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NRF Mourns the Loss of Former Director of Preservation, Robert Foley

With profound sadness, Newport Restoration Foundation shares the news of the passing of our former Director of Preservation, Robert Foley. His passion and dedication to NRF helped shape our organization.

Prior to his time at NRF, Robert was an active member of Operation Clapboard, a Newport-based organization founded in 1963. Operation Clapboard was a grassroots project and was the first serious effort to recognize and save Newport’s eighteenth-century architectural treasures. Though the project only lasted a few years, Operation Clapboard saved 40 buildings and helped raise awareness about Newport’s historic structures.

When Doris Duke founded NRF in 1968, she hired Robert to document the restoration process of properties across Newport. From 1968 to 1974, he took thousands of pictures in one of the first concerted efforts to document existing conditions in the preservation field. Many of his photographs are still used by NRF today and are featured in Extraordinary Vision: Doris Duke and the Newport Restoration Foundation, which Robert co-authored.

During his career, Robert worked as a NRF archivist and later became Director of Preservation. He referred to the role as his “dream job.”  He led the preservation crew through both daily maintenance and full-scale restorations. His involvement from the very beginning helped to perpetuate the historic trades in Newport and solidified NRF as a preservation leader.

Robert retired in 2016 after more than 50 years of preservation efforts in Newport. Contributions in his memory can be made to the Seamen’s Church Institute.

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