HOUSE MONEY: The Preservation Society of Newport County plans to restore the Elms Carriage House, erected in 1911, to serve as a Scholars Center in conjunction with an endowed Fund for Fellows to support original research and scholarship in history, design and preservation.
COURTESY PRESERVATION SOCIETY OF NEWPORT COUNTY
By Patricia Daddona PBN Staff Writer
Kaity Ryan, who conducted research as a fellow last year for the Preservation Society of Newport County, liked living and working at the Issac Bell House with another fellow – but it wasn’t always easy.
With house tours on the first and second floors occurring regularly, and the same access to the Newport building for two fellows and the public, disruptions on the third floor were not uncommon.
“There’s a certain level of privacy and access you need,” Ryan said.
Now that she’s the nonprofit’s manager of preservation policy and living on her own in Newport, Ryan supports her employer’s plans to renovate the Elms mansion’s Carriage House for future use as a Scholar’s Center.
“The program solidifies the need for these scholars to be here,” Ryan said. “Much of the work I do now is an extension of the work I did as a fellow.”
Trudy Coxe, CEO and executive director of the Preservation Society, says those restoration plans depend on fundraising, but a new boost in money to endow the fellows is helping justify the estimated $2.2 million expense.
Restoring the carriage house for use by as many as five fellows for living quarters and communal space where they can work undisturbed is an idea Coxe said emerged as she and her staff began to evaluate where to put the fellows program. That need comes in conjunction with the need to restore the Carriage House, she said.
“The Elms was underutilized and needs to be restored no matter what,” Coxe said, so the vision of using the Carriage House as a center for scholars “just all began to come together: [creating] a place to live and work. It’s the only [building] where people could realistically live as a unit.”
In early December, this vision moved closer to reality when the van Beuren Charitable Foundation awarded the Preservation Society a $625,000 grant toward the creation of an endowed “Fund for Fellows” to support original research and scholarship in history, design and preservation.