Newburyport’s Historic Gardens and the 21st Century

I went and talked to a delightful friend of mine who loves and appreciates historic gardens and who is very down to earth, to get a reality check.

The subject was/is how to live with historic preservation, only this time outside.

As I said in an earlier post, I went on a hunt for historic garden photos and historic garden designs in Newburyport, MA.

And one of the things that struck me, was that it would be A) very expensive to maintain these gardens in the year 2007 and B) like so many other things, life has changed, and the gardens might not fit in with the life style of your average family in the 21 st Century.

As my friend (again, who loves historic gardens) pointed out that kitchens are different now, bathrooms are different now, and houses have open concepts and people just plain live differently.

So I would think that one of the issues that a family might think about, if they were thoughtful, and bought an historic home, that had an historic garden, would be how does one integrate an historic landscape with lets say a family with young children and a dog?

I am quite sure that there are PhD programs (there have got to be) that address this issue, so I feel a little foolish contemplating this question on the Newburyport Blog.

But, here are two photos. One is an historic garden and one is an historic garden plan. And I ask myself how a family of four with let’s say 2 dogs, would think about being stewards of such a property and also play and enjoy their backyard?

Joseph Moulton House & Garden

Courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photograph Division, Washington, D.C.
Historic American Buildings Survey
Frank O. Branzetti, Photographer Oct. 29, 1940

Please press here for larger photo

Newburyport Gardens, Plan, Newburyport, MA

Courtesy of the Frances Loeb Library
Graduate School of Design, Harvard University.
Library of Congress
Prints and Photograph Division
Washington, D.C.

Please press here for larger photo

Mary Eaton

Memory and Newburyport’s Historic Gardens

I started thinking about “memory” (see earlier entry) again and what it means to a sense of place and historic preservation, because I started to think about historic gardens, mainly along High Street, how beautiful they are, but whether or not they make sense in day to day living in the year 2007.

All of this came into my head as I watched the work on 87 High Street take place.

Again, when is it appropriate to impinge on the past, and when is it appropriate to preserve it? And again, for me, there is often no easy answer.

And historic High Street gardens are not exactly a new topic.

“Gardens of the New Republic: Fashioning the Landscapes of High Street, Newburyport, Massachusett” is all about the significance of gardens in Newburyport, MA. The book is available at the Newburyport library and bookstores. It can also be obtained through the website

And in 2006 Preservation Massachusetts named the Wheelwright Gardens as one of Massachusetts’ “10 Most Endangered Resources.”

This is from the Newburyport Current , Tuesday, September 26, 2006, by Ulrika Gerth:

“The fact that this extremely rare Federal style garden has remained intact for over 120 years is amazing,” said Jim Igoe, president of Preservation Massachusetts. “This horticultural gem shares the same historic significance as the main house on this property and should benefit from the same type of protection granted to it.”

All of this had me scurrying to find old photographs and garden plans of gardens in Newburyport, MA to share with readers of the Newburyport Blog.

This is a an old photograph of the Wheelwright Garden at 75 High Street.

And I’ve been told, and I haven’t verified this, that there is a replica of Old South Church at the top of that wonderful wooden structure at the end of the garden.

The Garden at 75 High Street,
The Wheelwright House,
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
at the Newburyport Public Library

Mary Eaton

Nostalgic Historic Newburyport Gardens

The photographs of historic Newburyport Garden plans and photographs of historic Newburyport gardens, stir up both a deep sense of nostalgia for something that beautiful, that cared for and that loved, as well as a certain practical impatience, that it could be very difficult, short of being part of a museum or a full time gardener, to have such a wondrous oasis in the year 2007.

Anyway, here are two more photographs that I discovered that are in the public domain. One is a photograph of an historic garden and one is of an historic garden plan.


