By Rhonda Miller
PBN Staff Writer
NEWPORT – The Preservation Society of Newport County released plans today for a proposed welcome center on the grounds of The Breakers to provide ticketing, visitor information, restrooms and a small café.
“We have 400,000 people a year visiting The Breakers. Now we have tents where they buy tickets, and we have port-a-johns. This project is [being undertaken] to treat our visitors better,” said Trudy Coxe, CEO of the Preservation Society of Newport. “What we have now is so insufficient.”
The tents were set up an experiment in 2001, said Coxe.
The Breakers, completed in 1895, is Newport’s most well-known mansion of the Gilded Age and one of the five most-visited historic houses in America, according to the Preservation Society.
The proposed welcome center would be in a grove of trees inside the gate of The Breakers and is designed along the lines of garden pavilions of the late 19th and early 20th Century. The design is by Epstein Joslin Architects of Cambridge, Mass.
Adding a structure on the grounds of Newport’s most-visited mansion came after 12 years of consideration of several possible options, said Donald O. Ross, chairman of the board of the Preservation Society.
“The location, programming and design of the welcome center are fully consistent with the Preservation Society’s mission to preserve, protect and present Newport’s historic houses and gardens,“ said Ross.
The proposed $4.2 million project requires approval by state and local regulatory boards. Construction of the welcome center could begin in October or November, depending on the progress of the approvals, said Coxe.