About Ross Cann

http://a4arch.com

Posts by Ross Cann:

Progress and Continuity

Progress and Continuity

Now that the election season is over for this year, politicians and citizens are left to sort through the results and figure out how to move forward. While some want change, others want continuity and preservation of existing conditions. These two forces have always been opposed to one another and perhaps they always will be as each side has legitimate interests and principles. More

World Heritage Site Status

World Heritage Site Status

This column has often argued that Newport is blessed with a broad and deep cultural and architectural heritage. From the city’s rich concentration of colonial houses along Spring Street and in the Point District, to the extraordinary collection of Greek revival, Queen Ann and other styles from the Victorian era on Historic Hill and in the Catherin-Kay neighborhood, to the unsurpassed examples of Gilded Age architecture along Bellevue Avenue, few places can boast of a greater concentration of important American architecture in such a small area than Newport. More

A New Addition to the National Register

A New Addition to the National Register

This column has often lovingly called Newport the “Metropolitan Museum of Architecture” for the breadth and depth of its collection of important buildings from the colonial times through the early part of the nineteenth century. This audacious claim is based upon the extraordinarily high concentration of buildings individually listed on the National Register of Historic places and is supported by University of Virginia architectural history professor Richard Guy Wilson’s declaration in Ron Onorato’s AIA Guide to Newport (2007) that “Per square foot, Newport possesses more great architecture than any other American City.” More

The JNA Griswold House

The JNA Griswold House

Newport is the repository of many treasures of American architectural history. It is noted for the many surviving colonial era buildings but the true building boom began around 1850 as Newport became a summer escape for southern plantation owners and New Yorkers, Philadelphians and Bostonians escaping the summer heat in a time before air conditioning. This time was the start of what became known as “The Gilded Age”—a term coined by Mark Twain to describe the period of industrialization and new found wealth (albeit for a very small segment of the entire American populace) that was reflected in a flowering of architectural design. More

Newport Casino: Architectural and Tennis Monument

Newport Casino: Architectural and Tennis Monument

One of the most widely recognizable buildings in Newport is the Newport Casino. This complex of buildings located on Bellevue Avenue was commissioned in 1879 by James Gordon Bennett, who owned an estate across the street on the site where the Bellevue Garden complex now stands. He reportedly founded the club after being ejected from the Newport Reading Room (an exclusive Newport Club) by fellow members of after encouraging his polo instructor to ride into the clubhouse on a bet. When the fellow members took exception he set out to create a different sort of club where he could “have a bit of fun.” The entire complex was built in an extraordinary short six-month period and in 1880, just three days after the opening, the Newport Daily News trumpeted, “It is doubtful if a more lively place can be found!” More

Washington Square: Birthplace of Newport

Washington Square: Birthplace of Newport

Newport has been many things over its lifetime: a Gilded Age resort, a post World War II Navy town, and today, an important destination for historic tourism. But at one time Newport was an early colonial settlement that was made prosperous by its excellent harbor and access to shipping and trade. At the heart of this colonial community were Long Wharf, which represented the mercantile spine of the city, and Washington Square, which was the community’s civic hub.  Some of America’s most important Colonial-era buildings still exist around Washington Square. These include Richard Munday’s Colony House (1739), which served as the part-time home of the Rhode Island legislature until the beginning of the 20th century, and Peter Harrison’s Brick Market (1772), which was the place that traders and seamen brought their goods to be sold and traded. More

Many Ways to Save

Many Ways to Save

With the end of Epiphany this past week, the Christian church has entered into Lent, a period of 40 days of reflection and self denial. With the cold winter we have had here in Rhode Island and the dramatic climate events occurring around the world with increasing and alarming frequency, there is much to be reflective about. More

Newport: 375 Years of Great Architecture

Newport: 375 Years of Great Architecture

As Portsmouth ends the celebration of its founding 375 years ago, Newport’s celebration of the same birthday is just beginning. There are very few communities in America that have been around longer than Newport and none that are better preserved from an architectural standpoint. Since its founding in 1639, Newport has gone through an amazing number of phases: from early colonial settlement to major port to war-ravaged wasteland to Victorian Era watering hole for the wealthy to naval station to it its complex present day configuration. At each step in this evolution, Newport’s transformation has been marked by strategic additions to its architectural fabric and the city remains one of the most remarkable intact collections of historic buildings anywhere in the United States. Since the time of the American revolution to the present day the city has neither grown so quickly nor grown so poor that the old structures were lost and our town could easily be called the “America’s Last Wooden City” as so many of our structures are still the old balloon frame structures of more than a hundred years ago, which is a form of construction abandoned elsewhere for stone, brick, concrete and steel.  More

Choosing an Architect or Contractor

Choosing an Architect or Contractor

The last five years have been a quiet time for building construction and design in the United States. According to the US Census Bureau, the volume of construction in the last 5 years is nearly 30% less than the previous five years and is still lower today than it was 10 years ago, despite inflation (http://www.census.gov/construction/c30/historical_data.html). But buildings are still getting older and families are still growing so much of the work that wasn’t done during the “Great Recession” still remains to be done at a future point. The past several months have seen an uptick in inquiries to both architects and contractors alike, so if you are among those who have deferred dreams or maintenance on your home or business, what should you be looking for? More

Undoing Suburban Zoning

Undoing Suburban Zoning

For nearly forty years Middletown has proscribed to zoning that requires businesses to set back from the street and encouraged parking lots to be placed in front of buildings. The end result, not surprisingly, was a sea of strip malls and an ocean of pylon signs along West Main Road that created a visual cacophony. In 2008 the town revised its commercial design guidelines to move buildings to the street line and to better conceal parking but this past month, the Middletown Town Council advanced this concept further by unanimously adopting a new master plan for the area between Two-mile Corner and the intersection of Valley Road and West Main that would try to reverse the Suburban / Strip Development precedent over time. More