No Park Service Review of Welcome Center
J. Paul Loether, Chief, National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks, wrote on Wednesday, September 3, 2014, "the implementation of the current proposal of the Preservation Society of Newport County to construct a new visitors center within the boundaries of The Breakers NHL does not require approval by the National Park Service (NPS)." Click here to read the correspondence.
RIHPHC Affirms Its Approval of Welcome Center Project
In a letter dated October 2, 2013, the RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission has affirmed its July vote approving the Preservation Society’s plan for a new welcome center at The Breakers. In direct contradiction of an opinion by Newport Historic District Commission staff, the RIHPHC states that the plan is in compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and National Park Service Guidelines, and will not alter the historic character of The Breakers.
Click here to read the full decision
Construction of a new welcome center at The Breakers to provide basic amenities for its 400,000 annual visitors from around the world is a major priority of The Preservation Society of Newport County's Board of Trustees. The revenue generated by those visitors goes directly toward restoration and preservation projects at The Breakers and the Preservation Society's other historic properties. In these short video clips, trustees Alice Ross and William Wood Prince talk about why they support the welcome center, and why it is critical to the future of sustainability of the Preservation Society:
Many others in the Newport community have expressed their support for the Preservation Society's plan to build a new welcome center at The Breakers.
You can see more videos here
Below are excerpts from some of the letters that have been submitted to local newspapers and to the Historic District Commission. You may read the entire text of each letter by clicking on the link.
Marcel Valois, Executive Director, Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation
"After a decade of work, the Preservation Society's Board of Trustees has selected a design that meets sound historic preservation criteria, while providing for the comfort and orientation needs of visitors. With this new welcome center, the Preservation Society will be able to meet the world-class standards of hospitality expected at internationally recognized historic sites, while positioning its properties to generate more visitor revenue in the state."
Click here to read Mr. Valois's full letter
Trudy and Lew Keen, Newport residents
"The Preservation Society has invested more time, utilized more manpower and applied more expertise on this project than anyone. it best understands the needs and challenges of operating The Breakers as a major historic site....
We trust that the project as presented by the Preservation Society will be in the best interest of the Breakers property. We trust the Preservation Society of Newport County, and it has earned the trust of all of us."
Click here to read Mr. and Mrs. Keen's full letter
Mark Stenning, CEO, International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum
"The Preservation Society of Newport County is fully committed to ensuring that the Welcome Center be done with the utmost care and be constructed in a way that complements the historic property and adheres to the highest level of historic preservation guidelines....
At the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum we strive to provide an environment that is aesthetically pleasing, comfortable, and accessible and represents the highest level of hospitality for our visitors....A Welcome Center on The Breakers property would allow for the Preservation Society of Newport County to do the same, and for the good of our entire community, I fully support this proposed project."
Click here to read Mr. Stenning's full letter
Guillaume de Ramel, Newport
"I am a longstanding member and supporter of the Preservation Society. I believe wholeheartedly in the vital importance of this project, based on my profound admiration of the Preservation Society and its mission to preserve, protect and present the exceptional collection of properties and landscapes in its care....
"The Welcome Center will treat our visitors with the dignity, respect and comfort they deserve. The building will be beautiful and appropriate to the magnificent setting, the landscapes renewed to make Ernest W. Bowditch proud, and the amenities offered to our visitors modest, convenient and efficient."
Click here to read Mr. de Ramel's full letter
Lawrence S. Cutler, AIA, Chairman and Co-Founder, National Museum of American Illustration, Newport
"I hope that HDC will accept this bright and shining light just as The
RI Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission agreed this project
is laudable and should progress.
I am in favor of the PSNC plans for the Visitors Center at The
Breakers. The proposed scheme indicates a superbly designed structure
appropriate to both PSNC and user needs. It is appropriately sited, and
does not interfere in any meaningful manner with the existing historic
structures or the existing landscape."
