On May 19, 1934, an arsonist caused the second largest fire in Newburyport history, destroying buildings along several blocks of Merrimack St., including a few adjoining houses from Winter to Titcomb Street.
Something even more devastating was already happening. Initiated in 1930, the Route One bypass destroyed dozens of private homes to create a bypass of High and State Streets. Only a handful of homes were moved to new locations. Bulldozers razed the remaining houses on the east side of Winter St. and the west side of Summer St., creating a gigantic trench known as the Rt. 1. Cut-off. The neighborhood had managed to mostly escape the wraths of the 1934 fire and the larger conflagration of 1811, but with the automotive age well under way, the ancient neighborhood was demolished to make way for Boston drivers bypassing Newburyport for vacations in New Hampshire.
As part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), architects and photographers throughout the country were put to work recording the nation’s heritage. Arthur C. Haskell photographed several of the doomed houses in the Newburyport Cut-off before they were demolished. Visit the Library of Congress site to view 220 Newburyport images and architectural drawings from the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).
2 thoughts on “The Newburyport Cut-off”
Having lived in Newburyport I was well aware of what happened here but this is by far the most complete and dramatic reminder I have seen. This collection of houses that are gone is both stunning, sad and thought provoking. Thank you for posting!
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The Route 1 demolition legacy continues: not all the homes were demolished then; some were moved and then demolished- up to current day. Like the “Canepa House” (2nd home on right in the photo entitled “View looking south along Summer St. from corner of Washington St “). It was demolished in 2015. Ahhhh…but we’ve grown smarter since the thirties. Instead of speeding cars past Newburyport, we’ve decided it’s best they stop, stay, and shop. The Canepa House was torn down for the brand new Newburyport parking garage. Progress. 🙂
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