Page 4 - 2017 Preservation Society Summer Gazette
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But we are far from finished at The Breakers.
We have launched The Breakers Initiative to advance our invest- ment in this National Historic Landmark. Led by Donald O. Ross, Elizabeth Wright McMillen, Mary Van Pelt and Dayton T. Carr, this multi-million dollar fundraising effort will see the completion
of the new geothermal climate control system to protect and preserve the collection; final construction of the welcome center; and the first phase of a comprehensive, multi-year landscape rehabilitation.
Based on extensive research of the history of The Breakers and a Cultural Landscape Report by landscape architects Reed Hilderbrand and Robinson Associates, we have learned that the landscape at The Breakers is quite unique. Our intention is to reunite the 13-acre site to the mansion as intended in the 1896 design by Ernest W. Bowditch, who also designed Tuxedo Park in New York, Shaker Heights in Ohio and Jamestown’s Shoreby Hill in Rhode Island.
His design for the original Breakers, destroyed by fire in 1892, was an English picturesque parkland, connecting it to two adjacent properties, Vinland and Wakehurst, via a series of meandering paths. The "new" Breakers, designed by Richard Morris Hunt and completed in 1895, was far larger and grander, thus requiring a more formal landscape.
Bowditch created a Renaissance-derived Beaux Arts landscape, including parterre garden terraces and the straight, cross-axial approach drives to the front entrance. The earlier perimeter landscape, employing canopy trees and understory plantings to define expansive lawns and create a sense of isolation and privacy, was retained. The serpentine path was transformed to frame the mansion, with carefully planned views.
Today, the landscape’s vitally important interpretive connection to the house has been lost. Our plan to rehabilitate the landscape will allow our visitors to experience The Breakers in the context that Bowditch, Hunt and Vanderbilt always intended.
In the first phase of this comprehensive project, the entrance drive plantings and walkways will be restored and a safe, well-defined exit pathway from the lower level of the mansion created to ensure the visitor experience begins and ends graciously. Initial restoration of the original serpentine path, severely degraded by the 1938 hurricane, will connect both sides of the main entrance drive, invite museum guests into "garden rooms" and allow them to meander through varied natural spaces with views of the mansion.
These are exciting and expensive projects. You will hear more about The Breakers Initiative in the coming months, but I wanted to give you a preview. We have accomplished much over this past year, and our work is never done.
Cutting Edge
by Trudy Coxe, CEO & Executive Director
As this issue of the Newport Gazette goes to press, all of us at
the Preservation Society are catching our collective breath after a whirlwind first half of 2017. And we are hip-deep into a whole new set of priorities and initiatives that will carry us into 2018.
It's already been a memorable year. Capping a multi-year public-private collaboration, we celebrated the removal of the unsightly utility poles in Middletown's Paradise Valley, restoring that historic landscape. We also mounted a major 70-year retrospective exhibition of Pierre Cardin fashions at Rosecliff in the space of just three months - something that normally takes two to three years to plan and execute. To introduce the exhibition, for the first time
ever we hosted a full-fledged, Paris-quality runway show of
M. Cardin's fashions in the Great Hall of The Breakers. And
once again, the Newport Flower Show Committee set new standards of excellence with our best show ever, Fêtes des Fleurs, celebrating all things French!
That's not all. An Edible Schoolyard program, based on a national model, brought children from schools around Aquidneck Island to Green Animals to learn about sustainability. We restored The Breakers boiler room and introduced a new Beneath The Breakers Tour.
4 Summer 2017

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