The P. Preservationist’s Glossary
Newburyport has for such a small city an amazingly
unique ‘culture’. As much as we are increasingly
inundated with Greater Boston commuter residents and are in contact with
visitors year-round; if you want to know the inner workings of this community,
the terms used by the locals need to be understood and
defined. For example, it’s easy for someone in Haverhill to know if you
are an outsider. The stranger will pronounce the City,
HAY ver-HILL. A local would
If you want to know what’s going on in Newburyport and not be
gawked at as an outsider, you need to know the correct words and how to
pronounce and define them correctly. As H. L. Mencken said,
“Define, define, define”. You can’t
carry on a conversation if the other guy has an entirely different meaning in
the words. Period.
So, here are some terms that are important to know in Newburyport and on
Bossy Gillis. He was known for hating
the class system that was so much a part of early 20th-century Newburyport. He was a cocky punk who
fought with the City Council and the Mayor to build his gas
stations. He even punched the Mayor in the mouth when he
could not get a permit for his business. Bossy
served six two-year terms as Mayor between 1927 and 1960. In
between, when he was not running for Mayor, he ended up in jail twice and often
was arrested for various offenses. He was famous for running City Hall
from his gas station in Market
Square. When the city began to
suffer economically, he had little interest in doing anything about
it. By 1960, whether it was his direct fault or not, the city
was in financial ruins. The New York Times grouped him with the
most corrupt mayors in the country. But there was no
controlling him and the voters would vote him out and then back in office again
and again! Inexplicably, there are many in the city who still
admire him today!
Caldwells. At one time, there were 60
distilleries in Newburyport
pumping out rum aged in oak barrels. These
butterscotch-smelling concoctions were a principle part of the Triangle
Trade. Over a time, only one remained and became known
nation-wide. The warehouses used to be where the Waters Edge
Condominiums exist today and O’Leary’s Liquors exists in the same
building where the Federal Government would levy taxes against the molasses
kegs as they came into port.
Carpetbaggers. These are
newcomers who have recently moved to the City and want to participate in the
community and in politics. The natives and the townies
get very upset when these visitors come in without any consideration of our
city culture and our history and then have the nerve to want to change
things. The irony is that many have a clearer
vision on what the City needs than the long time residents. This further
infuriates the natives. A carpetbagger was a post-Civil War term
reflecting newcomers who often had large briefcases made of heavy
carpet. They would move into desolated southern
communities offering to help when their real motive was to defraud the locals.
Children of the Now
These are people who see the walkable, safe streets, the quaint shops and the nearness of the ecology and picture a place where they can live. In whatever brief visit they had taken to fall in love with the community they now picture that visit as a lifestyle. Sitting soaking up the atmosphere in the outdoor cafe’s, hanging about the boardwalk and sitting conversing with their friends in the coffee shops and restaurants; a better term would be perpetual tourists.They don’t know anything about the culture and traditions of Newburyport and worse, they don’t want to know. They don’t know the history behind the town and tragically, they don’t want to know it either. With no interest in local politics, they could care less about the City or the Community; unless of course, it affects their immediate house. And since everything is about the senses they are experiencing now, they could care less about the future.Since they have no inkling what makes us a uniquely lovely place, they are shocked and upset when they find out the Historical Commission may have a say about their attempts to ‘suburbanize’ the old structures. They become angry when volunteer boards have the nerve to interfere with their attempts to ‘modernize’ their homes. It’s all right to try to preserve the city just don’t do anything that affects them.
. The clipper ship was ‘invented’
here by Donald McKay. Newburyport
was never a nesting place for the great ships though many were built
here. They would launch from our shipyards and then be
outfitted and sent to their home ports in Boston
and New York.
Even Donald McKay, who loved our City, ended up building the majority of them
in East Boston.
Our port was often filled with ‘packet’ ships, slower moving
vessels that had larger, deeper more-profitable holds.
We had a scaled-down museum version of a clipper ship on our docks in the early
days of the HUD/NRA but at that time, our port facilities were in ruins, our
boardwalk was non-existent; consequently, the winter ice on the river severely
damaged it. Alas.
if we had it now!
Common Pasture. This was low-lying lands
that abutted surrounding communities and farms. Being
close to the water table and mostly composed of marshes, they were often
reserved for cattle grazing or pastures for harvesting of barley and
has one of the largest preserved common pastures in the
Commonwealth. It’s continued protection allows
farms to prosper, the very feel of our community to be preserved and helps
conserve our watershed (water supply) and wildlife.
