Newport is fortunate to not only have buildings by many notable architects, but to be home to some of their very best works as well. But because Newport has been graced with so many beautiful, old buildings, the care and maintenance of these structures has fallen heavily upon a community that is very small in comparison to the magnitude of cultural treasures that have been entrusted to it. First as a thriving Colonial Era seaport, then as a Gilded Age resort, and finally as a destination for wealthy visitors and residents, Newport has seen successive waves of financial support and energy flow in to preserve and restore the wonderful historic structures that make up the fabric of the city.
In 2007, the Doris Duke Preservation Awards (DDPA) were established under the auspices of the Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) in coordination with the City of Newport to review, evaluate and honor the best examples of preservation spirit in the Newport Community. The awards are named for Doris Duke, a summer resident of Newport and once the wealthiest woman in America, who set about saving Newport’s colonial structures from neglect and demolition during the 1960s. Seventy-one of the more than eighty houses she and the NRF saved are still owned and operated by the Foundation to help ensure that Doris Duke’s vision of forever preserving colonial architectural structures is maintained.
The 2023 DDPA awards also seek to highlight innovative approaches to preservation, including new technologies, materials/products, creative adaptive reuse, excellence in practice, climate change adaptations, and similarly progressive concepts. Two works of architectural design are scheduled to receive awards selected from the many nominations that were received and reviewed by the jury. Two Newport preservation organizations have also been selected to be honored. The projects receiving prizes this year are the Captain William Finch House (c.1770), and the Sailing Museum in the Newport Armory (1894).
The two organizations that are scheduled to be honored are the Newport Historic Cemetery Advisory Commission (HPCAC), and the Newport Tree Conservancy. The HPCAC is a nine-member volunteer group, which has been tasked with the maintenance and restoration of the many historic assets that exist in Newport’s eight burial grounds. The Newport Tree Conservancy was founded as the Newport Tree Society in 1987 when “concerned citizens recognized the fact that our once-legendary urban forest was clearly aging and ailing.” The renamed organization has been involved in the planting of public street trees from its earliest days but in the past decade has helped establish more than 50 public and private arboretums in Newport, which is more than any community in the United States.
The awards ceremony will be held on the grounds of Doris Duke’s Newport summer house, Rough Point, on Friday September 8, 2023. The event has become an annual gathering of the preservation-minded community not just of Aquidneck Island but of all of Rhode Island. To get tickets to this cocktails and award presentation event visit the NRF invitation page: https://www.NewportRestoration.org/preservation/doris-duke-preservation-awards.
Preserving Newport’s treasury of architecture, landscape and cemeteries is a challenging, time consuming, expensive and (at times) lonely effort. The Doris Duke Preservation Awards have become an annual celebration of these efforts and a wonderful gathering of the people who are committed to these activities! A4 Architecture has been pleased to assist Salve Regina, the Preservation Society and The International Tennis Hall of Fame in renovations that have been awarded the Doris Duke Preservation Award in the past and we are grateful to this annual event to help focus the spotlight on the need for preservation and to honor those clients who undertake this difficult, expensive but ultimately very important and rewarding task!
Ross Sinclair Cann, AIA, LEED AP, is an historian, author, educator and practicing architect living and working for A4 Architecture in Newport, Rhode Island and has been the architect for several Doris Duke Preservation Award winning projects.