I am truly grateful to live in this community, but due to COVID-19, have been unable to enjoy firsthand what our heritage offers.
I live at Atria, an assisted living facility, and have been in a veritable lockdown for over 11 months. Our condo at Parker Ridge, prior to Atria, was over 2,500 square feet.
My apartment, now called home, is 466 square feet. And it doesn't hold any secrets, I know every inch.
Over the past four years, I have written about Newburyport in our newsletter for our residents so that they can become familiar with their new home since many come from faraway places. Here is a capsule of what I tell them:
At the corner of High Street and Jefferson Street hangs a plaque denoting the first ferry across the Merrimack River. In 1641, George Carr ran his ferry, "As the only route from Boston to the frontier" across the river.
Imagine, Salisbury as the frontier! En route south on U.S. 1 to Rowley is the Parker River where in 1634, a group of Pilgrims from England landed.
Barely a mile away is a cemetery where tombstones of the late 1600s read names such as Woodman, whose family still lives locally And a stone, "Elizabeth Stone, convicted as a witch"
The town's reputation was built on clipper ships, built along the Merrimac River, which sailed the seas and brought back silks from China, spices and whale oil that lit our lamps for over 200 years.
The trade enriched the lives of over 350 sea captains who lie in local graves. Their wealth can be noted by their large homes on High Street, where wives would watch for homebound ships on "widow walks."
George Whitefield, the greatest preacher of the era, came from England to Old South Church on Federal Street and catalyzed the revolutionary spirit. In 1770, he inspired the "Great Awakening" movement in the heart of our colonists.
This year of 2020, we celebrated the 250th anniversary. He died here and was buried in a crypt at Old South. On School Street, which borders the church, is the ancestral home of William Lloyd Garrison, who published the plight of slaves held in bondage.
The Superior Courthouse on High Street is the oldest courthouse in continuous use in our country since 1805.
Two days before we celebrated our bicentennial, July 2, 1976, the building was bombed by a domestic terrorist group, the Weathermen, whose hostility emanated from the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War.
The Custom House on Water Street is one of the town's oldest structures. Rebuilt after two fires, the present building was designed by John Mills, who also designed the Washington Monument.
The Custom House, as early as 1640, collected tariffs and duties from ships entering our port. Close by on Water Street is the officially recognized home of the U.S Coast Guard.
On Low Street stands the Powder House, one of the 48 along New England's coastline. Local militias, when called upon, secured gunpowder, flints, muskets and tents during the War of 1812 to prevent incursions of British and Spanish marauders.
Newburyport's legacy, history, reverence, democracy is here to see and enjoy. It is truly Americana and all of us should be grateful for what it represents.
Robert D. Campbell lives in Newburyport.