Corner-office. In Newburyport, the room
immediately to the right of the front door of City Hall traditionally houses
the Mayor’s office and staff. The corner of
this historic building then is always the location for the Executive.
Cushing. Fame is fleeting and history tends
to hide the negatives of a political leader. Both are
true of Caleb Cushing. One of the most famous people in the United States
who’s impact affected two wars, author of two treaties with foreign governments
which are still in effect today and was the first Mayor of
Newburyport. He was also the most hated of people in
the country by abolitionists and by unionists. A
Democrat who sympathized with the South and was an enthusiastic supporter of
the Dred Scott Decision classifying blacks as not
eligible to the rights of the U.S. Constitution. Powerful in Boston and Washington,
his impact is felt even today. He would vote against a measure and
then, in a breathtaking turn, vote for it. He was
fervently patriotic financing his own participation in the Mexican-American War
and yet actively working with the Confederation during the Civil War and
supporting McClellan against Lincoln.
His maddening inconsistencies in political alliances would roughly compare him
to the political stances of present-day rogue politicians like Senator John
McCain and John Kerry. If you want to know who was
primarily responsible for the enactment of the ‘Curse’, just say, “Cushing”.
Dark-Sider. The Dark Side believe that Newburyport’s future lies in industry
and not in eco- and heritage tourism. Therefore, they see no value
in aesthetics. They do not understand equity and care
nothing for raising property values – to them it’s only an excuse
to raise taxes. Bringing in buildings that do not
is okay with them – we must build, build, build. To them,
industry and the act of construction means we must build to raise more tax
revenue. To them, open space is wasted space and quality of
life is but one thing to them…having a job. They
do not value the old buildings and would love to sweep them away for new
– a Dark Sider feels a deep shame that was
generated by years of having an inability to replace old houses with the latest
“modern” building of the moment. To live in
an old house means you are poor and socially inadequate. New
means you can afford the best materials and the latest
fashion. This explains why Dark Siders
see no value in local historic districts or understand the value of preserving
Frog Pond. This is the
pond at the bottom of the basin at Bartlett Mall.
In its center is the swan fountain and on its perimeter is the Superior Court
House. To the southwest is Old Hill Cemetery.
The basin was formed by a piece of a glacier that remained, was covered over
and eventually melted causing this deep depression.
Aside from its sheer beauty, the pond is often the home of lily-pads and bull
frogs. Presently, the pond is largely devoid of
frogs because the water has developed into a favorite roosting place for birds.
LHD. Abbreviation for
local historic district. Established by the process
outlined in M.G.L. 40C, this Commonwealth certified, local community established
ordinance protects the exterior of the historic buildings and establishes a
design review process for any requested changes or
renovations. Design Review is considered a dirty word
to a ‘Dark Sider’.
Light-Sider. Idealists who tend to be
light on cash and a little light on practicality,
too. Most Light Siders
recognize the problems that beset Newburyport
and with flashes of insight and a genuine love of the city seek to resolve and
enrich the community. Artists,
conservationists, environmentalists and a wide range of philanthropists fill
their ranks – to them it is their duty to sustain Newburyport’s quality of life and to
care for the people, to conserve and maintain our environment, water supplies,
our historic buildings and our open spaces filled with wildlife. To
them the value of the historic homes of Newburyport
will only increase property values and enrich the overall
neighborhoods. These are the dedicated souls,
rich and poor, who work for years on their homes making them shining examples
of historic preservation. These are the volunteers that assist and
help our struggling schools. These are the ones
who slave away in non-profit endeavors. Many, with
great talent, explode into creativity and do great work on the social scene;
helping the poor, caring for the sick and participating in many poorly-funded
non-profits seeking to make a change. Light Siders though are rather naïve and push for open
government, lofty ideals, open processes and honorable politicians.
Unfortunately, when they encounter ‘reality’, they tend to burnout
and fall into despair and cynicism.
