One of the things I really like about the Newburyport Preservation Trust (and whether or not they are consciously doing this or not I do not know), is that they are building a sense of community around the issue of historic preservation.
The opening ceremonies for Preservation Week, sponsored by the Preservation Trust, were held at the old jail which is on Auburn Street, next to Newburyport’s Bartlet Mall, on Saturday morning, May 5, 2007.
Over 120 people attended, old, young, with and without children.
Chuck Griffin gave the tour and a history of the jail. There was a list of all of the prisoners who had been housed in the jail. The jail is also the subject of the oldest known photograph still existing in the US (taken in 1839, two months after the daguerreotype was introduced to the world). Mr. Griffin had examples of the buildings drawings and a petition signed in 1823 by a dozens of Newburyport residents who were in favor of having the jail built in our city. And there were also many tales of the jail itself.
Sarah White, the president of the Newburyport Preservation Trust, told me that a 90-year old woman reported to the Preservation Trust that she had been waiting her whole life to see the jail, but her mother told her, “don’t you go playing by that old jail,” when she was growing up. For years, the old jail was either used for different functions or was privately owned. The lady in question was thrilled to have finally seen it. And apparently many other folks felt the same way - they had always wanted to see the old jail.
The Newburyport Preservation Trust has also managed to unearth a documentary film about Newburyport’s Urban Renewal, made in 1974, right in the midst of the time when Newburyport’s Urban Renewal was taking place.
The film, will be shown Friday, May 11, 2007 at 6PM at the Firehouse Center for the Arts, which is located at Newburyport’s Market Square.