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Newport Restoration Foundation Announces New President

Newport, R.I. – The Newport Restoration Foundation has selected Franklin Vagnone to serve as the organization’s President, following a competitive national search. Vagnone comes to Newport from the Old Salem Museums & Gardens in Winston-Salem, NC where he served as President and CEO of the renowned national historic landmark heritage site.  He will assume this new role on July 11, 2022.

“Franklin Vagnone epitomizes the personal and professional qualities NRF was looking for in a leader,” said NRF Board Chair Jim Ross.  “Based on his experiences, and his many successes, we are confident that he will move NRF and its important programs to new levels of local and national importance.”

“The entire NRF board was impressed by Franklin’s leadership experience as well as his successful track record,” Ross continued. “He is the ideal person to continue and refresh our programs, to care for our many properties and to advance the legacy of Doris Duke.”

In his role at the Old Salem Museums & Gardens, Vagnone led a 100-acre historic district containing 90 buildings (85% original, with 27 fully-interpreted historic sites) that included the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) as well as the 1861 St. Phillips district, which includes an African-American Heritage Center and Historic Burial Ground.  The site also includes multiple collections storage facilities, and extensively-restored agricultural and archeological landscapes. Previously, Vagnone served as Executive Director of the Historic House Trust of New York City and earlier, in the same role at the Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks. He is also the founder and President of Twisted Preservation Cultural Consulting.

The NRF has purchased, restored, rented, and resold numerous historically important buildings in the center of Newport over the past 50 years with the mission of sparking community renewal.  The Foundation currently owns, maintains, and leases more than 70 historic homes throughout the city.  In addition, NRF operates the Rough Point Museum, Whitehorne House Museum, and the 40-acre Prescott Farm.

NRF also collaborates with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) through the facilitation of Rough Point, Doris Duke’s home, as a cultural asset for the city of Newport. Following more than 50 years as a successful catalyst for restoring the Point and Historic Hill neighborhoods of Newport, NRF is preparing to re-envision the future work of the foundation by asking Vagnone, an internationally renowned museum and cultural thought-leader, to collaborate on a wider, more deeply imagined community-based mission.

“The potential to contribute to the diverse communities of Newport is an exciting opportunity,” Vagnone said.  “NRF has been such an important facilitator of Newport’s historic core renewal.  I look forward to building on this success and engaging in a much broader context of helping to restore communities, as well as preserving important properties.”

About Newport Restoration Foundation:
NRF is a non-profit organization founded in 1968 by Doris Duke to preserve, maintain, and interpret Aquidneck Island’s 18th- and early 19th-century architectural heritage. In addition to a collection of more than 70 early American houses, now rented to tenant-stewards, NRF operates three museum properties that are open to the public: Rough Point, Doris Duke’s Newport mansion which is home to a significant collection of European paintings, furniture, and textiles, and other European and Asian decorative arts; Whitehorne House Museum, featuring 18th- and early 19th-century Newport furniture; and Prescott Farm in Middletown, RI, a public park and historic site with ties to the Revolutionary War. Learn more at

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