Lord Timothy Dexter. Born in Malden and a leather maker, he was largely
illiterate but this did not stop him from being an incredibly shrewd entrepreneur
in business. He would speculate in the oddest endeavors
which would turn into wild profits. His incredible good luck caused
him to accumulate great wealth. Unfortunately, he could not
buy fame and social acceptance and went full-blown into unfortunate endeavors
to accomplish it. He assembled statues around his home and
acquired ‘Lord’ (His wife’s maiden name) and fancied himself
royalty. His most outlandish act was to hold a funeral for
himself and when his wife did not sufficiently weep for him, he beat her
savagely as his funeral guests feasted in the mansion.
Mall. Pronounced ‘mahl’ It is named after the
famous Pall Mall street in the City of Westminster, London and runs parallel to
The Mall on St. James’s street. The street is a
major thoroughfare in London,
and a section of the regional road. The name of the street is derived from
“pall mall” a mallet-and-ball game that was played there during the
17th century. It was referenced here because at
one time, the Newburyport Bartlett Mall was a busy place with court
proceedings, a school and a windmill for grain. Even the Powder
House was once located there and a long rope walk for the process of creating
lines for the ships. In all likelihood, the game was played
important thing is not to get confused between the two names of Maudslay and Moseley. They
are definitely not interchangeable. After 1635, the pine woods on the ridge of
the right bank of the Merrimack
had been cleared in favor of homesteads. “Country Lane” (High Street) led
from Newbury to Bradford Road
The remaining forest between Bradford
Road and the river was then called the
“Upper Woods”. This area was purchased and became the early 20th century estate of
Frederick Strong Moseley. Moseley is a variant of Maudesley or Maudesleigh, an
ancient English name. The estate officially was named Maudesleigh. Maudslay is
also a town in England.
Merrimac. The Algonguin tribes were called Pawtucket or Pentucket
and were also called Merrimac though the name was more closely associated with
a village rather than a group. It means “swift water
place” and is not to be confused by the term, Merrimack which refers to the
Merrimack. An Algonquin Indian word for the
river which means “deep
fishing”. Though it is debated, the
Indians may have been influenced by Gaelic, “mor-riomach”
which means “of great depth”.
Moseley. Not to be
confused with Maudslay. Charles William Moseley
was a very prominent citizen in Newburyport and
a stock exchange holder in Boston. Because he largely lived
here, he participated in assisting the Anna Jaques
Hospital and the
Newburyport Public Library. Moseley Park
once called Jackman Pines was donated by his will
along with a trust fund to the City.
NAID, Naiders. Pioneered when the City
was in economic ruins in the late fifties and sixties, using a pool of money
raised by citizen donations, an industrial park was established to restore an
industrial base in the City. Its success has been
largely overshadowed by the pre-eminence of eco- and heritage tourism that has
helped restore economic health and restoration to the downtown businesses and
homes of the historic district. What has been
left after they sold off their last property and disbanded has been a group of
resentful industrialists who are bitter that their prominence and dream has
been dissipated by overseas manufacturing and the lively-residential real estate
market. They are especially nasty to those who now want
to invest in ecological and historical preservation.
Newburyport. Newbury was named for a
land-locked city in England.
There will never be another Newbury
Port in Great Britain.
Though there are many Amesburys, Salisburys
and Newburys in the United States, there are no
corresponding Newburyports. If it
wasn’t for the Curse, the smallest city in Massachusetts would be internationally
famous because of all the great history that has occurred here.
Newburyport Historic District. An area that has been
designated by the Department of the Interior as an historic area significant to
the Nation’s Heritage. It has the potential to generate
revenue via preservation easements, tax credits and paves the way for Federal
aid if any of it is owned by the Federal Government.
There is no present mechanism to protect this area except a demolition-delay
ordinance which usually results in the home being demolished after a
year! According to Mass Historic, already 700 plus
homes have been lost to demolition or by gutting since the establishment of the
district in 1984! Current plans to stop this
destruction of our most precious asset is under way by the Newburyport
Preservation Trust and the Local Historic District Study
Committee. Opposition today is largely by bitter-NAIDers, Dark Siders, Greedy
developers, Land Speculators, property-rights fanatics and self-centered
Newburyport Walk. It is a peculiar irony that in a
walking city, we have unwalkable sidewalks but there
it is. Any visitor will be wise to follow the
locals’ lead as they stroll down the middle of our
streets. Either that or suffer twisted ankles and
skinned knees. Whether school children, parents with
baby carriages or just an individual wishing to arrive downtown, the road is
the preferred choice.
