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January 25, 2013

Sorrow over loss of historic home

Newbury residents upset by razing of Bushee home and barn

NEWBURY — It’s been called “the soul of Old Newbury,” the landmark estate on Newman Road of a beloved and generous philanthropist and true conservationist. And now it’s gone forever.

The Florence E. Bushee home — originally built by Samuel Newman in 1812 then bought by Bushee’s father, Wilmot Evans, in 1907 — was razed along with one of the two barns on the property this week, ostensibly to make way for a small subdivision of single-family homes.

During her lifetime, Florence Evans Bushee (1881-1975) donated untold time and personal resources in order to save as much of the history of Newbury and Newburyport as one person conceivably could. So the decision last weekend by the property’s current owner, Barry Coscia, trustee of Bushee Real Estate Trust, to bulldoze the 200-year-old home and adjacent cow barn that once belonged to Bushee came as a hard blow to many residents who value the significant contributions she made on behalf of future generations.

According to the Essex South Registry of Deeds, Dr. Sadruddin B. Hemani sold the 6 acres at 19, 21 and 23 Newman Road to Coscia for $2,150,000 on Dec. 18, 2012. As part of the transaction, Coscia purchased the three-lot definitive subdivision on 4.3 acres at 23 Newman Road and a private cul-de-sac named Florence Bushee Lane, which Hemani got Planning Board approval for in 2008. Under the town’s zoning bylaws, the properties support a total of five single-family homes. Coscia could not be reached for comment on his plans for the land.

But a loss of this magnitude may just be the clarion call that galvanizes historic preservationists throughout the community to push for ways to better identify historic properties well before they face a bulldozer’s blade. And when they do, it will be an act of respect for the gracious, yet humble lady who they say “left her community a better place because she lived there.”

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