Friends of Newport Preservation has requested that Governor Gina Raimondo intervene in the review process for a controversial plan regarding The Breakers.

On Monday, the group wrote the Governor regarding the “decision of the Rhode Island Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) allowing the Preservation Society of Newport County (PSNC) to construct a commercial ‘welcome center’ on the grounds of The Breakers in Newport.”
Calling the plan “misguided” the group said placing the building in the parking lot across the street from the mansion was an alternative that was “essential to preserve Rhode Island’s most famous national historic landmark.” The letter was delivered in advance of a scheduled meeting of the RIHPHC Wednesday, May 10 at 9:30 AM.

Newport residents, national experts and advocates for authentic preservation have consistently highlighted the fundamental flaws with the proposal throughout the process, but have been ignored, said Donald Christ of the Friends Group.  The letter says the National Park Service (NPS) was silenced by fierce lobbying by the Preservation Society when red flags were raised over the visitor center plan.  The letter says that the concerns of the NPS and the public have never been addressed.

Politics has marred the approval process at the RIHPHC for years, the group said. The commission has become “an advocate for the visitor center plan, rather than acting independently,” states the letter. “It’s clear that the visitor center approval process at the RIHPHC has been compromised,” added Donald Christ. “The measures put in place to protect Newport’s crown jewel and Rhode Island’s historic assets have regrettably proven inadequate. We’re asking the Governor to act before it’s too late.”

The Friends Group says that they have put forward a reasonable compromise solution of placing the visitor center in the parking lot across from The Breakers, but has received no response from the Society.  The group states in its letter, “Sadly, in keeping with the corporate culture of the Society, what is best for The Breakers, Newport and Rhode Island is no longer a priority.”

“The Breakers is a symbol of Newport’s Gilded Age and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to Rhode Island every year,” said Maureen Donnell of the Friends Group. “If left to stand, the Preservation Society’s proposal will dramatically alter the grounds and irreversibly damage to The Breakers.”

The group has requested that the Governor review the proposal, and the process. “Ideally, we could all work together to develop an alternative plan that preserves and protects The Breakers while still meeting visitor needs,” added Donald Christ.  “Rhode Island’s reputation and ultimately it’s potential for cultural tourism is on the line.”

Click here to read the full letter.

The Preservation Society of Newport County did not respond immediately to our request for comment, this story will be updated if they do.

Related Posts:

April 27 – Don’t Break The Breakers: Online Petition Has Gathered Signatures from all 50 U.S. States

April 9 – Behan Bros. Selected to Construct $5.4 Million Welcome Center at The Breakers

April 4 – Opposition of Welcome Center Offers $200,000 to ‘Save The Breakers Landscape’ (Updated)

March 29 – Experts Will Consider Future of The Breakers at Community Forum in Newport

March 9 – Guest View: Newport Preservation Society Refuses to Negotiate a Compromise on Unpopular Breakers Proposal

January 23 – Rhode Island Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Appeal on Breakers Welcome Center

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Ryan Belmore has been the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp since 2012. He also currently works for Mountain News, where he serves as Senior Editor - North America for OnTheSnow. He previously worked for the New England Patriots and American Cancer Society. He currently serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).