Editor’s Note: This year the city is observing its 250th anniversary, and The Daily News today begins a series focusing on some elements of the city’s long and colorful history.
The multi-part coverage is being launched today because on Jan. 28, 1764, the General Court of Massachusetts passed “An act for erecting part of the town of Newbury into a new town by the name Newburyport.”
Our series won’t recreate the history of the community, but instead will focus on buildings, streets, parks and monuments that exist today in the shadow of history; to wit, many present-day landmarks are named after leading citizens of yesteryear or reflect notable developments in the city’s history.
Today we look at the city’s libraries, the main public library on State Street and the Emma L. Andrews Library and Community Center on Purchase Street.
Both of the city’s libraries reflect the city’s commitment to learning and to public discourse — and their individual histories reflect personal profiles that stand as enduring story lines in the city’s history.
The main library is nearing its 150th year as a public building, but its roots go back much farther than that.
This structure on State Street was built in 1771 by Patrick Tracy (1711-1789) for his son, Nathaniel. Patrick Tracy was a captain and ship owner and one of the most prominent businessmen in the community.
Nathaniel (1751-1796) also took to the sea, and was a patriot and privateer during the Revolutionary War. He was prominent in colonial affairs, and local historians say that guests at the Tracy Mansion included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Aaron Burr.
Reading and exchanging ideas has always been prominent in this city, in part because so many merchants and sailors came back from distant parts of the world with much new information.