Press Release

The results of the 74 Bridge Street Project will be exhibited at Keeping History Above Water conference, April 10-13, 2016

74 Bridge Street Project: A Model Approach to Sea Level Rise is Funded

Pilot NRF project emphasizing practical methods to preserve 
coastal buildings receives $49K

74 Bridge under water

Photo composite showing flooding from storm surge around 74 Bridge Street, Newport, RI.

Newport, RI, January 10, 2016 – A Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) case study project has been funded by a Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Grant through the Historic Preservation Fund of the National Park Service awarded by the R.I. Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission (RIHPHC), with additional funding from the City of Newport under their Impacts of Sea Level Change: PILOTING Toward Solutions grant from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation. The 74 Bridge Street Project will receive combined backing of $49,450 to develop practical approaches to mitigating the impacts of sea level rise (SLR) in preservation planning for historic properties.

Despite numerous, well researched reports on the effects of climate change and SLR in Rhode Island, real-world applications to ease the impact to historic resources are few and far between. Such state-focused reports include the Newport Resilience Assessment Tour: Newport Waterfront Overview Summary (2015); Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council in the(EC4) Action Plan (2014); the Economic Development Opportunity and Impact of Climate Change(2014); Climate Change and Rhode Island’s Coasts (2012); and the Newport Waterfront Economic Study (2010).

For those seeking to protect historic buildings from future flooding – in Newport and other coastal communities – the 74 Bridge Street Project will inform effective adaptation strategies through a charrette, public exhibition of results, and outcomes shared in print and online. The results will be a key educational focus for the Keeping History Above Water conference, hosted by the Newport Restoration Foundation, April 10-13, 2016.

The 74 Bridge Street Project charrette will take place January 21-22, with an intense period of planning activity managed by NRF with help from Mohamad Farzan, RIBA, AIA. The facilitation of the charrette, development work and presentation will be carried out by a team of building conservation specialists, preservationists and architects from the New England office of BCA, Inc. (Newton, MA) and Union Studio (Providence, RI).

The project addresses SLR and stormwater mitigation for the Christopher Townsend House (at 74 Bridge Street, Newport, RI), a building owned by NRF and located within the bounds of Newport’s National Landmark District. Nestled on the corner of Bridge and Second streets, the Christopher Townsend House sits just above the 4-foot elevation mark and two blocks inland from the Newport Harbor. Significant not only for its age – being an important survival of early colonial, wood construction on its original site – the house is also known for its connection to the renowned family of Newport cabinetmakers. Like many other houses in this neighborhood, it is subject to tidal and groundwater flooding as well as storm surge from rain events that occur during high tides.

According to the Historic Coastal Communities and Flood Hazards Study, released by the RIHPHC and the City of Newport in September 2015, just under 2,000 National Register‐listed or eligible historic buildings in Rhode Island are currently in harm’s way of coastal flood damage. Threatened properties are found in Cranston, East Greenwich, Newport, North Kingstown, Warren, Warwick, and Westerly.

The results of the 74 Bridge Street Project will be applicable to other early historic wood houses and whole neighborhoods. For more information, and to register for Keeping History Above Water, visit [Edit, March, 2016: To see more pictures of the two-day charrette, please visit our photo album online.] 

original press release