NRF promotes and invests in the architectural heritage of the Newport community, the traditional building trades, and Doris Duke’s fine and decorative arts collections, for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of all.
As a leader in the preservation of early American architecture, NRF supports research and education in areas directly related to its collections and issues of critical concern to the field of historic preservation.
Tour Doris Duke’s art-filled mansion and enjoy panoramic ocean views from the extensive grounds, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Open April to November.
Experience the only museum in the world specializing in 18th-century Newport furniture and related decorative arts.
Explore 40 acres of open space, a tribute to the agrarian heritage of Aquidneck Island. The site is open daily from dawn to dusk for public enjoyment.
Newport Restoration Foundation holds one of the largest collections of period architecture owned by a single organization anywhere in the United States.
Celebrate excellence in historic preservation efforts within the City of Newport, Rhode Island.
Live amidst history by renting one of our many historic properties.
Help us to continue a lived-in legacy by becoming a Restoration Partner today.
Roofing materials have seen radical changes over the years; yet one common material has remained the same almost from the start of New England’s history. Early 17th century settlers made their homes in basic structures that drew heavily on traditional English heritage. They covered these early roofs with thatch made from marsh and sea grasses that were readily available and the technique was widely known. It did not take long however to realize that conditions in New England, particularly the winters, were not kind to thatch. Rain, snow, freezing and thawing tried the roof’s integrity and found it wanting.
By 1650 it was obvious that roofs of wooden shingles were the answer. In England such a practice would have been horribly wasteful of wood but here, timber was available in abundance. For Newporters, cedar and pine became the standard well into the 19th century.
The colonial roof started with a log nearly three feet long. Wood slices about a ½” thick were split off with a froe and mallet. The bark was trimmed and one end was tapered with a draw knife on a “shaving horse”. The extreme length of early shingles came about for at least two reasons: first the horizontal wood strips or purlins applied to the roof rafters for thatching were widely spaced and this traditional measurement was retained, secondly the length allowed three overlapping courses requiring half the nails – two shingles for the nails of one, a significant factor at a time when handwrought nails were more costly than the shingles themselves.
By the middle 19th century, machinery and transportation saw wood shingles become available nationally and standardized through mass production. Their availability and price along with inexpensive nails led to new ideas of how to use them. In the Shingle Style Architecture of the 1890s, shingles became the decorative frosting on the cake as well as simple, effective protection against the weather. As design elements shingles appeared on small cottages and grand houses alike, all of which are well-represented in Newport.
Today, cedar shingles are appropriate on 18th and 19th century buildings for both roofs and side walls. A properly applied wood roof should last thirty-five to fifty years. White cedar and Alaskan yellow cedar are best for roofs while red cedar is wall material. Critical for a wood shingle roof is its ability to “breathe” or to allow air circulation on both sides of the shingle, since retaining moisture promotes rot.
In the 18th century buildings naturally adjusted to temperature and humidity, but today’s efforts to save on heating costs and maximize space can result in problems. For instance plywood sheathing and black tar paper do not allow for sufficient breathing; unfortunately insulation inside the building may reduce breathability as well. Careful consideration must be applied when modern building materials and techniques are used with old buildings. It is best to read up in detail on this or to seek advice from qualified contractors or experts in the field such as the Restoration Foundation.
Copyright Robert Foley, Newport Restoration Foundation, 2008.
Thank you for following along throughout Preservation Month as we shared updates on our preservation projects and the people who make them possible.
Historic homes require regular maintenance, and Rough Point Museum is no exception.
The mission of the Historic Trades Initiative is to perpetuate and diversify the historic trades by creating strong connections with our community and sharing our expertise.
Newport Restoration Foundation is looking for a summer carpentry intern. The position will be located at the organization's mill.