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Newport, RI — Newport Restoration Foundation is pleased to announce that a grant-funded Historic Structure Report is currently underway on one of their most historically significant homes, the William Vernon House (ca. 1708) located on Clarke Street in Newport, Rhode Island. A Historic Structure Report studies a property from every perspective to fully understand the history of the resource, its current condition, and the work needed to ensure its future preservation. This will be the first time a comprehensive report of this kind will be performed on this home.
NRF received the William Vernon House from a donor in 2009, however, a member of the donor’s family occupied it for nine years. NRF’s full stewardship of the home began in 2018. Having now been entrusted with preserving this amazing resource, NRF wants to be certain that each step it takes in the preservation process is the appropriate and logical next step. NRF is working with Spencer, Sullivan & Vogt, an Architecture and Preservation firm in Charlestown, Mass., to complete not only a report regarding the building’s history, but also a thorough condition assessment and treatment plan addressing issues such as ADA accessibility, fire protection, energy conservation, and the abatement of potential hazardous conditions.
The William Vernon House is one of the most important buildings in Newport. The home played a critical role during the American Revolution. Beginning in July 1780, the Comte de Rochambeau, Commander-in-Chief of the French forces, used the home as his headquarters. Both George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette visited Rochambeau at the house during his time in Newport. Perhaps the most notable feature of the home was discovered in 1936, when water infiltration required the removal of the paneling in the northwest parlor. Underneath, workers discovered a series of sixteen remarkable chinoiserie panels.
“The importance and significance of this house cannot be overstated,” said NRF’s Executive Director, Mark Thompson. “It is a rare and remarkable house not only in Newport, but from a regional perspective as well. Its history, its architecture, and its decorative elements combine to make it a site that transcends even Newport’s context.”
NRF recognized that the Historic Structure Report provided an ideal engagement and educational opportunity by both literally and figuratively opening the doors of the William Vernon House to the public. NRF decided to bring the community along for the journey through a new video series entitled Behind the Walls: Uncovering the History of Vernon House, with the first episode premiering Monday, May 3 on YouTube in honor of Historic Preservation Month. NRF also hopes to provide in-person educational programming later this year.
Grant funding for the project was provided by Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust, EJMP Fund for Philanthropy, Herman H. Rose Civic, Cultural and Media Access Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation, Johanna Favrot Fund for Historic Preservation of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Van Beuren Charitable Foundation. To learn more about Vernon House and our video series, visit newportrestoration.org/vernon-house.
About the Newport Restoration Foundation
The Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) is a non-profit organization established by philanthropist Doris Duke in 1968 to preserve the architectural and cultural heritage of 18th and 19th century Newport. NRF promotes economic and community restoration through historic preservation initiatives like Keeping History Above Water, which addresses the impact of sea-level rise on the built environment in the wake of climate change, and the Historic Trades Initiative, which harnesses the knowledge of local specialists to train the next generation of preservation craftspeople. In addition to a collection of more than 70 colonial houses, now rented to tenant stewards, NRF operates properties that are open to the public —including Rough Point, the Newport home of Doris Duke, and The Vernon House, a site of expansive storytelling, contemporary dialogue, and preservation trades skill-building.
NRF is on Facebook /NPTRestoration and Instagram @NPTRestoration. Visit newportrestoration.org for more information.