While our organization is renowned for its stewardship of the Newport Mansions—and proudly so—preservation advocacy and policy have been at the very core of the Preservation Society's mission since the organization was founded in 1945.
When The Preservation Society was founded, local historic zoning ordinances had not been adopted and organizations like the Newport Restoration Foundation, State Historic Preservation Offices, and The National Trust for Historic Preservation did not yet exist. The Preservation Society of Newport County emerged as the predominant watchdog of Newport’s architectural heritage. Katherine Warren and the Society’s other visionary founders took it upon themselves to not only advocate for individual structures but also for citywide preservation and, in doing so, they helped shape the future of preservation in Newport.
"It has to be a community project; you can't have an angel doing it for you."
- Katherine Warren, Founder of The Preservation Society (1960)
the Preservation Society remains committed to advocacy as a means of protecting
and enhancing quality of life by promoting the preservation of architecture,
landscapes, and scenic character of Newport County. Our advocacy work is
focused on regional, state, and community-wide issues that connect to our
mission and the properties under our stewardship. These
five themes provide the framework for our advocacy efforts:
- Preservation, Architecture, Landscape, and Planning
- Scenic Conservation and Environmental Resources
- Economic Development
- Legislative, Civic, and Political Engagement
“There can be a rosy future if we all work like dogs to accomplish it.
- Katherine Warren, 1954
THE SCENIC SECOND BEACH PROJECT
Funded: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Foundation and van Beuren Charitable Foundation
Together with Scenic Aquidneck partners, the Preservation Society raised support and funding to restore scenic views of one of Rhode Island’s most iconic cultural landscapes: Paradise Valley in Middletown.
Paradise Valley has provided inspiration for Hudson River School artists like William Trost Richards and John Frederick Kensett, writers like William Cullen Bryant, the philosopher Bishop George Berkeley, and hundreds of contemporary artists. By eliminating nearly 1.5 miles of utility poles and burying the electrical and communications lines adjacent to Second Beach, views of beloved historic sites like Hanging Rock, Sachuest Point, and St. George's School were restored. This work also helped to protect Paradise Valley’s vulnerable coastal habitat.
AQUIDNECK STONE WALL INITIATIVE
Status: Pilot Study Completed in 2019
Funded By: van Beuren Charitable Foundation
Stone walls are tangible links to the past. The extensive network of stone walls on Aquidneck Island is a visible reminder of the island’s 18th- and 19th-century agricultural practices. Today, many of Aquidneck Island’s stone walls are fragmented and increasingly falling into disrepair. This incremental loss, threatens the future of this quintessential New England landscape feature. In 2018, The Preservation Society of Newport County and Preserve Rhode Island launched the Aquidneck Stone Wall Initiative to protect and improve the Island's historic and scenic quality through its historic stone walls.
NEWPORT'S HISTORIC CEMETERIES
Historic Cemeteries are valuable resources that play an important role in telling Newport's history. Proper care and maintenance are vital to the preservation of these important pieces of history, as weather and the environment can slowly erode headstones. As the steward of the Arnold Burying Ground, The Preservation Society is invested in cemetery preservation.
GOD'S LITTLE ACRE: SAVING NEWPORT'S COLONIAL AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE
Status: Underway. Anticipated completion Spring 2020.
Funded By: A grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The Preservation Society is collaborating with Newport’s Historic Cemetery Advisory Commission to conserve over 30 colonial-era headstones at God's Little Acre. God's Little Acre is the largest and most intact colonial-era African burial ground in the county and a critical resource for scholarship. This project will help preserve a nationally significant burial ground and Newport's largest physical manifestation of African American Heritage.
ECONOMIC IMPACT STUDY
HISTORIC PRESERVATION: AN OVERLOOKED ECONOMIC DRIVER
Status: Completed March 2018
Funded By: van Beuren Charitable Foundation, RI Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, and National Trust for Historic Preservation
Many see historic preservation as a tool to preserve individual buildings rather than a tool for community revitalization. Few realize the true scope of what historic preservation can accomplish. To help quantify its economic impacts, The Preservation Society and Preserve Rhode Island partnered to commission Rhode Island's first statewide study to analyze the economic impacts of historic preservation. The results proved just how visionary Mrs. Warren was. The report, Historic Preservation: An Overlooked Economic Driver, analyzes Rhode Island's preservation sector on four main themes: Heritage Tourism, Historic Tax Credits, Quality of Life, and Sustainability.
HISTORIC BARN ASSESSMENTS
Status: Completed Spring 2019
Funded By: van Beuren Charitable Foundation
Historic barns and outbuildings are of great importance to Aquidneck Island’s historic landscape. Deteriorating historic barns are sometimes considered “too far gone” or unsuitable for modern agricultural use. These challenges frequently outweigh the incentives to preserve these buildings, resulting in more lost every year. Their preservation often requires major repairs such as foundations, structural work and framing, roof replacement, and exterior siding. Due to the expense, many owners are unsure how to prioritize repairs.
To better understand what it takes to preserve a historic barn, The Preservation Society of Newport County and Preserve Rhode Island hired Transom Preservation Consulting to complete building assessments at five historic properties located on Aquidneck Island. Each assessment provided property owners with prioritized and phased recommendations, along with cost estimates.
A COMMUNITY IMPACT STUDY
Status: Completed 2013
The Preservation Society is a driver of tourism, a catalyst for local spending, a job creator, supporter of local business and a contributor to quality of life. It is an economic engine for the community.
As Rhode Island’s most visited cultural attraction, The Preservation Society welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and employs four hundred people to protect, preserve and present its eleven historic properties. Each year, more than $100 million is generated for the city and state’s economy as a direct result of The Preservation Society’s operations. In addition to contributing to the city's economic vitality, The Preservation Society enhances the community's quality of life through contributions to beautification initiatives, educational programs, and hosting cultural events.
“Our future is assured through our past.”
- Katherine Warren, 1952
NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES - PROPOSED RULE CHANGES
Did you know that all eleven of the Preservation Society’s properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places? The National Register is more than a database of the Nation’s most significant cultural and architectural heritage; it is an important tool for economic development and community planning. Earlier this week the Preservation Society joined 3,283 individuals and organizations from across the country to express our concerns about the proposed rule changes that would impact which sites are nominated and listed in the National Register. Check out the Preservation Society’s full comments – PSNC Letter.