The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 3, January 15, 2006, Article 15


Dick Hanscom writes: "Here is an article about Perkins of
Newburyport from the Newburyport Daily News:

"One of the city's most historic buildings is eyed for
residential use once again by the property owner.

The nearly 200-year-old brick building at the rear of a
Fruit Street lot was the state's earliest mint. It served
as the workshop for Newburyport's greatest inventor,
Jacob Perkins, who created an engraving process for steel
plates to print bank notes. Perkins' pioneering technique
was eventually used to print all U.S. currency.

"It's important because of not only what went on there,
but by whom," said Jay Williamson, curator of the Historical
Society of Old Newbury. Perkins "was an inventive genius."

Owner James Lagoulis, a Newburyport lawyer and former Newbury
town counsel, wants to turn the vacant and deteriorating
building into an apartment. His proposal will be reviewed
by the Zoning Board of Appeals at 7 tonight at City Hall."

"In 2004, citing a need for immediate repairs or demolition,
Lagoulis went to the Historical Commission. At that time,
he spoke of going before the Zoning Board of Appeals to win
approval for some other use for the building.

The commission issued a six-month delay for demolition,
the maximum allowed at the time. It has since expired.
Lagoulis can legally tear down the structure.

But Lagoulis said demolition is not his intent.

"I have a civic obligation to save this building of
historical significance, and I'm doing my best to do that,"
Lagoulis said. "Residential use is the most viable use and
probably the best use for the neighborhood."

"In order to save the building, you (have) to make them
usable," Lagoulis said. "It's a matter of cost to repair
and revenues."

The building needs work. In 2004, the chimney collapsed
and fell through to the first floor.

"I can't allow it to fall into disrepair," Lagoulis said.
"It's vacant because of the lack of stability. It's a
historic building of significant meaning. It's a landmark."

The historical society thinks the building could serve as
an addition to the Cushing House museum.

"We would love to be in the position to buy (the building)
for a fair market value," Williamson said. "We're not in
the position to do that because of lack of funds. We
certainly favor seeing that building preserved any way it
could, so long as work is done to preserve the historic
integrity of the building."

In the early 1800s, Perkins, who lived from 1766 to 1849,
created a process to soften steel to engrave and reharden
bank notes, making them much harder to counterfeit.
Earlier printing processes used copper plates.

"It was a revolutionary process that allowed banks to be
more secure," Williamson said.

By 1809, Perkins' steel engraving plates were used for
printing all currency in Massachusetts. In 1815, his
equipment was selected for national use.

"It was important on a national level," Williamson said.
"That's what went on here in that mint building."

[The story has already been pulled from the paper's web
site, so we don't have a link to publish. -Editor]

Dave Perkins writes:  "This is the building that I saw
and "touched" when I visited Newburyport a couple of years
ago (as reported in The E-Sylum).  I went through the
back yard / gardens of the Newburyport Historical Society
to the building guided by the then curator.  I also saw
Jacob Perkins' House from the front.  So I am familiar
with all the logistics from this article.

It would be a shame to tear that building down. I think
my 1818 "Perkins Pattern Cent" might have been created
in that building.  I doubt I will tell the Cent what is
going on - it's lonely enough as it is in the bank.
But it is loved!"

[David's report was published in The E-Sylum June 8, 2003.
He is a distant relative of Jacob Perkins.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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