On August 12, 2010, Jay Williamson, curator of the Historical Society of Old Newbury showed Ghlee Woodworth his latest treasure - an old Clipper Trail sign. The signís origin and purpose was a mystery but both Jay and Ghlee had vague memories of seeing the signs in the early 1970s. Finally a few months later in December of 2010, a small article published in the Newburyport Daily News requested help in explaining the history of the sign. Some local residents came forward after reading the article and the mystery was solved.
The Newburyport Daily News reported on April 30, 1969, that through efforts of the Chamber of Commerce, residents and tourists would soon have a historical trail to follow while visiting Newburyport. The Clipper Trail sign was designed by Edward K. Piel, a model shipbuilder, founder of Piel Craftsmen, and head of the Chamberís tourist planning committee. Signs were placed throughout the city along historical points of interest with a brochure to provide guidance. Unfortunately signs disappeared over time, many stolen.
Through Ghleeís extensive research experience of Newburyportís history, guided history and cemetery tours, the success of her publication Tiptoe Through the Tombstones, Oak Hill Cemetery, and feedback from local history enthusiasts, residents and visitors, she became aware that many people were eager to have easier access to history material and resources. They also welcomed the prospect of experiencing Newburyportís past at their own pace.
Ghlee spoke with Mayor Donna D. Holaday about reviving and updating the concept of the Clipper Trail and agreed on a name, the Clipper Heritage Trail. Next, Ms. Woodworth met with Ann Ormond, President of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Clipper Heritage Trail project was enthusiastically received, and discussion followed about ways in which the new trail could best serve visitors and tourists.
The result is the creation of the Clipper Heritage Trail, a series of self-guided history tours accessed via a website and mobile website for smart phones as well as printed brochures and a promotional video. Ghlee was able to be in touch with Betty Piel Riff, the daughter of the late Ed Piel, and Betty is very supportive and appreciative of the revival of her dadís original 1969 design. A granite paver with Mr. Pielís original design of the Clipper Trail vessel has been used to create a promotional and marketing tool for the trail. In July 2013, granite pavers were installed in the brick sidewalk in front of various historical points of interests in the downtown area for easy navigation of the Clipper Heritage Trail.
As new historical discoveries are uncovered in the future by people doing research on Newburyport's past, it is hoped that they will share their discoveries so that they may be incorporated as new destinations along the Clipper Heritage Trail.
Enjoy tiptoeing through Newburyport history...
Ghlee E. Woodworth