NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

November 22, 2013

Rare opportunity

William Graves Perry sketches featured at Newburyport store

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.

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