Click here to read Mr. Cutler's full letter
Stephen C. Waluk, former Mayor of Newport
""This strikes me as a pivotal moment for the future of Newport. The city's cultural institutions are the lifeblood of the community. Such investment is visionary. And it is necessary--not only for the PSNC--but for the city as well. My time in office helped me recognize that change can have a positive impact and that we as a city can evolve without diminishing the value of our historic treasures."
Click here to read Mr. Waluk's full letter
Valerie Talmage, Executive Director, Preserve Rhode Island
"Newport's District Ordinance is designed to protect historic assets and guide new growth. Historic District Zoning in genera, and Newport's Ordinance in particular, are established knowing that change will be introduced into historic areas....Nowhere does Newport's Ordinance prohibit change--instead it seeks to guide change in ways to protect and enhance the remarkable historic character of the City."
Click here to read Ms. Talmage's full letter
J. Timothy O'Reilly, Chairman, Newport Harbor Corporation:
"....Having spent a career in Newport's visitor/tourism economy, I am concerned that virtually all of the opponents of this proposed amenity who have identified themselves are either not local residents, or are individuals who do not depend on the local economy for their family's economic livelihood....
As to the red herring that local restaurateurs fear the 'competition' from box lunches at the Breakers visitors center, it is simply not true. There have been box lunches available at The Elms and the Chinese Tea House for the past few years, and no restaurateurs have objected...
Let the Preservation Society implement a very thoughtful plan that has been vetted by nationally and locally recognized historical preservation authorities...."
Click here to read Mr. O'Reilly's full letter
Richard Sardella, former Mayor of Newport
"As a former Mayor of Newport and a long-time restauranteur, I have followed the discussion over the Preservation Society's plans to build a welcome center at The Breakers.
The need for the building is clear, and I am confident that the Society and its team of experts have identified the best location. The Breakers is no longer a single family residence. It is one of our State's iconic and most visited treasures, and the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors need and deserve a better reception than the one currently provided."
Click here to read Mr. Sardella's full letter
Eric Hertfelder, former Deputy State Preservation Officer
"The proposed replacement for the current visitor center is a reasonable approach given contemporary standards and the high volume of visitation at the site...."
"I believe the replacement of the current visitor center with the proposed new visitor center...will not adversely affect the significant historic features of The Breakers as documented in the National Historic Landmark designation of the property."
Click here to read Mr. Hertfelder's full letter
Nicholas Brown, former Navy Captain, Director Emeritus of the National Aquarium in Baltimore and former Executive Director of Preserve Rhode Island:
"....Changing to meet the exigencies of the times is indeed adaptive reuse, the heart of modern historic preservation. It is that principle which doubtless persuaded the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, the highest authority on historic preservation in the state, to give its approval to the society's proposal....
To me as a retired museum and historic preservation professional, the functions performed by the proposed welcome center are absolutely non-negotiable. You must ticket, you must provide toilets and refreshment, and you fail in your mission if you do not provide orientation. Further, when dealing with a Gilded Age experience, what you provide must have class...."
Click here to read Capt. Brown's full letter
Jody Sullivan, Executive Director, Newport County Chamber of Commerce
"The Breakers welcome center proposal by the board of the Preservation Society of Newport County is a well thought-out and planned project that has consistently reached out to the local business and restaurant community to ensure that any concerns were addressed.
By any hospitality standards, the Preservation Society's current amenities hardly deserve the name. The proposal to upgrade them is overdue. As one of the top 10 historic houses in America by attendance, it needs to and deserves to be able to provide visitors with a comfortable experience. Newport is a world-class destination and needs to be able to offer our visitors a world-class experience....
What has been proven by the current welcome facilities is that given a chance to understand all that Newport has to offer, visitors will spend more and more time here. That translates into more attractions added to the itinerary, more dinners served, more nights in lodging and a tremendous economic driver to our local economy...."
