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By Garry Ruff, The Preservation Society of Newport County
The Preservation Society of Newport County today announced that they have received final state approval to reopen the Newport Mansions to visitors under strict health precautions.
Starting Thursday, June 4, The Breakers will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day with the last tour admission at 5 p.m.
The Elms will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day with a final tour admission at 4 p.m. The Servant Life Tour will be available during that same time.
“By reopening The Breakers and The Elms, we will bring in revenue we need to survive, and our visitors will help to jump-start Newport’s economy and support local businesses,” said Trudy Coxe, executive director and CEO of the Preservation Society in a statement. “With so many events canceled this summer, the economic stimulus of the Newport Mansions on the city and the state will be greater than ever.”
On Tuesday, the Preservation Society announced that they had to lay off a total of 231 full- and part-time employees, representing approximately 69 percent of their staff.
The Preservation Society hopes to reopen Marble House and Rosecliff later in the season.
In response to the pandemic, all of the Preservation Society’s historic properties and house museums have been closed to the public since March 15. Because 70 percent of the nonprofit organization’s revenue is derived from tour and events admissions, its annual budget has been cut dramatically.
The Preservation Society has prepared the following measures to help protect the health and safety of visitors:
• Audio tour equipment will no longer be distributed. Audio tours of The Elms or The Breakers can be downloaded onto smartphones and visitors can use their own earbuds to listen. The download is free and available through the Newport Mansions app.
• Tickets will be sold only online at NewportMansions.org. Ticket buyers can download and print their ticket at home or show their ticket on their smartphone when they arrive on site. Tickets will be for a specific day and time. Visitors will get to choose when they prefer to visit, subject to availability.
• Preservation Society members will continue to enjoy free admission but must make reservations through NewportMansions.org using their email address and ZIP code.
• A limited number of visitors will be allowed in each house at one time, as determined by state COVID-19 regulations. Staff members will wear face masks and guests will be required to wear masks, too.
• As always, guests will not be allowed to touch any objects or surfaces inside the house except as necessary, such as stair handrails. Staff will wipe down the handrails and any other surfaces visitors might touch throughout the day.
• Restroom attendants will make sure the number of people in each bathroom does not exceed the limit and will clean throughout the day.
• Visitors will be required to maintain a safe distance from each other. Lines on the floors of some rooms will show visitors where to stand until the next spot is available. All tours will be one-directional.
• Because the elevators in The Breakers and The Elms, which require a staff operator, are too small to accommodate people while practicing social distancing, they will not be in operation during the initial phase of reopening.
• The Preservation Society is also working with state officials to devise a plan so guests can purchase sandwiches and snacks from the Welcome Center at The Breakers and enjoy seating on the lawn.
The Preservation Society, which owns and operates 11 historic properties, hosted more than 1 million tours for the fourth straight year in 2019. In July, it delivered the 40 millionth tour since the organization’s founding in 1945.
The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020, is a nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. It is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes, decorative arts and social history. Its 11 historic properties – seven of them National Historic Landmarks – span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.
For more information, please visit NewportMansions.org.