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Port in Progress

July 20, 2007

A place with 'so much charm'

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Walk through the city's South or North ends, and nailed to several houses you'll find a plaque bearing two names.

They say "Hall & Moskow," wrapped like a halo over the date of the home's construction.

They weren't home builders, nor were they Newburyport families from the old days.

Gordon Hall and Michael Moskow found Newburyport in the mid-1960s, at a time when Hall was drawn to the fight to restore the city's historical downtown. Hall and Moskow, and later, Hall's son David, would play a leading role in carrying the spirit of the city's downtown revival to neighborhoods well beyond the downtown's core.

These days Newburyporters often talk about Steven Karp, the billionaire mall developer who has bought up roughly $34.6 million in real estate in the past few years and has become the city's largest landowner. But the city's second-largest landowner, the Hall & Moskow firm, has quietly amassed an impressive share of the city as well -- valued at $22.2 million -- with a goal to preserve what can be saved and to find new ways to reuse what might otherwise be demolished.

The Tannery -- an old factory where the chemical stench was once so powerful it would make your eyes water -- is now an upscale mall, two blocks from the downtown. Across Water Street from it, a striking glass and Douglas fir building stands where old gas tanks once stood. And around the city stand a few dozen old homes that were fixed up and found a new life.

"These were the kinds of people we wanted to encourage to come into the city," said Byron Matthews, who was mayor from 1968 to 1978, crucial years for the downtown's rebirth. "These were guys who were pioneers."

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