89-91 High Street, Garden

Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
at the Newburyport Public Library

Old Mosely Garden, plan of garden,
182 High Street, Newburyport, MA

Estate of Col. Ebenezer Mosely

Courtesy of the Library of Congress
The Frances Loeb Library
Graduate School of Design
Harvard University

Mary Eaton

Historic Gardens, Newburyport

My practical and down to earth friend, who loves historic gardens, wrote me an email concerning the previous post.

As a professional Landscape Designer she did take a class in historic preservation and to quote my friend, “There are tons of good questions, and not nearly as many good answers,” (about how to integrate an historic garden into the lives of people in the 21st Century.)

Oh, well. But not entirely surprising.

Because these photographs are so delightful, I thought I would put them on the Newburyport Blog for readers to enjoy on this Newburyport New England summer day.

Brockway Estate, Garden
83-85 High Street, Newburyport, MA

Courtesy of the Library of Congress
The Frances Loeb Library
Graduate School of Design,
Harvard University

Abraham Wheelwright House & Garden,
77 High Street, Newburyport, Essex County, MA

Courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photograph Division,
Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Historic American Buildings Survey
Frank O. Branzetti, Photographer
Aug. 14, 1940
View of Garden, Looking East

Mary Eaton

Historic Gardens at the Wheelwright House in Danger

In addition to the architectural merit and grace of the house, the gardens behind it are of utmost interest. They are one of, if not THE, oldest surviving historic gardens on High Street. Designed by Henry Ward, personal friend of William Wheelwright’s, the gardens today retain much of the original layout.

The earliest surviving photograph of the garden from the 1860s is unique in that it shows not only the still-existing beautiful summerhouse and original layout of the garden but also members of the family as well as the gardener. To have much of this early design still extant is beyond wonderful!

To consider it being turned into a hot -topped parking lot or house foundation is beyond what I can imagine.

I encourage anyone reading this blog to get a copy of the book “Gardens of the New Republic: Fashioning the Landscapes of High Street, Newburyport, Massachusetts” and read more about this property and the rich horticultural history of High Street and Newburyport. The book is available at the Newburyport library, bookstores and it can also be obtained through the website as well.

Please air your concerns about the preservation of this property! The time is very short! The members of the Board of Directors need to be aware of their responsibilities, not only to their endowment fund, but also to the the long range preservation of this house and garden. They were given a great gift more than 100 years ago and it would be a terrible thing if they disregarded their responsibility to that property.

Sally R. Chandler, Amesbury

Sally Chandler contributed to the book “Gardens of the New Republic: Fashioning the Landscapes of High Street, Newburyport, Massachusett” (which contains information about the Wheelwright property) The book is available at the Newburyport library and bookstores. It can also be obtained through the website

Local Historic District (LHD) and High Street in 1971 from P.Preservationist

High Street, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

High Street, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

The P. Preservationist has written a fascinating story about the effort to have High Street be a Local Historic District (LHD) in 1971.

The P. Preservationist has gone to the Newburyport Archives and done some mega research.

Everyone here at the Newburyport Blog, me and the frogs, are mighty impressed. This is definitely a must read.

P. Preservationist points out that there are differences today:

First, we have far fewer Townies present today and they represent a minority in our political scene.  Second, our demographics have changed.   We have a large percentage of people who have moved here precisely because of the historic neighborhoods.  Third and most importantly, the class structure that so bedeviled Bossy Gillis and John Marquand no longer exists.”

High Street, © Sally Chandler, 2004, Courtesy of "Historic Gardens of Newburyport"

High Street, © Sally Chandler, 2004, Courtesy of "Historic Gardens of Newburyport"

He has a marvelous quote which, as he points out, is reminiscent of today:

“High Street resident, Elizabeth L. Whiting complained, ‘Surely informative ideas of the many, gently and rationally expressed, deserve as much attention than the ideas of the latter [opponents] which are presented in deliberately caustic and irrelevant oratory.’ ”

You can read the whole post here.

Historic Preservation and New England Churches

Having thought so much about the historic preservation of Newburyport, MA, our small, seacoast New England city, I’ve always thought about residential and commercial architecture. I guess I’ve always taken the picturesque New England churches that populate Newburyport, MA and our surrounding communities and states, for granted.

