#Local Government
Newburyport Businesses and Residents, City Council and the Mayor
United States of America

Ever since the undertaking of the survey in 1984 to place the Newburyport Historic District under the designation of the National Register of Historic Places, efforts have been made to create a mechanism to protect these precious assets.

Many visitors after seeing the beautiful historic neighborhoods assume incorrectly that the City has in place ordinances to protect and preserve the very buildings that have provided renewed wealth to the City. They are continually shocked when they learn there is none except a one-year demolition delay.

Though many attempts have been made to slow the demolition of these historic structures, Mass Historic has noted that over 700 buildings of the 2,750 plus structures have been lost since 1984.

In fact, in just the last ten years, the amount of demolition has actually accelerated. We, the citizens of Newburyport know the urgency to put into place some means to preserve our historic downtown and neighborhoods.

The very best mechanism is to institute a local historic district over this area which protects the exterior of the buildings and historic streetscapes.

We, the Undersigned, write to strongly urge the City of Newburyport via the City Council and the Mayor to designate the National Register of Historic Place’s Newburyport Historic District a Local Historic District.

This register district contains the Nation’s second largest collection of Federal homes. The area is filled with Georgian to Greek Revival, to Victorian era architecture. As one of the most distinctive business and residential areas in the Commonwealth and in the Nation, it deserves to be preserved and protected. The area includes High Street from Atkinson Common to the border with Newbury and neighborhoods stretching from Ashland Street in the west to Marlboro Street and parts of Joppa in the east. It is bound to the north by the Merrimack River.

We urge the City to extend and expand the already current historic district to include those areas so designated under the 1984 survey of the National Register of Historic Places and to place them under the jurisdiction of the local historic district commission.

1. National Heritage.

Newburyport is packed with firsts. The birthplace of the Coast Guard, the first mint, the first silversmiths in America, the birthplace of the true Clipper Ship and the source of financing for the Revolutionary War. Those same powerful merchants of international trade created great historic homes that remain today.

Supplementing them were the workers in the shipyards and skilled craftsmen whose historic homes remain today. Current efforts are being made to designate Newburyport a National Historic Landmark which potentially can open our City to more opportunities for Federal funding. Unfortunately, this is contingent on the preservation of the large Newburyport Historic District. This can be accomplished with the protections provided through a local historic district.

2. Demolition threat by the building department.

Every month since the National Register survey began, the building department has approved modifications that have destroyed the historic exterior of the buildings. As long as the zoning requirements are satisfied, there is nothing written that prevents the wanton destruction of genuine historic features. A local historic district will establish a design review that provides guidance to the building inspector, allowing for much renovation without destruction of our City’s historic neighborhoods and views.

3. Demolition threat by developers and homeowners.

Without guidelines and ordinances, developers and homeowners who refuse to recognize the value of their historic assets, have pursued the destruction and severe modification of their homes. This not only lowers their property values but does harm to the historic neighborhoods. Local historic district guidelines will ensure that the exterior structure is protected. Guidelines will also make it easier for developers to know how to proceed quickly without excessive review by permitting authorities.

4. A Threat to our economic health.

Our authentic city has added a mixed population of young and old, poor and rich to create a healthy balanced community. It is the constant renovation and restoration of our city that generates income for our City Hall and increases property values and tax assessments. By decimating the historic buildings, eventually the City will come to a tipping point and no longer have the draw as synthetic products replace the historic materials. Our City will become a shadow of its former self by losing its unique quality over other communities.

5. A threat to the welfare of the average Newburyport resident.

It is the aesthetic beauty of our historic neighborhoods and structures that have drawn people to live in Newburyport. Our high quality of life will be endangered as our neighborhoods become filled with synthetic materials. Only 8.3% of homes in the Nation are historic and yet we have a wealth of historic buildings in the Newburyport Historic District. If we lose our uniqueness, we will also lose the mechanism that draws people to live and visit our city. Less business activity and less investment in our neighborhoods will begin to affect the general welfare of Newburyport’s citizens.

6. The local historic district will protect the diversity of our neighborhoods.

It is precisely the mix of citizens from different cultural and financial levels that adds such a fine quality to our community. A local historic district will seek the preservation of neighborhoods without driving out those not financially well off. Using certificates of appropriateness and preventing the excessive enlargement of structures for low-occupancy purposes, affordable housing can be preserved and financial hardship can be avoided. Local historic districts are a powerful brake against the gentrification of the City.

For these reasons, we, the Undersigned support the Newburyport Historic District being designated a local historic district. We urge the City Council and the Mayor to put into motion the expansion of the present local historic district and to enlarge the jurisdiction of the local historic district commission.

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The Create the Newburyport Local Historic District petition to Newburyport Businesses and Residents, City Council and the Mayor was written by P Preservationist and is in the category Local Government at GoPetition.