, Newburyport, MA

October 4, 2012

If powder house could talk, it would say 'Thanks'

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Thursday, Sept. 20, was a banner day for history and preservation of our heritage, and if buildings could talk, especially a powder house, it would probably say something like this ...

“Good morning, everyone, and thank you for spending a few minutes with me, thus allowing me to show off how I look, and pointing out the many years I sat here praying that someone would finally notice what a disgrace I became, and how many wounds I had that if my condition continued, I’m afraid I would have been too far gone for anyone to bring me back to good health. Yes, over the many years I stood here by myself, I often wondered what I did to deserve this fate, because I was there when you needed me, and I played a very important role in protecting Newburyport residents during troubled times. Gosh, over the years to follow, you can’t imagine the abuse I received, especially from the weather, and yes, even vandals, who I guess, didn’t think I was important, but, in spite of all the neglect, I hung in there, and my prayers were answered.

“Yes, folks, I heard voices, and honestly, I didn’t know where they were coming from, but I did pick up words like “powder house” and “repairs” in the conversation, and my heart pounded, as I was sure I was the only powder house in town. Soon, I was having visitors, then came people with all kinds of equipment. I kind looked at them like doctors and surgeons. I was in pretty bad shape, and it took a long time to nurse me back to good health, but they did. People like Tom and Karen, a couple guys called Ralph, a family called Morrill, Frank and Ted, and a bunch of support from our state and city officials, as well as the National Guard, made it all happen. Where I stood by myself for hundreds of years was now swarming with all kinds of activity. Yes, the day finally arrived when everyone showed up to see how wonderful I looked, as well as the landscape around me.

“May I close my remarks, folks, by saying I never thought I was the White House or the Brooklyn Bridge, and fully realize I was just one of many buildings that can be found in many cities and towns that could have been forgotten, but fortunately, there were enough volunteer citizens in our town that did not let me fade into history. Yes, they gave me a brand-new life and a new role to play in educating our youth, as well as documenting our history. I promise I will do my best to fill this role. In the meantime, just in case you do not know where I live, just drive east on Low Street, and as you drive by our National Guard Armory, look up the hill. You can’t miss me, as I am round and look like an ice cream cone. Yep, if you stop and gaze at me, who knows, I may wink at you, and if you visit, I’ll be proud to show you how well I’m put together. One last thought I’d wish to share, and that is ‘Thank you one and all’”!

Ralph J. Ayers