Maybe this needs some rethinking.

After all in Newburyport one of our downtown churches is now a restaurant. The French Church (Federal Street) was made “recently” into condominiums (see previous posts).

There is a small church on Purchase Street that was made into a one family home, a long time ago. Over the years it has acquired decks overlooking the mouth of the Merrimac River and the Atlantic Ocean, and various beautiful gardens. I no longer think of it as a church that has had a “readaptive reuse,” but as a very interesting looking one family home.

I’ve stopped thinking of the “church” downtown near Newburyport City Hall, that has been made into a restaurant, as a “church.” I think of it now as a restaurant that is also an interesting piece of architecture. It has a different sort of “soul” now.

As the congregations of our New England churches dwindle (see previous posts) and small congregations are left with large historic structures to maintain, my guess is that 10 years from now, the iconic structures that are often taken for granted–many of them may be no more or have “readaptive reuse.” And somehow that would subtly or not so subtly change the “soul” of Newburyport and other New England cities and towns.

This weekend when I was at the Greek Orthodox Church on Harris Street (they have unbelievably wonderful homemade Greek food at a 3 day Greek food festival at the start of Newburyport’s Yankee Homecoming) in Newburyport, I found out a very interesting piece of information that I never knew before.

I remember it well, on August 7, 1983 the old Greek Orthodox Church had the most horrendous fire. It was heartbreaking. But the congregation rallied, and the new church was built.

But the old church was originally built by the 2nd Presbyterian Society of Newburyport in 1796. The Church bell (which survived the fire of 1983) was a gift of “Timothy Dexter, Esquire.” The old church was sold at auction in 1924 and acquired for the price of $6,500 by the Greek Community.

Newburyport, Historic Memory Loss

I just made this amazing discovery. The Library of Congress has some amazing photographs that can be used in the public domain. I never knew about this until yesterday, even after all these years.

One of the things that concerns me about Newburyport, MA in the year 2007, is that we often have very little historical memory, sometimes it feels like we have downright historic amnesia. I keep thinking that might be one of the reasons we appear to be so reluctant about being more pro-active about having more zoning laws protecting our historic heritage.

Believe me, this has nothing to do with the Newburyport Planning Board, who in my opinion are doing everything that they possibly could do. I’m thinking here, about the general population and just possibly lack of leadership on this issue from the corner office.

I believe that this is a photograph of High Street. I can’t figure out where on High Street it is, and if the Library of Congress does say where it is, I cannot find it. It is a pretty cool photo.

Courtesy of the Frances Loeb Library, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, the Library of Congress, Historical American Buildings Survey Collection.

This photograph, also from the Library of Congress, is a beautiful Georgian House on High Street.

Courtesy of the Frances Loeb Library, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, the Library of Congress, Historical American Buildings Survey Collection.

And Sally Chandler took this photograph of I believe the same Georgian House on High Street in 2004.

Sally Chandler © 2004
Image courtesy of Historic Gardens of Newburyport

Amazingly the house looks very much like the much earlier photo from the Library of Congress. But folks, we can no longer take our historic heritage for granted. If we do not do something proactive, we have and will continue to lose the very thing that makes Newburyport such an important and compelling place inwhich to work, live, visit and play.

Do we value our historic heritage or are we willing to let it be destroyed?

Mary Eaton

(Editor’s note: I’ve heard from several readers of the Newburyport Political Blog and the location of the High Street photograph from the Library of Congress, is the top of Fruit Street, with the Cushing House Museum being the brick house in the center. Many thanks to the readers of the Newburyport Political Blog.)

Newburyport, Wheelwright Gardens, Endangered Resources

Obviously I liked the fact that the gardens at the Wheelwright House made Preservation Massachusetts 10 Most Endangered Resource list a lot.

One of the things that I also like is that a realtor was one of the three people who nominated the Wheelwright Gardens.

