About Me

Growing up in a small New England town with a mother who was an antiquarian it was inevitable that I would be exposed to old things. After graduating from UMass/Amherst I lived in Connecticut, taught school, married, and raised three children in suburbia. A move to Newburyport MA renewed my interest in all things old. This background has now evolved into research, writing, consulting and all the things I love to do.

Prudence Fish

Thursday, October 3, 2013


A circa 1760 Cottage Style House
1860 - 2013
It has been known for some time that newer part-time residents wanted to demolish a sweet little house. They must have wanted it badly because they paid an unprecedented price for such a small house on a fairly busy street.  It had a view of the bay but was not waterfront property.

The Historical Commission was alerted but as is usual, there was no real way to stop the demolition.  I, too, knew it was inevitable but it happened today.  A preservation-minded person is never really prepared for the jolt upon seeing the empty space, the heavy equipment and workers with hard hats.  I'm glad I didn't see or hear that ghastly crunch of the jaws that ripped it apart and deposited the remains in a big dumpster..

It wasn't a pretentious house.  It was in no way architecturally significant.  No one important lived there.  So what's the big deal?  A beautiful new house will be built on the site.  What's wrong with that?

Here is the problem.  We live in a village, with a village center and a small harbor from which the fishermen have gone out into the bay to fish for over three hundred years.  The streets of the village have changed little in the last hundred years.  If one of the old timers were to come back today it would look pretty much the same.

19th Century Fishermen at the Cove
That's the thing.  The streetscape hasn't changed in my lifetime or the lifetime of those who are long gone.  It is heart-warming to see the rows of modest houses all comfortable with each other just as we are comfortable with them.  It's also easy to think it will always be that way.

It doesn't matter what the new people build; how big or how beautiful.  They have disturbed the rhythm of the street.  The new house will be an intrusion in this long established community.  Local poet, Charles Olson on the occasion of the demolition of another house years ago lamented about,  "those who take away and do not have as good offer."

This sweet little house was built around 1860 by a fisherman for whose family the cove, the harbor and the village itself are named.  No matter how humble, this small house with its granite paving stone driveway, was part of the fabric of our village and will be missed.

Those who think they can improve on what's there should look beyond the house.  In this case it is not the quality of the house but the impact on the streetscape.  The streetscape must be considered but seldom is.

It makes one wonder about people who move to the area with great enthusiasm for New England with which they have fallen in love.  And many don't think twice about molding the intimate village neighborhood to suit themselves.  Perhaps they soon forget what drew them here in the first place.

Most won't care. Some of us will mourn the loss of another piece of the past but with renewed determination to protect our vanishing past.

Thank you for visiting.



  1. How sad that the people who had the house torn down had no vision for the past. Now they will build a brand new house, probably containing the standard granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. Yet they didn't care a wit for the granite stones in the drive. To top it off, they will ruin the look and feelings it recalls of a neighborhood centuries old. They must be so proud of themselves!

  2. I would have loved to live in a cottage by the sea, such as in this house. How sad it is now gone.