, Newburyport, MA


February 7, 2014

It's well to heed lessons history teaches


It is not remarkable to find those of architectural importance, but it’s the care given to all properties, modest as well as prominent, that speaks of pride and perseverance throughout good times and more trying ones.

Newburyporters have done very well by them.

The years of long struggle to convince Washington that preservation of Newburyport’s central business district buildings was essential to both the economic and historic interest of the city, remains a lesson in perseverance.

Washington finally agreed, but the challenge of supportable commerce isn’t Washington’s. It’s our own and perseverance is essential.

That began a half century ago, and so far so good, unless you are the owner of a business dependent on enough street traffic to cover costs during long winter months when waterside visits can be less than an attraction.

Downtown properties have been well cared for despite what appears to be accelerated turnover of street level businesses.

Once upon a considerable time ago, outside of small corner groceries and barber shops, downtown Newburyport was the city’s only shopping center. Whatever can be done to enhance that will add considerably to the preservation of what was so dearly won.

I am reminded of an old song that in order to get ahead, it would be productive to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive.

That’s what the state did for Newburyport in 1764, and what Newburyport did with Washington two centuries later to regenerate the downtown.

Lessons learned should not be forgotten.


Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is

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