Why do I find this so enchanting? Let me digress a bit and tell a tale.

I love going to open houses. Always have. Let’s say, it’s hard to remember just how long ago it was, 10-14 years ago I went to an open house that was on a side street very close to downtown Newburyport.

The house had been a one family Federal and had been pretty much gutted and turned into 3 condominiums. The start of a long and enduring trend.

I went in and looked at one of the condominiums. It was an “open” concept with a gas fireplace separating the dinning, living room area from the kitchen. No wood fireplace insight. This was when wood fireplaces were still considered a “good” thing.

All very nice if it was in Tucson, Arizona, but this was Newburyport, Massachusetts.

I asked the realtor how the developer came up with this concept. And the realtor quite happily told me that the realtor had told the developer what people “wanted” and what would sell, and the developer developed the property accordingly. The realtor seemed quite pleased with the contribution that the realtor had made to our historic Newburyport heritage.

And in my experience, this particular realtor was and is not an anomaly.

So that’s why I find the fact that a realtor, of all people, nominated an historic garden as an Endangered Resource endearing.

And I would not be at all surprised if other realtors might not be happy at this audacious act. Much easier to sell a million dollar plus property on historic High Street if one could just pave over that darn garden without a qualm in the world and make it into a nifty parking lot. Good grief, let’s get real.

So the fact that we are losing Newburyport’s historic heritage, short-term profit instead of long-term economic gain, is just downright complicated and downright multi-determined.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Wheelwright Gardens Make the Endangered Property List

Preservation Massachusetts has named the Wheelwright Gardens as one of Massachusetts’ “10 Most Endangered Resources.”

Well, yeh. They thought outside the box. Good for Preservation Massachusetts.

The Wheelwright Gardens are the first gardens ever to be place on Preservation Massachusetts “10 Most Endangered Resources.”

High Street won in 1999. The only roadway ever nominated. It was a very, very big deal. Fenway Park made it to the top ten that year too, and it’s still standing, thank you very much.

In 2001 the two historic houses, the William Barlett House and the William Johnson House on the Federal Street made it to the top ten. Not only are they still standing, but they have both been lovingly restored, with deed restrictions no less.

The “Common Pasture” made it to the top ten in 2004, and the Common Pasture has had many successes.

The Endangered Resource List is a very big deal. Let’s hope that the Wheelwright Gardens have the same “luck” as everything else that has made it.

And this is from the Newburyport Current online, Tuesday, September 26, 2006 (again many thanks to Ulrika Gerth):

“The fact that this extremely rare Federal style garden has remained intact for over 120 years is amazing,” said Jim Igoe, president of Preservation Massachusetts. “This horticultural gem shares the same historic significance as the main house on this property and should benefit from the same type of protection granted to it.”

The story can be read at:

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Endangered Historic Resources

Sally Chandler © 2004
Wheelwright Historical Garden

The gardens of Newburyport’s Wheelwright House have been nominated for Preservation Massachusetts’ (formerly called Historic Massachusetts) Ten Most Endangered Resource Program.

Endangered Resource Program “chump change?” No.

High Street was nominated and won in 1999. The only roadway ever nominated. It was a very, very big deal. (Fenway Park made it to the top ten that year too, and it’s still standing, thank you very much.)

People bellyache about the Federal Street Overlay, but in 2001 the two historic houses, the William Barlett House and the William Johnson House in the Federal Street Overlay District made it to the top ten. Not only are they still standing, but they both have been lovingly restored, with deed restrictions no less.

(If we can’t have a large Local Historic Districts anytime in my lifetime, maybe people with historic properties could think about deed restrictions for the benefit of the future generations of Newburyport, Massachusetts.)

The “Common Pasture” made it to the top ten in 2004, and the Common Pasture has had many successes. So all of you out there in web land who are sick of acquiring Open Space, don’t forget that one.

From what I can make out, deed restrictions are being placed on the Wheelwright dwelling itself, but nothing that I’ve heard protects the historic Wheelwright gardens.

