A garden-style pavilion proposed as a welcome center on the grounds of The Breakers, one of the nation’s most famous landmarks of the Gilded Age, was rejected by Newport’s Historic District Commission because it was not compatible with style and materials of the mansion, according to a city planner who did an analysis of the proposal.
“The commission’s finding … was that some of the materials, details and features of the proposed new construction were not compatible with the existing historic character of The Breakers,” said Matt Weintraub, historic-preservation planner for Newport.
The $4.2 million welcome center was proposed by the Preservation Society of Newport County as a world-class replacement for ticket tents and port-a-potties on the grounds of The Breakers that were put up as temporary measures 12 years ago.
The Historic District Commission voted 4-to-3 to deny the welcome center at an Aug. 27 special meeting. The Preservation Society said it intends to appeal the ruling to the Newport Zoning Board.
Among the commission concerns were that window walls and green, prepatinated copper curved roofs in the proposed welcome center were too much of a contrast to The Breakers’ limestone walls.
The description of The Breakers on its nomination for the National Register of Historic Places defined its architectural classification as late 19th- and 20th-century revivals of Beaux Arts, Italian Renaissance. The materials listed are a foundation of brick, concrete and limestone, walls of limestone, a terra cotta red tile roof, marble plaques and wrought-iron gates and fences.
“The staff analysis also noted roof shape is very important, as well as wall materials. What was proposed was a curvilinear-type of roof and what is currently seen on The Breakers is a more traditional, flat-top hipped roof covered with red terra cotta tiles,” said Weintraub. “There’s just not a real synergy or matchup between the materials used in Breakers and the ones that were proposed.”
The proposed welcome center is designed in the style of garden pavilions of the late-19th and early 20th centuries, with a green, rounded roof and skylights.
“From what I understand, the commission had a report that looked at the Beaux Arts building of stone and red tile, rectangular in shape and, presumably, they were expecting to see a building proposed with those materials and that shape,” said architect Alan Joslin of Cambridge, Mass.-based Epstein Joslin Architects, who designed the welcome-center project.
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