A new pavilion-style welcome center being proposed for The Breakers, one of the nation’s most famous landmarks of the Gilded Age, is part of a strategic plan for The Preservation Society of Newport County that includes expanding the tourist season and strengthening links with the area’s hospitality industry.
The society has just begun the process of seeking approval for the $4.2 million project from state and local regulatory boards, society CEO Trudy Coxe told Providence Business News last week.
Designed in the style of garden pavilions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the proposed welcome center is to replace tents set up 12 years ago to sell tickets, and to do away with port-a-potties.
“This project is to treat our visitors better,” said Coxe. “We have 400,000 people a year coming to The Breakers. What we have now in terms of welcoming them is so insufficient.”
Putting a new structure on the grounds of the mansion completed in 1895 may be unsettling to some in a city rich in history.
“Anyone who cares about the Gilded Age could be nervous. Some may ask why we’re putting it on the sacred ground of The Breakers property,” said architect Alan Joslin of the Cambridge, Mass.-based Epstein Joslin Architects, who designed the project.
“Now there are tents and port-a-potties. This pavilion is much more dignified and compatible with a world-class venue,” Joslin said.
From the mansion, the design keeps the welcome center out of view. The pavilion would be “embedded in a grove of trees, with landscaping designed to feel like a secret garden,” said Joslin.
With a green, rounded roof and skylights, screened by tall trees and low hedges, the pavilion has a view of the sea from one side, where greenery would be less dense.