Residents and visitors alike love Newburyport for its history and quaintness, said Bruce Vogel, a city councilor at large and the proprietor of two independent coffee shops, Plum Island Coffee Roasters and Caffe di Siena, where locals meet to work, relax, and, of course, talk about the city.
One hot topic of conversation has been developer Stephen Karp’s plans to build high-end condominiums and a hotel along the area known as Waterfront West, an expansive boatyard between two restaurants.
After falling into decline in the 1950s and ’60s, Newburyport has become a model of preservation for the city’s revitalized downtown, which retains its classic architectural heritage while accommodating a lively array of restaurants and small businesses. The city takes pride in its history, having been home to journalist and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.
Vogel was born and raised in Burbank, Calif., but fell in love with Newburyport when he and his late wife moved here in 1992, when both were working as flight attendants for TWA out of Logan Airport. He first became civically engaged when he joined the Youth Commission, which was created to address the needs of the city’s school-age population. When the MBTA’s commuter rail line was reinstated in Newburyport in 1998, the value of his home doubled overnight, he says.
“There’s a tremendous amount of pride in this city,’’ he says. “Beautiful river, beautiful architecture. We saved the city from being bulldozed.’’
Number of months of active duty for the US Revenue Cutter Massachusetts, the first cutter to enter active service for the Revenue Marine, one of the original components of the modern US Coast Guard. (Newburyport is the birthplace of the US Coast Guard, according to a proclamation by President Lyndon Johnson.) The ship was built, outfitted, and launched in Newburyport in July 1791. The Massachusetts, however, was seen as too slow and expensive, and was sold in October 1792.
Number of bird species recorded each year in the Newburyport area. The Joppa Flats Education Center offers a Birder’s Certificate Program for enthusiasts who “want to go beyond simple field identification.’’
The number of “spectators’’ Timothy Dexter said attended his “wake,’’ which he staged to gauge the reactions of his loved ones. Dexter — an eccentric Newburyport businessman who titled himself “Lord,’’ named a poet laureate to pen works about him, and called himself “the greatest philosopher in the Western World’’ — died for real in 1806.
Arts and culture
In addition to several galleries and an art association, Newburyport is home to the Firehouse Center for the Arts, a multiuse theater and gallery space, and locals recently helped an independent movie theater called The Screening Room raise funds to upgrade to digital projection. The city also hosts annual literary and documentary film festivals.
Some longtime residents aren’t thrilled with the upscale feel of downtown. Others are concerned that new development will chip away at the city’s historic charm.
Natural and man-made beauty
Located along the mouth of the Merrimack River, Newburyport has long been a significant port city that bustles with waterfront activity in the summertime. The impressive Federal-style homes along the narrow streets closest to downtown are fine examples of New England tradition, and the city limits claim part of Plum Island.
James Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.