Click here read to read Ms. Sullivan's full letter
William J. Corcoran
"....Currently the welcome center consists of a tent (with no air conditioning) and a toilet trailer. The Preservation Society of Newport County plans to replace this tent and toilet trailer with a beautifully designed and cleverly concealed structure that will enhance the visitor experience and provide first-class restroom facilities for the 400,000 visitors who come to The Breakers each year. the plans for this welcome center have been painstakingly made to be as tasteful, elegant and invisible as possible while still providing a first-class experience to visitors.
....Remember, not all change is bad. There was violent opposition to the building of the Eiffel Tower, the Washington Monument and the Flatiron Building, all of which became icons for their cities. The new welcome center at The Breakers is so beautiful that it too can achieve icon status while also providing a world-class tourist experience. Let's give positive change a chance."
Click here to read Mr. Corcoran's full letter
Evan Smith, President and CEO, Discover Newport
"Change in our world is inevitable; it is how we change that is critical to building a better tomorrow....The Preservation Society has reached out to many community stakeholders in a very thoughtful manner to gather feedback about how to best develop the design and functionality for the dynamic new center; I've had the opportunity to evaluate the inspiring architectural plans designed by Epstein Joslin Architects and Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects. It is evident the Preservation Society and these two experienced firms have brought together key elements in terms of site location, business function, the visitor experience and aesthetic style, resulting in a decidedly attractive design.
Many historic homes across America have invested wisely in new interactive welcome centers that serve visitors well without compromising the integrity of the site. Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Charlottesville, VA; George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate in Alexandria, VA; and Springwood, the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park, NY are just some examples of treasured historic sites (and National Historic Landmarks) that merge 21st century visitor expectations with a sensitivity to the communities in which they exist."
Click here to read Mr. Smith's full letter
Laurie Z. Stroll, President, Newport Hospitality Inc.
"I think the Preservation Society of Newport County should be commended for the proposed welcome center at The Breakers. It has done a fine job of researching and exploring every option and has come up with a plan that is tasteful and functional. The landscaping has been designed to envelop the building so that it will be hardly seen. The most important viewing point, standing at the gates, will have a clear, unobstructed view of The Breakers in front of you.
....I trust that the Preservation Society would not do anything to jeopardize the historic integrity of its own precious mansions and landscaping. As shown in the presentation, the original historic character of the landscaping has been lost over the years from hurricane damage and original plantings becoming overgrown. This well-designed plan creates a welcome center and rehabilitates a beautiful landscaping at the same time."
Click here to read Ms. Stroll's full letter
Martha J. Sheridan, President & CEO, Providence-Warwick Convention and Visitor Bureau
"As someone who worked as a tourism professional in Newport and throughout Rhode Island, I am very familiar with the care the Preservation Society takes in managing its affairs and its properties. It is always conscious of its impact on the city, and consistently looks for ways to partner, and be a good neighbor. Its work is vital to the economic health of Newport and the state of RI."
Click here to read Ms. Sheridan's full letter
David C. DePetrillo
"As a former Director of Tourism for Rhode Island, it was my privilege to work closely with the Society for many years. I have always been impressed by the caring and professional stewardship that its leaders and staff have shown for its collection of amazing architectural and cultural treasures. That's why I was nor surprised when I saw the superb design of its proposed welcome center and the way it was so carefully sited on the grounds of The Breakers."
Click here to read Mr. DePetrillo's full letter
Barbara Behan Howlett, President, Glorious Affairs Catering
"My company has worked with the Preservation Society for many years....The new Welcome Center will provide an environment for the visitors that is comfortable, safe, attractive and assimilates with the historic nature of the local surroundings. As a small local business owner who relies on the seasonal visitors, we see this development as a natural evolution for Newport that will improve the experience for our visitors and provide a platform to increase business and provide employment opportunities for Newport."
Click here to read Ms. Howlett's full letter
David M. Hart, architect
"During my work at the Preservation Society of Newport County I became quite familiar with the Breakers property, having examined the interior, exterior and grounds, and having climbed and examined the roof surfaces. The proposed Visitors Center addressed many much needed services at the Breakers complex...More importantly, in my opinion, it meets the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitation of Historic Properties...."
Click here to read Mr. Hart's full letter
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