Do You Support A Newburyport Local Historic District?

Local Real Estate Broker and Partner at Wellsco LLC, Realtors, John P. Wells puts it in Perspective

Property owner’s rights are important.  We have come to accept the necessity of this.  Included in those rights is the protection that zoning provides, which limits what a property owner can do with the property, but also protects the property owner from having a neighbor do something that hurts the value of the property and the appearance of the neighborhood.

The City of Bruges, Belgium, which dates back to the 12th Century, placed the interior of the walled city – about 175 acres – entirely under historic protection many decades ago.  The restrictions placed on homeowners resulted in time in an increase in property values far out of proportion to other cities in that country.  Bruges became a highly desirable place to visit and to live.  Similarly, closer to home, can anyone imagine Beacon Hill homes being subject to alteration at the property owner’s whim?

Despite a dramatic decline in real estate values in many surrounding towns, Newburyport values have held fairly steady, largely because of the beauty of the City.    Newburyport’s historic fabric attracts visitors and investors to the City.  Retirees are looking for condos near downtown.   Young families are buying homes here.  Tourist traffic is steadily increasing.   Newburyport is a growing success story, and the historic architecture has much to do with it.   Newburyport’s antique buildings are perhaps its greatest asset.

I believe almost all historic property owners in town recognize this and do their best to care for their properties appropriately.   However, without education and guidance, it is very easy to harm these structures unknowingly.    There are also plenty of real estate developers out there whose only concern is how much money they can make by rehabbing, flipping or subdividing a property.   A colonial on High Street recently had its façade insensitively altered and is now completely out of place with the surrounding homes.

Property owners actions can and do affect others, they do not live on an island.  Property owners who make the effort to maintain the historic integrity of their homes are protecting the values of the surrounding homes.   The proposed Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD), limited to High Street and downtown, will help protect the historically significant assets, as wells as protect the property values of everyone in the City.

Concerns expressed are  that the committee will consist, basically, of entrenched fanatics.  Per the ordinance, here is the reality.  Take the time to carefully read this and it dispel those concerns.

Newburyport Local Historic District Ordinances

5.1 Appointments and Terms: the Newburyport Historic District shall be overseen by a Commission consisting of seven (7) members and up to three (3) alternates appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council. Initially, the Mayor shall appoint two (2) members for one year, two (2) for two years, and three (3) for three years, and each successive appointment shall be made for three years. Alternates shall be appointed, one (1) for a period of one year, one (1) for a period two years and one (1) for a period of three years: and three years terms thereafter.

5.2 Commission Composition: The Membership, where possible, should include (a) two (2) members and one (1) alternate from nominees of the recognized historical societies including the Newburyport Preservation Trust and Historic Society of Old Newbury. (b) one (1) member and one (1) alternate nominated by the American Institute of Architects covering Newburyport, (c) one (1) member and one (1) alternate nominated from the Greater Newburyport Board of Realtors, (d) one (1) member from the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce, and (e) two (2) members who are residents within the District. Initially, a minimum of two (2) members of the Local Historic District Study Committee shall be included to provide continuity.


If you believe, as I do, that The Newburyport LHD (Local Historic District) makes good common sense, you can show your support by signing the petition at


If you wish to speak with John P. Wells you may email him at or call him directly at 978-518-1481.

More Information on The Newburyport Historic District:

Top Ten Misconceptions 

Mary Baker Eaton – The Newburyport Blog

Newburyport Historic District

Daily News:  Facts vs Opinions




About Editor-John P. Wells

I am a resident of Newburyport and have worked in education, high tech and urban development. My interests in architecture and construction are invaluable to my clients. For more information please visit the Wellsco website.