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HomeEventsVillage Talk: A Tale of Two Cities - Urban Renewal, Newburyport, and Boston’s West End

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Village Talk: A Tale of Two Cities - Urban Renewal, Newburyport, and Boston’s West End

Professor Lois Ascher presents this talk:

“The public realm … is the physical manifestation of the common good. And when you degrade the public realm, you will automatically degrade the quality of your civic life, and the character of all the enactments of your public life and communal life that take place there.” James Howard Kunstler


The West End of Boston has been the poster child for some of the more disastrous urban renewal decisions, an unexpected consequence of the Housing Act of 1949. The callous destruction that followed the wrecking ball created vacant lots out of what had been homes and anonymous high rises out of what was once a neighborhood.


By contrast, shortly after the destructive demolition of the West End, the city of Newburyport engaged in a far different urban renewal project from the West End of Boston. Rather than destroying a neighborhood and its people, Newburyport elected to renew itself, through a process which honored the common good as well as the common man and woman who lived and worked there.


Ultimately, both cities became models: the West End for how not to do urban renewal; Newburyport for how to successfully renew a city. Today, while both neighborhoods are flourishing, the West End has no visual or actual connection to its original roots, history and inhabitants, while Newburyport retains the essence of what it once was, reworked into a desirable community.

This talk will examine the two approaches to urban renewal done in a time span very close to one another, along with its very different results.

Professor Lois Ascher teaches a course about Boston at Wentworth Institute, Boston Voyages by Book and Foot. She is also a member of the West End Museum's program and exhibits committee, and a member of the Greater Newburyport Village and its Program and Events Team.

Village Talks are offered by the Greater Newburyport Village for the enrichment of the community. Village Talks occur every third Wednesday of the month at the Newburyport Senior/Community Center, 331 High St., Newburyport.  Talks are free and open to all.

For more information please check out the Event Calendar at, email, or call 978.206.1821. 

The Greater Newburyport Village is a nonprofit 501 (c) 3 nonprofit membership organization whose mission is to promote living well and independently for a lifetime through community engagement and a network of neighborly support.
Wednesday, August 15, 2018, 1:00 PM until 2:00 PM
Senior/Community Center
331 High Street
Newburyport, MA  01950
Joyce Cejka
Village Talk
Registration is not Required
Our Village is a member of the Village to Village Network,
a national organization which provides information, encouragement and peer support to
similar villages in 200+ communities across the country.