The central role of historic structures

in Keeping History Above Water

All About the Buildings

When we speak about sea level rise and the impacts of climate change, we most often think of the natural environment: eroding shorelines, coastal flooding, superstorms, etc. But when talk turns to historic preservation our minds usually gravitate towards the built environment because the unique cultural heritage we wish to preserve most often takes the form of actual buildings.

Here at Newport Restoration Foundation, we’re working every day to protect historic structures. That’s why it is so important to us for Keeping History Above Water to include experts in the fields of designing, restoring, and rethinking buildings.

A full range of that expertise will be on display during our panel discussion on “Structural Adaptations.” The chair for this session is Ashley Wilson, the Graham Gund Architect for Historic Sites at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, as well as a member of the American Institute of Architects and the American Society of Interior Designers. She will lead a discussion among panelists drawn from architectural firms, academia, and government agencies who all offer different perspectives on the built environment.

Meisha Hunter Burkett, Senior Preservationist at Li-Saltzman Architects in New York City, will examine the role of water infrastructure in protecting historic buildings against the increased risk of flooding. She will be joined on the panel by two members of the team at R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, a cultural resource management group in New Orleans.

Lindsay S. Hannah, Project Manager and Architectural Historian, and Kate Kuranda, Senior Vice President, will talk about the evolving attitudes towards elevating historic buildings above flood levels, something that was once frowned upon but is being reconsidered in the face of sea level rise. Janet Cakir, Climate Change Adaptation and Socioeconomics Coordinator for the National Park Service, will explore the process of cultural resources vulnerability assessment, and the role it can play in decision making related to historic structures.

Elizabeth English, Associate Professor of Architecture at Waterloo University (Canada), rounds out our panel by introducing the idea of “amphibious architecture,” designed to rise and float with floodwaters and then settle back into its foundation as the water recedes.

Elsewhere at our conference, we will also be joined by Jeremy Young, Project Manager for Pennsylvania’s Disaster Planning for Historic Properties Initiative. His office has been leading the way in the integration of historic preservation concerns into government disaster mitigation plans. Roderick and Louisette Scott of Mandeville, LA will host a workshop on flood hazard mitigation, not only in terms of the impact on the design and engineering of buildings, but also financing and insurance. Roderick is a Certified Flood Plain Manager for L & R Resources, LLC, and Louisette is Director of the Department of Planning and Development for the City of Mandeville. In addition, Roderick and Louisette will be giving a FREE and public workshop on Wednesday, April 13th at 74 Bridge Street, Newport, on the same topic, and for homeowners who have questions about flood insurance, finance, and any other question — this will be a great opportunity to have access to their expertise.

Finally, some of our own work with historic buildings will be on display in the form of the 74 Bridge Street Project, an effort by the Newport Restoration Foundation to protect the Christopher Townsend House. This historically important house is owned by the NRF and situated in an area that is increasingly prone to flooding. Using funding from a variety of sources, we will develop practical approaches to mitigating the impacts of sea level rise in preservation planning for historic properties. The 74 Bridge Street Team will present a case study on Day 3 of the conference. The house will also be open for tours on the opening day, and have open hours each day of the conference.

Buildings are at the core of our mission, and they will be at the center of discussion during Keeping History Above Water.