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In response to a quickly transforming real estate market, the Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) has launched a multi-phase energy efficiency project to collect data to improve the sustainability of historic residential buildings. NRF is investigating non-intrusive interventions that are sensitive to historic fabric while also improving energy efficiency in historic structures. The first project site will be 38 Green Street, a c.1730 Newport cottage-style house in the Newport Historic Hill District. The project will be both a case study of the energy efficiency of historic structures and a prototype for solutions that will be beneficial for other homeowners seeking ways to reduce energy consumption and increase livability in their own historic houses.

Frankie Vagnone, President of the Newport Restoration Foundation stated, “One of the fundamental preservation goals of NRF has always been livability. Our founder, Doris Duke, did not simply want perfectly restored, doll house-like historic buildings. She wanted them to be lived in and enjoyed as authentic, contributing elements in the urban landscape. We are honoring her philanthropy by pushing to make historic homes more comfortable and energy efficient”.

38 Green Street was purchased and restored by NRF in 1983 and has remained an active rental in NRF’s tenant-stewardship program. 38 Green Street is typical of many historic houses in Newport, with 1,200 square feet of living space, two floors, and a basement. Just like 38 Green Street, many of Newport’s older houses are unable to meet modern building efficiency standards. In response, many historic homeowners believe their houses cannot become efficient without removing and replacing historic fabric. Historic windows, siding, and doors are often the first elements of a house replaced with modern, ill-suited alternatives to reduce air changes and lower utility bills. Too often, these new features are incompatible with older house construction techniques, fail earlier than the older components they replaced, and reduce the character and appeal of both the interior and exterior of important historic homes.

In Newport, the unique construction techniques of its intact 18th-and 19th-century buildings often lead to energy inefficiencies. Plank construction consists of vertical sheathing boards with clapboards or shingles nailed to the exterior and lath and plaster applied directly to the interior, leaving no wall void. Conventional techniques of adding insulation to the interior or exterior could greatly alter the historic appearance of a property and cause vapor barrier concerns. “Many Newport buildings are of plank construction, and typical interior insulation fixes aren’t always an option,” says Margaret Back, Preservation Projects Manager at NRF. “This study will explore new, innovative ways to both make a historic property more efficient while retaining its historic materials and character.”

NRF has awarded the project to Building Conservation Associates, Inc. (BCA) of Newton Center, MA, a national architectural conservation firm with experience in energy efficiency studies. The project begins in 2024 with a comprehensive energy audit of the study site and research of comparable buildings in Newport. With an understanding of the building and baseline energy data, BCA will propose a series of efficiency retrofits and alterations that consider new technologies and materials, protection of historic fabric, and socially progressive preservation concepts.

NRF will provide real-time updates on the process so that both local and broader historic preservation communities can benefit from the ongoing process of discovery. A successful final product understands there is no “one size fits all” approach but takes a balanced view of improving an energy baseline while sustaining identified historic materials and character.

We understand that as each historic property is unique, there is no “one size fits all” answer for improving energy efficiency. However, we are aiming to create and implement scalable guidelines that we and other historic property owners can implement to improve historic buildings while retaining the historic fabric and character.



The Phase I restoration at Rough Point has been awarded a 2023 AIA Honor and Design Citation from the American Institute of Architects, Rhode Island. The nomination for the award was submitted by the architects and NRF’s partners on the project, DBVW Architects. One of only two citations given for Historic Preservation, the award recognizes the first phase of a multi-year project to restore and rehabilitate Rough Point, ensuring its protection from the effects of increasingly frequent storms and severe weather events.


“NRF is thrilled to be recognized by AIA RI for our restoration efforts at Rough Point,” says Alyssa Lozupone, Director of Preservation at NRF. “The project’s success would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of the design, management, and construction team led expertly by DBVW Architects. The timing of AIA RI’s award is energizing as we have just embarked on the next phase of Rough Point’s multi-year preservation plan.”


The initial preservation phase started with an overall assessment of the building envelope and known areas of water infiltration. The results of the assessment informed the complete replacement of the historic slate roof and copper gutter system as well as targeted masonry restoration. DBVW Architects are overseeing the multi-phase project, which will include the full restoration of Rough Point’s masonry, windows, and interior spaces.


“The restoration of Rough Point reflects the ongoing transformation of NRF itself into a more community-oriented organization,” says Frankie Vagnone, President of NRF and Director of Rough Point Museum. “The restoration efforts are opening up parts of the building that, up to this point, have remained inaccessible to the public. Ensuring the long-term sustainability of the museum building creates opportunities for us to utilize spaces for the community to engage with NRF’s work and the philanthropic legacy of Doris Duke. We are grateful to the Doris Duke Foundation for their continued guidance and support of NRF and the restoration of Rough Point Museum.”


The American Institute of Architects, RI’s annual Design Awards Program is committed to excellence in architecture and celebrates outstanding works of architecture, and the project teams and clients who work with them to create and enhance our built environment.


The Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) is announcing that Newport County residents are now able to visit Rough Point Museum free of charge. NRF is in the process of reimagining the Rough Point Museum as a community space and is utilizing previously inaccessible and underutilized spaces to make the museum more welcoming. Part of this strategy of accessibility includes removing barriers to access like the admission fee for Newport County residents.


“In a move toward developing a deeper community relationship as an asset to Newport County, admission to Rough Point Museum is now free for all Newport County residents,” said NRF President Frankie Vagnone. “With interactive visitor engagement, the new Newport Galleries of Art, Craft, and Design, along with the establishment and expansion of the new ‘Telling Stories’ initiative, the Newport Restoration Foundation is re-envisioning our purpose and expanding our commitment to the community.”


Visitors to Rough Point Museum can engage with the life and legacy of NRF founder Doris Duke through a variety of experiences—including an interactive self-guided tour available through the Newport Restoration Foundation app. While exploring the house, visitors can learn more about the rooms, collections, and people of Rough Point, watch behind-the-scenes videos related to the caretaking of the museum and the objects, virtually step inside spaces not on the tour path, and encounter special object highlights.


The announcement of free admission to Rough Point Museum for Newport County residents caps off a landmark year for NRF. Milestones include the introduction of 3D printed reproduction artifacts, hands-on engagement, video kiosks, and the opening of the west wing of Rough Point for dedicated galleries to display the collection of Newport furniture & decorative arts first envisioned by Doris Duke. This year also saw the reopening of Vernon House at 46 Clarke Street for “GAMES, GAMBLERS & CARTOMANCERS: The New Cardsharps”, an innovative art exhibition in partnership with Art & Newport which juxtaposed contemporary art, conversation, and thought with the rich historic setting and stories of Vernon House. Admission to this exhibition was also free, allowing over 1700 visitors to experience Vernon House, nearly one-third of whom were Newport County residents.

NRF is committed to using spaces like Rough Point Museum and Vernon House as settings for the public to gather and encounter new ideas, stories, and experiences that reflect Newport and its multitude of communities. With Rough Point Museum now accessible at no cost to Newport County residents, NRF seeks to engage with the Newport community in a new way.

To be admitted, Newport County residents will simply need to show proof of address at the museum entrance. Rough Point Museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 4pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 5pm.

Newport, RI, October 6, 2023 – The Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) is announcing a new session of its pilot Preservation Trades Specialist Training Program, a hands-on training and experience-building course designed to expand the skillsets of experienced tradespeople and increase knowledge of preservation tradecraft in Newport. 


The course will be held from November 2023 to February 2024. Classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:00 to 7:30pm in Newport. The fee for the program is $250 which will cover instructor fees and materials, and graduates will receive a “Preservation Trades Specialist” certificate from NRF. More information about the program, fees, and application can be found on the NRF website at 


Building on the success of two previous cohorts held in November 2022 and April 2023, this course will further NRF’s goal of developing training programs by utilizing craft and historic sites all over Newport for participants to receive hands-on training in a range of preservation trade skills, as well as work side by side with NRF’s in-house crew of experienced tradespeople. 


The Fall 2023 session is being funded with contributions from the Doris Duke Foundation, and funding for future sessions has been secured with support from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation and an individual donor.  


The Preservation Trades Specialist Training Program is designed to address the impending loss of expertise facing the preservation trade industry. Much of the existing preservation trade knowledge is held by craftspeople who are aging out of the workforce, and many new workers do not have access to specialized training required of historic preservation. One of the main aims of the program is to train experienced general construction workers in the specific skills required to work on historic structures; 54% of Newport properties are of a historic age and need to be maintained or restored using modified techniques that consider the original materials and methods of construction.  

“Newport has a high percentage of historic homes with an undersized workforce to keep those properties standing,” said Kris Turgeon, NRF’s Historic Trades Manager. “This course will allow NRF to continue training the local community with an eye toward preservation rather than replacement of buildings.” 

Participants in the program will gain a working knowledge of how to identify and approach repairs on historic buildings, and learn skills such as historic preservation fundamentals, traditional plastering, historic paints and finishes, and more. Graduates will also receive a “Preservation Trades Specialist” certificate from NRF, and expand their network of local contractors, preservation professionals, and other working craftspeople in Newport.  


“It has been so rewarding to see the participants learn and develop these crucial skills that are integral to the future of the preservation field, and to hear from participants how much experience they’ve gained through this program and will carry with them into the industry,” Kris Turgeon said. 

The NRF PTS program is run in collaboration with several national and international preservation organizations, including Rockwood Joinery, The Campaign for the Historic Trades, International Yacht Restoration School of Technology and Trade (IYRS), and local preservation contractors like Gnazzo Masonry, Kirby Perkins, and Crocker Architectural. These partnerships are fundamental to NRF’s goal of engaging community collaborators to generate effective change in the Newport community.  

NRF President Frankie Vagnone sat down with Newport This Week to discuss the opening of “GAMES, GAMBLERS & CARTOMANCERS: The New Cardsharps” at the Vernon House, the founding of NRF, and the future of the organization’s work in Newport.

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