, Newburyport, MA

February 11, 2013

Community loses when buildings are torn down

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Let me explain why so many, many of us are devastated by the tearing down of the Bushee house and barn. It is not only because they were owned by a special person, but primarily because they were lovely, very old buildings that added immensely to the beauty of the town of Newbury. Why did the citizens of Newburyport fight so to save the gorgeous, irreplaceable downtown area? Why, when we look at the first Presbyterian church on Pleasant Street, do we have a feeling of wonder and pride at what we are seeing? What if that grand old church were to be torn down to put in a modern retail store?

When beautiful historical buildings are torn down, such as the Bushee house and the Federalist on Little’s Lane, the community loses something of its character and heritage. A town like ours is special partly because it has buildings all around that speak of a past with deep roots telling us of another generation that lived here and built handsome structures they expected would last for centuries ... and many have. Take these buildings away and Newbury becomes just another unremarkable town. In a way, these builders are ancestors of us all. They gave us what should be a lasting legacy, but we know all too well that such a legacy can be destroyed by anyone who owns an historical property, and for whatever personal gain. With such losses, the whole community is lessened.

There is the concept of “noblesse oblige.” Essentially, if you are “noble,” you have an obligation to do for others ... that is, if you have money or power or both, you have a responsibility to do well by your community for the betterment of all. You are expected to be good stewards of the community. In a sense, anyone of any financial status who owns one of these historical properties has a sort of power. Lacking the spirit of noblesse oblige, these people can take from us our heritage and our sense of living with beauty.

Virginia Sykes