While we’re on the subject of artifact discoveries, I’d like to share a few more photos of what was unearthed by our contractor’s tractor.
Here’s an example of a pile of pottery artifacts, freshly surfaced:
These may be the fragments of an old bowl:
Blue trees. A blue scene:
Another blue design:
So many shades of blue:
Rant du jour…
I’m talking about the area in Ipswich, Massachusetts known as Lord Square, between the railroad bridge and donut shop. I’m worried about the heavy trucks and their damaging vibrations. I’m worried about the speed limit, which is set at 35 MPH as these trucks enter (what I’m really convinced is) the oldest village in America.*
Someone well-connected in the town told me that the best way to address this issue was to contact the Select Board and ask how we can work together to solve this problem. That seemed like a reasonable way to start.
In the winter I wrote to a Select Board member who had apparently, according to a local news article, also expressed concern about the speed limit in this neighborhood.
Eventually I wrote a memo and read it at a Select Board meeting, in February.
Here’s a copy of my memo:
Regarding the High Street Traffic Condition
And the Resulting Public Safety Issues
The area between the bridge by Town Farm Road and Lord Square appears to be the largest section of the oldest village in America.* If you aggregate the homes here (as listed on the Ipswich tourist map), you will discover that these homes (which have been continuously inhabited since the first period of Colonial American settlement), constitute the largest section of the oldest surviving village in this country. By including these homes on their historical map, Ipswich appears to celebrate them. These homes are extremely old, and therefore fragile. These homes are handmade and irreplaceable, and therefore priceless. And yet, these homes are at great risk, every single moment of every single day.
Of greater concern is the fact that the street – on which these priceless homes are located – is a walking route for many local school children, who are also at great risk, every single day that they walk this route.
Why are the priceless children and the priceless homes at such great risk?
There are two main factors creating these risks:
- Excessively High Speed Limits.
- Excessively Heavy Trucks (of Unlimited Weights and Lengths) Traveling at Excessively High Speeds and at Excessively High Volumes.
As a resident of this section of High Street, I’d like to invite everyone involved – the Selectmen, the Chief of Police, the members of the Historical Commission, the state representative, every parent, guardian, and teacher associated with the Middle and High School – to come here at 6:30 in the morning when the tractor trailers are speeding through – then again at 2:30 in the afternoon when the school children are walking along this street and tractor trailers are still speeding, alongside them. There is no safety here.
It does not seem that safety should be an unreasonable request. Shouldn’t safety be afforded to all children and to all homes throughout this country?
If you can handle walking around this village without being intimidated and overwhelmed by the traffic, you can see that this is a truly amazing collection of homes, each with an authentic history, each fully deserving of admiration and deep respect, as well as protection.
Ipswich has some wonderful assets. The Crane estate is awesome, but it is a reproduction. The beach is awesome, but there are many beaches in New England. This largest section of village, however, is unique; unique in this entire country. In reality, it is Ipswich’s greatest land asset. And yet, if the traffic situation here cannot be calmed, then it would probably be in the best of interest of the town to remove these homes from the historic map, because tourists are being placed in peril whenever they walk along this street.
Let the historians value this place for its history. I’m an artist. I value it for its intrinsic aesthetic qualities, and for the expression of perseverance and intense determination it must have taken to create. And yet, so much could be destroyed at any moment, simply by a sleepy truck driver and the wrong turn of a wheel.
What can be done to remedy this dangerous situation? Here are some ideas:
- Define the Issue. The town needs to establish accountability for safety. If safety cannot be provided by the town because of state highway issues, then the town needs to work with the state to help the state understand what is truly at risk here.
- Issue a Comprehensive Ban on Large Trucks. The importance of this should be obvious. A single out-of-control tractor trailer truck could, at any moment, result in loss of life and/or loss of ancient historic artifacts, all of which are irreplaceable and priceless.
- Install three-way stop signs at Lord Square (to stop the traffic entering High Street, preventing excessively high speeds heading toward the high school).
- Install a stop sign at the base of the bridge by Town Farm Road. This would require vehicles to stop before entering the village and it would disallow motorists to maintain high speeds throughout the village. A “stop ahead” sign could also be placed ahead of the bridge, to alert motorists that they will need to stop and should therefore lower their speeds while on the bridge. The great width of the bridge seems to encourage motorists to believe they are on a super highway instead of entering an historic village, which is a densely populated residential neighborhood, packed with children.
- Lowered speed limits. 20 MPH should be the maximum allowed.
- Installation of steel or stone barriers along the street, to protect pedestrians and homes.
- Speed bumps placed along the street.
- Electronic speed signs and police patrol, provided either by the town or by the state.
Alas, there have been no safety improvements since then; in fact, the dangerous situation appears to be getting even worse.
*I actually do think this is the oldest village in America but I’d been trying to base my argument on the tourist map we received from the Visitor’s Center. (That tourist map does not appear to be correct. But that’s another story. Another rant. Stay tuned.)