Newport Rhode Island is fortunate to have one of the most intact collections of important 18th, 19th, and early 20th century buildings anywhere in America. But these buildings have not survived to the present day simply by not being torn down (although that was a useful starting point). For the most part, they are here because individuals and institutions took on the difficult and expensive task of preserving them and adapting them to be useful and relevant to present times.

Since 2007, architectural projects that have shown a high degree of quality and care have been honored by the Doris Duke Preservation Awards, administered by the Newport Restoration Foundation and the City of Newport. Three projects have been selected to receive the prestigious honor at this year’s gala award ceremony: the Aloha Landing Boathouse (restored by Mr. & Mrs. Sam Mencoff), the Old Acre Carriage House (restored by Mr. & Mrs. William Woodhull), and the Ochre Lodge Carriage House Dormitory (commissioned by Salve Regina University).

The Aloha Landing project is the second initiative in Newport undertaken by the Mencoffs. Over the past decade, they have been active in restoring Bellevue Avenue’s “Rock Cliff” to its former glory. The boathouse was originally built for Arthur Curtis James in 1912 in a heavy timbered Tudor style to dock his yacht, Aloha. This restoration has preserved the exterior while fitting the interior out in the form of a classic yacht. Langan Design, known for its boat design and nautical interiors, was selected to undertake the planning work, and Kirby Perkins, led by former America’s Cup sailor Jerry Kirby, was selected to do the construction.

The Old Acre Carriage House was a complete exterior restoration and interior renovation of a carriage house of an 1856 Kay Street building, designed by the noted Newport architect George Champlin Mason. The building, as part of the renovation, has been made into a comfortable two-bedroom guest house with an open, well-appointed kitchen and living room on the ground level. This building was designed in a high-peaked, board and batten Gothic Revival style that was appropriate for a simple outbuilding. These features have been restored beautifully in the renovated structure. The architect for the project was Gale Goff, while the contractor was Legacy Custom Remodeling of West Warwick. 

The Ochre Lodge Carriage House is an adaptive reuse of a run-down building that had been used by Salve Regina University for storing theatrical equipment. The Ochre Lodge building and carriage house were designed in 1882 for Mrs. Julia Eldridge by Dudley Newton, another architect who worked primarily in the Newport area. The purpose of the renovation, designed by A4 Architecture and constructed by Advanced Building Concepts, was to convert the building into a student dormitory. Bedrooms for fourteen people, four bathrooms, a kitchen, a living area, and a sitting area were all neatly fitted into the limited building volume. Much of the architectural material from the original structure was reused. For example, the old sliding door was refinished and installed in the open position as a decorative feature of the living area and a new glass storefront with the pattern of the original door frosted onto the surface was created to allow light and entry into the building. The rooflines, architectural woodwork, and building features were all reused or replicated as closely as new building code requirements allowed. The rough sawn joists of the original building were repurposed as exposed collar ties to give the interior the character of an old carriage house.

While building structures were renovated in each of these restoration efforts, the architectural fabric of the neighborhoods in which they are situated also underwent repair and upgrade. By taking buildings that were constructed more than 100 years ago and finding new and positive uses for them, the three award-winning property owners have sought to establish a strong financial foundation for these buildings such that they are actively used and be preserved long into the future.

The Doris Duke Preservation Awards are scheduled for Friday, September 6th from 6:00-8:00 pm at Rough Point (pictured above), which was once Miss Duke’s summer house and is now the NRF’s largest property and museum. Tickets range from $145 to $1000 and can be purchased online from the Newport Restoration Foundation (401.849.7300). This annual event is not only a celebration of some outstanding projects but also serves as a gathering of the Rhode Island architectural preservation community to help plot, plan and encourage more renovation projects for the future!
For more information regarding the Ochre Lodge project, visit our website.
Additional images of the Ochre Lodge Dormitory project can also be viewed on Pinterest and Houzz.


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Ross Cann, AIA, LEED AP, lives and works in Newport, RI, and is a historian, educator, and Managing Principal of A4 Architecture. This article was initially published in ARCHI-TEXT, in Newport This Week August 29, 2013.