renewal. This is a photo, courtesy of Sharon Bauer via the Newburyport History Buffs on Facebook, of Market Square before the restoration of downtown. It was a slum. It’s very fancy now, in fact the whole town is very fancy now, but it was a slum. Sharon has the date as 1972, but it may be even earlier than that.

I moved here in 1981, downtown Newburyport had been restored, but the rest of Newburyport surrounding the downtown had not been. I was in the late part of the first wave that “discovered” Newburyport, an historic small city, surrounded by farmland, that seemed to be preserved in amber. We were painters, writers, musicians, teachers who thought we had discovered an unfinished masterpiece.

I bought my first house, a gorgeous Greek Revival on Federal Street, for $74,000 and was upset because the folks who sold it had it for one year and had doubled their money.

By the time I had driven down High Street and had parked on Green Street in front of the real estate agency, I knew this was home. I didn’t even know about Plum Island until after I bought the house (now that was an amazing surprise/plus). The Tannery was still a tannery (David Hall had not yet transformed it) and Maudslay State Park did not exist. The natives looked at those of us who came in early with a whole lot of suspicion (the subject of many, many blog posts over the years on The Newburyport Blog).

One of the things I sensed about Newburyport, I knew absolutely nothing about the city, was its resiliency. And Urban Renewal was not the first time that Newburyport had risen like a phoenix from the ashes. As a young woman that sense of resiliency resinated with me, it still does.

And now, 36 years later, Newburyport is in a “boom” phase. A friend of mine said to me, many, many years ago, that Newburyport was headed up, but it’s history was one of ups and downs, and it would decline again.

As I said, we are fancy now, so fancy I can hardly remember the resilient aura. I loved the city back in 1981 and I’ve loved it as it has blossomed in unimaginable ways. Yes there feels as if part of it is lost (so many blog posts on The Newburyport Blog) but I love where I live 36 years later.

Inn Street, Newburyport MA
Inn Street, Newburyport MA