, Newburyport, MA

November 22, 2013

Rare opportunity

William Graves Perry sketches featured at Newburyport store

By Ann Reily
Features Editor

---- — Eleven watercolor sketches by William Graves Perry, the famed architect who helped saved Newburyport from demolition in the late 1960s, are now on display and for sale at Ivy Lane.

“It’s a great grouping of watercolors done by him,” said Dennis Radulski, a longtime Newburyport resident and art collector who occasionally fills in at the downtown boutique. “Most of them haven’t been seen before. They hung in my house until three weeks ago.”

In 1999, Radulski was working for Portsmouth, N.H.-based Northeast Auctions, which was selling the contents of Perry’s Andover home. Radulski spotted the sketches in a box and decided to purchase them.

“I just fell in love with them,” he said.

The sketches include portraits, buildings and outdoor scenes, including a colorful depiction of a restaurant in Barcelona, Spain. Some of them were previously on loan to Harvard University, where Perry earned his undergraduate degree.

Radulski moved to Newburyport in 1969, shortly after the start of Perry’s plan to restore the center of Newburyport, which was set to be razed.

“I lived here when it was a quite-desolate town, but I loved it,” said Radulski, who recalls a time when the train stopped behind his Winter Street home. “I’ve seen lots of changes.”

Perry, who was born in Boston in 1883 and grew up at 47 High St. in Newburyport, founded his architecture firm in 1922. He is probably best remembered as the principal architect for the restoration of Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg, the largest living-history museum in the United States.

He was in his 80s and living in North Andover when Newburyport’s Dr. Robert Wilkins asked him to submit a design proposal that would preserve the downtown. His three-dimensional model won over the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, and the city’s urban renewal project was born.

Perry died in Boston in 1975, shortly after seeing his plan come to fruition.

The Perry sketches at Ivy Lane are part of a larger sale that also includes artwork by Laura Coombs Hills and Agnes Brown; a print of the Lord Timothy Dexter House on High Street; and other pastels, watercolors and oils that relate to Newburyport.

All of the pieces are from Radulski’s personal collection, which he started in the 1970s.

“I thought it would be nice to show this here and pass it on to younger people who might be interested in it,” said Radulski, who is retired.

The artwork was just hung this week, with the Perry sketches grouped on the wall near the cash register. Below the display is a book showing pictures of the Perry family’s High Street mansion. The other pieces decorate the opposite wall. In between, the Pleasant Street store is packed with antiques, vintage items, home decor, jewelry and beauty products.

Jennifer Wilkins, who owns the store with Cheryl Judge, said Radulski is one of many contributors “who all bring uniqueness and beautiful things to Ivy.”

Radulski, who has also worked for auctioneers Chris Snow and John McInnis, said he plans to bring more of his collection to sell at the store in the future.

“I have quite a bit of Newburyport-related art,” he said.

If you go

What: Display and sale of Newburyport-related artwork, including 11 sketches by William Graves Perry

When: Ongoing. The store is open Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Where: Ivy Lane, 31 Pleasant St., Newburyport

More information: 978-462-2650 or