So what’s with the gardens anyway? Who cares? Parking lots are practical. And how much work would it take to keep that thing up anyway. And who even gets to see it, good grief.

You can hear the rational. Yes?

But historic gardens, like open space or any other historic resource in Newburyport, MA, add to the intrinsic value of the place that we all live or love to visit. To pave over this little piece of paradise would be an incredible travesty and the garden is something that could never, ever be replaced.

So the Endangered Resource List is an incredibly powerful tool. And just because a garden has never been listed before, doesn’t mean that Preservation Massachusetts wouldn’t think it wasn’t just a dandy idea. It wouldn’t be the first time that they thought “outside the box.”

Mary Eaton

Frank Thurlo, Painting of the Chain Bridge


Frank Thurlo,1828-1913, watercolor of Newburyport's Chain Bridge

Every now and again the Newburyport Blog goes on a fun hunt.  In 2007 I went on a hunt for all the stuff I could find about Newburyport’s historic gardens.  And in 2012 it looks like I’m going on a hunt for Newburyport historic paintings.  How fun.

And in my hunt, I found another painting by Frank Thurlo, a watercolor of Newburyport’s Chain Bridge.  And you can see the same boat that Frank Thurlo had in the previous painting (see previous post), as well as the birds.

And Frank Thurlo was what we would call a true “native.” Frank Thurlo was a descendant of Richard Thurlo, a native of England, who held land in Rowley, MA in 1634 and moved to Newbury in 1651.  He was the son of Moody and Ann (Little-there’s that old name again) Thurlo, and went to the Brown High School in Newburyport.

Frank Thurlo lived from 1828-1913, and lived and died in Newburyport, MA . And all the images of his paintings are in the public domain.

Newburyport, Development, Back of High Street

The Newburyport Daily News on Monday October 9, 2006 ran a cartoon by Gary Robertson (no, not our City Councilor Gary Roberts) on what is being proposed for the back of the Wheelwright property by Todd Smith and Peter Nordblom of Willis Lane LLC, or what is now being referred to by the developers as “Brown Street.”

The cartoon has a bunch of construction folks with chainsaws hacking down trees to make way for the development by Willis Lane LLC. There is a sign that says:

to this Historic Property…
Wheelwright Estates
FIVE –count’em – 5 Luxury Homes
Priced from…must you ask?”

And then there is a gentleman standing inside the Oak Hill Cemetery gateway saying:

“Hey! Are you the same guys that tried to build a strip Mall right next to Gettysburg?”

Gotta love it!

I have traced/drawn from the Newburyport GIS map part of the back of High Street, from State Street to Lime Street or what is know as the “Ridge” the land behind the stately High Street mansions. The tracing/drawing is pretty crude, but I hope it will give folks an idea of just how much land is back there.


The area in red is the Wheelwright Property that is being developed by Willis Lane LLC. Two little dark blobs near High Street are where the Wheelwright House, the historic gardens and the Carriage House would be. (The Wheelwright House is very large, so that gives some idea of how huge the property actually is)

The little green squiggly part is the “wet-lands” in the middle of the property. And then the brown line starts at what is Brown Street, and my freehand drawing of the extended road would give an idea of what the developers have proposed for the road in the ORSD or Cluster Zone subdivision.

(See previous post for the actual plans.)

It sure looks to me as if that whole area by the historic Oak Hill Cemetery would be decimated. And the neighbors are beginning to organize, handing out flyers and circulating a petition. That’s a relief.

The green area belongs to 67 High Street and that area has a deed restriction on it by the owner. That land bordering Oak Hill Cemetery can never be built on. Well, yeh, whew…thank goodness.

I’ve outlined the Ridge area in blue. (Again, a little crudely drawn, but the hope is to get the general picture.) This as far as I know, except for 67 High Street, is completely unprotected. (Please see Disclaimer on the “Overview, Guidelines and Information” page.)

