Architect and RISD faculty member Nick De Pace (kneeling), inspects the newly-discovered structure. Onlookers include Neill Coffey and representatives from the Newport Spring Committee, Newport Historical Society, Church Community Housing Corporation and Newport Fire Department.

Following the announcement that an underground water-filled stone cistern-like structure was found on the site of the Historic Newport Town Spring (the former Coffey’s gas station), the Historic Newport Town Spring Leadership Committee, in collaboration with the Newport Historical Society, has arranged for an investigation of the structure and surrounding area to be conducted by a team of archaeology experts during the week of March 12th.  A public presentation of the findings will be made on Thursday, March 15th, at 5:30 PM at the Newport Historical Society (82 Touro Street).  Additional information about the study will be posted to the Project’s website (HistoricNewportTownSpring. org) as it becomes available.

The underground structure was found during environmental remediation work at the site in November 2017.  Preliminary interpretation of the structure’s materials and construction indicates that it may be quite old, warranting further investigation and documentation by experts.  In the interest of learning more about the structure and its possible association with the original town spring, an archaeology investigation to document and evaluate the structure will be conducted by:  Nick De Pace, architect and faculty member at the Rhode Island School of Design with expertise in the archaeological documentation of ancient structures and subterranean water systems; Adriano Morabito and Michele Concas from Roma Sotterranea, an Italian association specializing in the study of urban speleology; and Dr. Jon Marcoux of Salve Regina University’s Noreen Stoner Drexel Cultural and Historic Preservation Program, an expert in using ground-penetrating radar at archaeological sites.

The results of the archaeology study will help guide the site’s final design plan and ensure its interpretation is based in fact.  The need to explore and document this important discovery is the cause for some delay of the project completion. The success of this Interim Exploratory Phase of the project has been made possible thanks to the generous support of several individual donors and lead funding from The 1772 Foundation.

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Formed in 2014, the Newport Spring Leadership Committee’s goals are to preserve the site around which the city was founded on the premise of religious freedom. Once complete, the site will be preserved as open space in perpetuity and its historical significance interpreted in a manner that allows civic enjoyment, improves public pedestrian and motor vehicle safety and fosters cultural and economic vitality.  To date, more than $1 million in individual, foundation and corporate donations has been invested to purchase the site, develop a community-focused site plan, conduct environmental remediation and complete the archaeology investigation.

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