NEWBURYPORT — A local resident is using digital tools to map out the city’s history, uncovering forgotten stories one house at a time.
“Newburyport — Keeping the Story Alive” is an interactive online map of the city’s historic homes, buildings and places created by artist Mary Baker Eaton, who said she hopes to increase new residents’ awareness of Newburyport’s rich history.
“When people move here, they don’t know the basic stories of Newburyport,” Eaton said. “They know it’s special, but they don’t know why.”
Eaton has written and edited “The Newburyport Blog” since she founded it in 2006, focusing on local history, politics, culture and current events.
She began creating the map in September after being inspired by the stories she uncovered while leading the “If This House Could Talk” project, which saw dozens of homeowners post signs outside their homes during Yankee Homecoming to detail the houses’ place in city history.
The map now has 104 entries (and counting), each telling the story of a house, building or area, alongside photographs, paintings, videos, old maps and anecdotes gathered by Eaton.
“There are so many amazing stories,” she said, highlighting the story of 29 Boardman St. that features a bullying incident in 1896 which turned deadly. Photographs chronicle the house from its early 19th century beginnings to its current restoration.
Eaton said she is excited to have created a resource where residents can dive into the city’s history in a fun and easy way. It has been well-received in recent months since Eaton began sharing it on local Facebook groups, earning praise from city newcomers and history buffs alike.
“It’s been really incredible. I’ve heard from all kinds of people I would have never known or met,” Eaton said, adding that the project is all about the fun of spreading knowledge about the history of the city she calls home.
“I’m not a professional historian. This is a labor of love,” she said. “It’s almost like my love letter to Newburyport.”
She emphasized that with so many historic places within city limits, her work is far from finished.
“This is a multiyear, lifelong project now,” Eaton said. “There’s no way I can stop.”
Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newburyport City Hall. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.