As I understand it, there are things that the owners can do, like putting deed restrictions on the property, or possibly the City of Newburyport could do a protective overlay, I don’t know.

Who would have thought that a beautiful piece of property like the Wheelwright land would be proposed for a subdivision, of all things. I hope that the residents and the City of Newburyport could do something to protect the rest of this irreplaceable landscape.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, The Ridge is in Real Trouble

The rape of the Ridge has begun. This is one of my worst nightmares for Newburyport, MA.

The “Ridge” is the area on High Street on the upper side of the roadway that goes roughly from State Street to about Lime Street. It is one of the most beautiful and stately areas of High Street and one of the most beautiful parts of Newburyport, MA.

And folks we have been sold out by the Board of the Wheelwright House, the realtor that listed the property and the lawyer, who ironically was Newburyport’s Mayor for 3 terms and the Mayor under whose administration the Newburyport Master Plan took shape, former Mayor Lisa Mead.

To say that I am beside my self is an understatement. I really thought long and hard about using the phrase the “rape of the Ridge,” but this morning I thought it was more than appropriate.

And many thanks to Stephanie Chelf and the Newburyport Daily News for putting this story on the front page and also having the aerial view of the entire property on page A8.

According to the Newburyport Daily News, August 31, 2006, the property was bought by Todd Smith and Peter Nordbloom of Willis Lane Investments, LLC. Both men are officials of Nordblom Real Estate Solutions of Burlington, “one of the regions largest real estate and commercial property firms.” Believe me, they do not have our best interest at heart.

The firm bought the entire property for $1.6 million. The property is “nearly 5 acres.” That’s a lot of land folks.

Willis Lane Investments, LLC has already put the Wheelwright House, the historic gardens and the carriage house back on the market for $1.3 million. The house and the carriage house “are protected through a preservation restriction that prevents alteration or demolition.” The historic gardens are not protected and it doesn’t mean that the Wheelwright House and carriage house could not be converted to condominiums.

And basically the rest of the property was bought for $300,000…not a bad price folks. And the firm would like to develop the roughly “4 acre” land at the back of the property and put in a 5 single-family home subdivision.

This is on the Ridge.

It sounds from the paper that the firm will have to get a number of permits for the “subdivision proposal.” Thank goodness for that.

Let us not welcome these folks to town. Let us make their lives as miserable as possible. I cannot imagine that the Newburyport Planning Board or residents of this City would be amenable to this proposal.

And for goodness sakes let us start pestering our City officials, especially the Newburyport City Council for zoning amendments that protect our historic assets. This project alone helps destroy our economic vitality.

Mary Eaton

Bushee Estate Demolished for a Subdivision

The Bushee estate on Newman Road has been demolished for a subdivision.  That’s a “Yikes.”

The home that carried her ( Florence E. Bushee) name boasted a twin chimney 2 1/2-story colonial with 13 rooms and eight open fireplaces, ornamental gardens, a carriage house, a post and beam cow barn and multi-stall horse barn.”  Newburyport Daily News, January 25, 2102

The entire article can be read here (it’s worth reading!!).

Newburyport, the Way a Fence Looks Matters

A fence on High Street is like a jewelry on a beautiful woman.

A fence on High Street, Sally Chandler © 2004, Courtesy of "Historic Gardens of Newburyport"

A fence on High Street, Sally Chandler © 2004, Courtesy of "Historic Gardens of Newburyport"

Last night at the Local Historic District (LHD) informational meeting, a person who owns a gorgeous mansion on High Street in the South End, up on the Ridge, one of the most important homes on High Street, asked if they would have to go in front of the LHD Commission (if the proposed LHD is passed) to put in a privacy fence, as I heard it, to protect their children.

To put a privacy fence in front of this particular mansion, or any mansion on High Street–”No.”  That should have been the answer.

If they would like to put a privacy fence in the back of their property for their children to play in, of course (and that would not come under the proposed Local Historic District (LHD) guidelines).

