Unicorn Street, courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center (Detail)
Unicorn Street was an ancient street in the heart of downtown Newburyport that was demolished in 1968 during Urban Renewal. It was named after Unicorn Street in London, England.
Among the settlers in Newbury in 1640 was George Little, the ancestor of the prolific Little family in Newbury and Newburyport. Little had been a tailor on Unicorn Street in London, and after acquiring real estate at the present location of the municipal parking lot on Merrimack Street, a way was laid out and at his suggestion, it was named Unicorn Street. The Little family held the land until after the turn of the 20th century, when it passed into the hands of Hon. H. H. Landford.*
The Hook & Ladder Firehouse was built on the corner of Pleasant and Unicorn Streets near the Unitarian Church. In 1885, Mr. J. Albert Walker purchased that city property and created three stores and several offices.*
The Snow Collection of the Museum of Old Newbury has photographs of when it was the firehouse and also when it was converted to stores.
The Alexander Block, 40-50 Pleasant Street ran from Green Street to Unicorn Street, was originally 3 1/2 floors. In the mid 1800s it was built on the site of the former Laird Brewery which was constructed in 1789. On the 1851 map it is labeled as the Alexander Block – Cornelius Alexander (1829 – 1893), who in the 1870 Census, is listed as a Real Estate Dealer, the 1880 Census lists him as a real estate agent living at 25 Pleasant Street, age 55 and single, and 1865 Census, he is 38 years old and listed as “Broker,” he died at the age of 68. Charles Davis, a pharmacist, bought the property in 1911 and operated a drug store in the building for more than 80 years until his death in 1957. In 1959 it was sold to L. Donald Phillips, a Green Street realtor. Philips took the upper stories of the building down and made extensive renovations. It still exists today as a two-story building.^*
Edward St. Lo Livermore, Daniel A. White and Samuel Foster built a bath house on Unicorn Street for themselves and their associates, it was completed and occupied by 1806. Members were supplied with hot and cold baths any day in the week except Sunday. It was called “The Proprietors of a Bathing House in Newburyport.” In 1814 the building was sold to Jeremiah and David Stickney.** Robert Laird bought it for storing grain used in his brewery at the corner of Green and Pleasant Streets. George E. Curtis later purchased the building and converted it in a dwelling for rent, and it was used for that purpose until it was demolished in 1968 during Urban Renewal.^^*
Most of Unicorn Street was demolished in 1968 to make way for the large downtown parking lot that exists today. Please see Renewal for the history of how much of downtown Newburyport was saved, but much of the downtown was demolished before the city made the decision not to lose its historic heritage. One wonders what might have been saved on Unicorn Street, it’s fascinating to see the old photographs of what this early thoroughfare once looked like.
* Ron Irving Papers, newspaper July 11, 1900
** Ron Irving Papers, newspaper December 20th, 1919 and John J. Currier, History of Newburyport
*** Ron Irving Papers, newspaper 1880
^* City of Newburyport and the United States Censuses
^^* Newburyport Daily News, Aug 28, 1968
Check Out The Interactive History Map
More information about Newburyport and its history can be found on the interactive history map, “Newburyport – Keeping the Story Alive.”
Solve The Unicorn Street Puzzle
Press the icon to play the puzzle on a full screen or tap here to expand the image.