NHD. Abbreviation for
the National Register of Historic Place’s Newburyport Historic
North End. Contrary to popular
opinion, the North End does not extend all the way to the Chain
Bridge. It is supplanted much closer to town by the
original small community of Belleville.
Most of it lies between Green
Street on the east to Oakland Street on the west and from south
to north, High Street to Merrimac
abbreviation has caused some visitors to panic especially if they are
pacifists. The NRA stands for the Newburyport
Redevelopment Authority. Established as independent
of the City by HUD, their job is to develop the portions of the downtown that
were taken by eminent domain. Theoretically, the NRA
will dissolve as a body, once the last piece of property has been
developed. Current estimates are this will happen
in 2055…or later.
Parker. Newbury was
settled in 1635 by an English party, which landed on the left bank of a river
renamed the Parker River, after the settlement’s spiritual counselor,
Rev. Thomas Parker. The Reverend had received a royal
charter from King Charles I for the granting of agricultural lands stretching
from the river in the south to the Merrimack.
He established the First
which was closer to the lower green on the Parker River. A newer
building was then relocated just north of the Upper Green many years
later. This land grant stretched west all the way along the
Merrimack bordering onto
present-day Groveland & Georgetown.
Privateers. There were never any pirates
in our history. We had privateers
instead. Patriotic, noble crews who seized enemy
combatants ships, returned them to Newburyport,
sold the ships and goods and in which a sizeable percentage went toward the
government’s treasury. Pirates often murder seized crews but
privateers would take them back to shore for imprisonment but more often left
them to find their own way back to England. As much as it
was war, privateers had a certain air of legitimacy if they had a
‘mark’ or legal certificate from their government. If
captured, they would be treated as prisoners of war and open to some measure of
civil treatment. This was fine during the War of 1812
when Britain recognized the United States
as a legitimate government but not during the American
Revolution. All combatants were considered rebels and
the government not recognized. Prisoners from Newburyport would often
‘disappear’ or be treated cruelly since they were considered worthy
of death as traitors. Regardless of this danger,
Newburyport was considered a leader in privateering
and held especially responsible for forcing the British to abandon Boston due
to English supply ships being so successfully interdicted.
South End. This area
stretches from State Street
on the west to Marlboro Street
on the east and south to north from High Street to Water Street.
This is often considered the oldest neighborhood in Newburyport. Even though it
is the prettiest part of the City, it tends to have the highest concentration
of Dark Siders.
The Curse. John Greenleaf Whittier,
exasperated by weak-kneed Newburyport
merchants and politicians afraid of retribution from the South, cast a curse
upon the City. The City would be lost to the rest of
the world and would lose its port until it repented of its pro-slavery stance
and learned to honor outsiders amongst its midst.
Obviously, seeing William Lloyd Garrison standing in Brown Square
(without a rail under his
butt) has shown that we have long repented of our misbegotten
stance. We have lost our port status except in our name
but we still do not honor outsiders as legitimate equals or outside ideas
as legitimate concepts. This explains why we reject the
local historic district ordinance in our City when it has been seamlessly instituted
by some 2,300 communities or why we won’t follow other cities in
undergrounding our utility poles or doing historic brick sidewalks like in
There is only one Newburyport
in the world but the world will never know of us until this Curse is lifted.
The Five. Short
hand term for the Newburyport Five Cents Savings
Bank. This banking company owns large amounts of
mortgages in town and is noted for being a benevolent organization toward the
community. Unfortunately, it has a large representation
of officials and trustees that are Dark Siders.
The way they build their own buildings (ghastly Scandinavian-style and
mutant-historic structures) has often found them behind some of the more
destructive developments in town. Fortunately, in
the last few years, they have worked aggressively to overcome their past image
and have been successfully championing many historic preservation efforts.
The Institution. Short hand
term for the Institution for Savings. This banking
company owns large amounts of mortgages in town and is noted for being a
benevolent organization toward the community and extremely conservative in
their banking processes.
The Ridge. The most exclusive
and the most breathtaking collection of great houses (except for the one house
that replaced ‘rum cottage’) in the City. Most of
the structures lie on the cusp of the highest point on the ridge that lies from
State eastward to Coffin’s Court and across from Parsons Street.