The way a fence looks in the proposed LHD (High Street and downtown Newburyport from Winter to Federal Street) matters.  It matters a lot.

A fence on High Street is like a jewelry on a beautiful woman.

How a fence looks makes a big difference.  And it made me wonder, I don’t know if my wondering is true or not, if this wasn’t a “got-cha” question.  Because the answer is so obvious, that the panel and the LHD Study Committee was a little confused as how to answer it.

87 High Street Newburyport, Wow

The “Twins” are going nuts on me. They are so ridiculously excited that we have a “celebrity,” a real live Hollywood celebrity, celebrity who has bought 87 High Street.

As the Twins pointed out to me, if they (the celebrities) wanted to lay low and not be noticed they wouldn’t be doing all that “stuff” to 87 High Street, High Street being the historic and much beloved (and highly visible) gateway to Newburyport, MA.

Well, no the Twins are NOT going to go beyond their apprenticeship status at the Newburyport Blog, I mean really, just look at the twerpy little things. I mean I have an image to protect here, geesh.

The Twins

However… The twins appear to be better than moi at researching Hollywood celebrities that are buying a Newburyport, High Street home.

They found out that the gentleman in question went to UMass Amherst, and they went and looked up alumni magazines, and low and behold these silly little frogs found an interview with the gentleman, in the Winter 2000 issue. Wow. (I got to secretly admit, not bad.)

The article was by Ali Crolius, in a section called “La Stories, Catching up with the sunset kids”.

The gentleman and lady “had just moved to a 1912 Pasadena mansion so grand it had been used for exterior shots in Dynasty…”

While waiting the writer “stood in the immense kitchen drinking coffee with the nanny, coo-chooing with Beatrice, Peter’s and Leslie’s youngest, and employing visualization techniques to halt the rain so I could see the Hockneyesque gardens in sunlight.”

Well, folks, I think the “Twins” have discovered or confirmed that the new owners of 87 High Street have more money than most of us here in Newburyport, MA could possibly fathom.

From what I can make out they have either moved on from Pasadena, or bought another mansion further up the coast. Maybe I’ll get the twins to research that one too, since they are so wide-eyed celebrity goofy.

What the Twins and I figure is that a High Street mansion must look like a bargain basement deal, compared to the mansion where Dynasty was filmed.

And this is what we are wondering. There aren’t exactly a lot of other Hollywood celebrity types hanging around Newburyport, MA. Are these folks going to tell their friends about us (ie. Newburyport, Massachusetts)?

And lots of preservationists (and even some maybe un-preservationists) all over our fair seaport city are NOT happy with how 87 High Street has been revamped. Is this a vast understatement or what? So what does this say about the potential upcoming stewardship of possible beloved properties in Newburyport, Massachusetts?

From charmingly historic to Hollywood flashy?? A possibility? Good grief.

(And folks, we have NO protection. Guess what, there is NO Local Historic District… Oh, ye of ongoing hesitation, you might want to rethink this one, like having a Local Historic District might actually be a good thing.)

Mary Eaton

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

The Newburyport Bartlet Mall

I remember when the renovation to the Newburyport Bartlet Mall started. To say there was some opposition would be an understatement.

Over the years the original design of the Bartlet Mall had been lost and an arbitrary and unplanned planting plan had gradually taken place. The plantings may have been randomly placed, but the whole thing was “comforting” to many of the populace of Newburyport, MA.

The Master Plan for the Bartlet Mall had been worked on for a very long time, by a whole lot of people, and was finally finished in 1998. Restoration to the Bartlet Mall took place in 2001, 2003 and 2005.

Sally Chandler © 2004
Image courtesy of Historic Gardens of Newburyport

The Newburyport Barlet Mall
Another Amazing Newburyport Preservation Success Story!

The promenade along High Street, lined with Elms, extends from the George Washington statue at the eastern end to the Kelly School playground on the western side. Special Allee Elms were used in an effort to recreate the historical overarching canopy that originally existed long the promenade.

