June 15, 2006



City fetes purchase in Marquand's cherished neighborhood

By Stephanie Chelf
Staff Writer

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist John Marquand wrote about the area of Newburyport known as Curzon's Mill in his novel "Wickford Point," saying, "No matter how often I came (back) .. there was an indefinable excitement about the first sight of it, a sense of relief that it was still there waiting. There was nothing like it anywhere."

The area Marquand describes is where he grew up - a pristine 25-acre section of Newburyport that includes river views, historic homes and animal habitat surrounded by Maudslay State Park, the Artichoke River and the Merrimack River.

Yesterday, Judge Richard E. Welch III, Marquand's grandson, shared the author's words with state and local officials at a ceremony to celebrate the preservation of a key piece of Curzon's Mill.

"Marquand (1893-1960) grew up right here with his maiden aunts and is buried just up the road," Welch said. "The author loved Curzon's Mill. And he felt rejuvenated whenever visiting this small, quiet corner of Newburyport that time seemed to have passed by."

On the narrow, winding Curzon Mill Road, past the state park entrance, is a 6-acre wooded parcel the city owns.

Local open-space advocates launched an effort two years ago to purchase the property, one of the few undeveloped parcels on the scenic road. The Open Space Committee received $275,000 from the Community Preservation Committee and a $120,000 loan from the city to purchase the land.

Through a nonprofit group, the Friends of Curzon Mill Road, a fundraising campaign was launched to collect money to reimburse the city and protect the entire 5.85-acre parcel from development.

The committee reimbursed the city through a $60,000 state Department of Conservation and Recreation grant, $55,000 in private donations, and $5,000 from the Essex County Greenbelt Association.

Welch, whose family owns two abutting undeveloped parcels and a home built on Curzon Mill Road in 1820, spoke of the area's history dating back to the Pennacook American Indian tribe.

At the end of the road is Curzon's Mill, a grist mill that turned grain into flour and is the oldest still on its original foundation, Welch said. More than 250 years ago, Samuel Curzon, a South American trader, purchased the mill, a home and other buildings in the area.

In the mid-1800s, investment banker John Marquand (the novelist's grandfather), found Curzon's Mill and married Samuel Curzon's daughter Margaret. He later inherited all of the land from his father-in-law.

"Marquand summered here and convinced his friend and fellow New York investment banker Edward Strong Moseley to purchase some of his land," Welch said. "Moseley made the most of it and acquired adjoining farms and built a grand estate. Marquand had no such ambition. Instead, he learned, as so many of my relatives have, that maintaining the existing property was not an inexpensive venture."

"As development pressures continue to grow, it is critical that we all work together in partnership to preserve the most important remaining land for conservation and recreation across our commonwealth," said Stephen H. Burrington, commissioner of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Mary Harbaugh, a member of the Open Space Committee and a leading advocate for the project, told those in attendance to take a walk onto the property and "savior that moment."

"I used to think Curzon Mill Road was a hidden jewel," said David Santomenna, director of land conservation for Essex County Greenbelt. "It's not hidden. It's beauty and peaceful character is available for all."

Mayor John Moak applauded the collaborative effort between the city, the state, and the community to complete the project.

The city will own the 5.85 acres and it is protected from development through a conservation restriction held by the state and managed in conjunction with the state park.


(This article replicated online with permission of the Newburyport Daily News, an Eagle Tribune Newspaper.)

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