The history of the former occupants are just as breathtaking ranging from
nation-builders, political giants of the Commonwealth & Washington and the
epicenter of the silversmith industry in the Nation. Although not
viewable from High Street, many had elaborate gardens in their backyards.
The Waterside. When Newbury
stretched from Groveland’s border to the west and south to the border
with Rowley, a cultural rift began to emerge along the banks of the Merrimack.
While most of the town consisted of farmers, a distinct group formed that were
involved in international trade, rum-making, ship-building and
fishing. This also created a culturally-mixed
community consisting of grogs, salty sailors and lavishly-rich
merchants. If any respectable Newbury farmer saw
a newly arrived visitor, warnings were kindly issued to watch out for those
people at the Waterside.
Silversmithing in America
originated here. Towle took over the Brown Munitions Factory on Merrimac Street and
for years its silver was considered the finest in the country until
international pressures caused it to be sold to a competitor who disastrously
tried to make more common commodity silverware. The
business plan failed and the plant closed.
Towle Silversmith as a corporation still exists today in East
Boston but the silverware is now mostly manufactured
Townies. These are
precious gems amongst our natives. You can not be
a townie just by being born here, you must have been part of generations who
have lived here. Unfortunately, they are becoming a
shrinking minority as newcomers move into the City and supplant their ancient
homesteads. Politically and
philosophically, they are a mixed bag but one thing rings true; they are the
holders of Newburyport’s
long-standing culture and history.
Waterfront. Usually said in a
sentence, ‘The Waterfront’. The term is strictly used for a
short piece of eminent-domain land by the NRA stretching from the parking
before the Chamber of Commerce all the way to the border with Atkinson’s
Lumber yard (now the Atkinson
The original plan was to demolish the firehouse, and build a large
hotel/shopping center all the way to the water.
Fitfully and with much smoke and fire, the entire area is slowly being molded
into a finished product but it’s any one’s guess what that will
eventually be. One side wants mostly a park and
the other side wants mostly buildings. The
Waterfront Trust. Created as a
settlement over a lawsuit made by the Friends of the Newburyport Waterfront
against the NRA, the Waterfront Trust was established to protect Riverside Park
(The parking area just north of the Bottom of Green Street, the Boardwalk, the
Main Market Landing Park (which includes the land under the firehouse) and
special ‘wayes’ to the
water. These ways established by the City represented the
original paths down to the ancient wharfs . Largely
funded by boat and parking fees, the Trust takes care of the park and the
boardwalk and maintains landscaping along the ‘wayes’.
Though housed in City Hall, the trust is a semi-governmental body that is
. An area that stretches from Route 95
to the Artichoke Reservoir and River and includes Maudslay
State Park, Curzon Mills, Arrowhead Farm and other farms, Turkey Hill and the
housing developments along Turkey Hill Road. Peopled mostly
by suburban homes, there are historical buildings peppered throughout this area.
Wheelwright is considered a national hero in Chile
and a statue of him stands prominently in that country’s third largest
He built up ports and actually built entire railroads throughout South America. He was raised in the
house that stands at 75 High
Street but only briefly occupied it as his main
domicile was in South America
, but he always
considered it his ‘home’. After his death, it became a
home for aged women for a very long time until the organization sold the
building to a developer. When much uproar was made on his
plans to develop the property into a housing development, open space
preservationists succeeded in seeing a large section protected and the home was
sold intact and magnificently renovated. The economy forced
the housing plans to be abandoned and the developer sold the land.
Yeat. The origin of the word is from the
city’s famous Clipper ships from its port days. It was often used when
unloading or loading goods (such as breads). The original usage of the word
most closely resembled the word: “Pass”. During
World War II it was used as a ship-to-ship Naval greeting to identify oneself
as a resident of Newburyport.
A response in kind indicated that the man had found a fellow Newburyporter. Unfortunately, the
word has devolved and is now used as a profanity in response to an idiotic
statement or action. Fortunately,
whenever a tourist sees the word on a Dark Sider’s
car and asks, the locals like to white wash the explanation by referring to the
original meanings! This often results in visitors proudly
displaying the stickers around town. Yeat!
of course, the term, “The knowing
ones”. A term
used by Lord Timothy Dexter for those who were in the know and were full of
wisdom. Now that you have gone over these definitions
and explored some of the links on my site on other facets of Newburyport, you will be better equipped and
soon may even call yourself, ‘A Knowing One’!