An historic photograph of how the Bartlet Mall originally looked can be found on the first page of the High Street website.

Benches were installed, as well as period lighting, new granite stairways among many, many other things.

All of this was funded with a public-private partnership. Half of the funding came from state grants and over a quarter of the funding came from private local charitable foundations.

In addition, a new volunteer Bartlet Mall Commission has been established to oversee the park. There is now a paid part-time caretaker, as well as a small endowment to provide small permanent annual funds.

No small accomplishment.

And of course, George Cushing, the political consultant to the Newburyport Political Blog, is delighted that I am finally blogging about his beloved Bartlet Mall, in particular because within it is, yes, Frog Pond, which also has a sculptured cast iron fountain aerating the water and which occupies the center of the pond and park.

A very proud frog.

And much to my delight, I have discovered that there are postcards of Newburyport that are in the public domain. And low and behold there is a postcard of Frog Pond at the Newburyport Bartlet Mall.

Frog Pond, Bartlet Mall
From a c. 1905 postcard
Image is in the public domain

Many thanks to Geordie Vining of the Newburyport Planning and Development Office who has helped me with the copy of this post (I hope I’ve gotten most of it right!)

Geordie Vining, in my opinion, is one of the unsung heroes of Newburyport, Massachusetts. All the myriad of things that Geordie Vining has done for Newburyport, MA is quite amazing.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Preservation and Blogging Peril

You know what else I’m pissed about. I’m pissed that so many people are upset that I used a certain verb on the Newburyport Political Blog.

That verb can also mean, “plunder,” “despoliation” as in “the — of the countryside.” Which was how I meant it by the way.

Ok, I’ll admit it was a little over the top, but that’s as over the top as I’ve ever gotten on the Newburyport Political Blog, for crying out loud.

And it does feel like that is exactly what could happen to the back of the Wheelwright property, so there.

The subdivision in question would be right next to the Oak Hill Cemetery, a dignified and sacred place. According to the Newburyport Daily News, a 34-acre burial ground for many of Newburyport’s beloved ancestors, including the Wheelwright family and I believe 175 sea captains and 29 mayors. Not Shabby.

In the Newburyport Current, Friday, October 27, 2006, Nathan Felde is right when he says, “Barbecues and burials don’t go together.”

Mr. Felde is correct again; the area is the “soul” of Newburyport, MA.

Ester Macomber, who is a dear, dear lady, as well as being very well respected in this New England seaside community, in the same article calls the plan “ridiculous.”

Mrs Macomber has protected her huge piece of land on the back of the Ridge so that it can never be built on. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is and setting a great example for her neighbors on High Street. Bless this wonderful woman.

And if the developer, Todd Fremont-Smith (that’s in the Newburyport Current too) thinks that only the neighbors are upset, he might not have things quite in perspective yet. From what I’m getting, almost the entire town is outraged.

Will this finally be the wakeup call that the residents of Newburyport, MA need? We can no longer take our historic heritage for granted.

If Mr. Fremont-Smith and company are “aware of the legitimate preservation issues and are trying very much to be respectful,” (the Newburyport Current again) then one of his options could be that he could sell that piece of property to the folks who are apparently going to do right by the Wheelwright House and gardens, put a deed restriction on it and make sure it goes to the Essex County Green Belt.

He won’t make any money that way, but at least he’d be able to live in town or even New England without people wanting to picket in front of his home.

You see this is where I get into trouble. (George Cushing the political consultant for the Newburyport Political Blog is scrunching his nose and looking at me with those beady little eyes of his. He does not want me to put myself in peril.)

George pleading with me not to put myself in peril

I’m blogging about money. Lots and lots of money is at stake here. And people don’t like people saying they shouldn’t make lots and lots of money on a particular piece of property.

But this is no ordinary piece of property; this literally verges on sacred ground. It’s been written about extensively now in the Newburyport Current and the Newburyport Daily News, so I hope I’m safe on the “being sued thing” here. George is not so sure.

Mary Eaton