Five Questions With: Carrie Taylor

Carrie Taylor became Lippitt House Museum’s first director in 2013. Prior to leading Lippitt House, an 1865 villa on Providence’s East Side, she was the collections manager at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia home, for 15 years. Before moving to Virginia, Taylor worked in the curatorial department at the Atlanta History Center. She was elected Phi Beta Kappa and graduated cum laude from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in history. She then earned a master’s degree in public history with a museum studies concentration from the University of South Carolina.

Taylor is an active member in several professional organizations including the American Association for State and Local History and the New England Museum Association. Taylor is a 2013 graduate of the Seminar for Historical Administration and serves on the board of the Friends of the Library at Brown University.

PBN: How does the, as the museum called it, “failing” roof impact day-to-day activities at the museum?

TAYLOR: Since all programs organized by the museum happen at Lippitt House, a bad roof directly impacts staff, volunteers and visitors. Once water gets in, it damages the plaster and causes the elaborate interior paint from 1865 to fail. It affects the long-term stability of the building and compromises our preservation efforts. We’re actively working to mitigate the situation before it does irreparable harm to original building fabric.

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PBN: The lion’s share of the funding for the roof replacement came from a $294,085 grant from the Champlin Foundation and, per museum data, this is the largest capital project in the museum’s 25-year history. What is the total cost of the project and how will the museum make up the difference?

TAYLOR: We estimate the entire project to cost about $800,000. The grant from the Champlin Foundation is a major part of our fundraising plan. I’m not sure the museum could do the work without their help. We’ve been able to leverage the grant from the Champlin Foundation with two major matching grants from the state: the State Cultural Facilities Grant administered by RISCA [Rhode Island State Council on the Arts] for the roof as well as a State Preservation Grant to help with cornice restoration.

We’ve also raised additional funds from generous individual donors who are supporters of the museum. Altogether, we’ve raised 85 percent of our total project costs and are still working on closing the remaining funding gap.

PBN: Why is it important to reroof the building with a historically accurate lead-coated copper roof similar to the original designed for the home in 1865?

TAYLOR: Lippitt House Museum is owned and operated by Preserve Rhode Island, the statewide advocate for Rhode Island’s historic places. It’s a priority of PRI to set the standard for historic property care for our state. By replacing the 1983 asphalt shingle roof with a metal roof, it’s not only historically correct and more aesthetically pleasing, it’s a better financial investment in the long run. A metal roof will last 50 to 100 years. The original metal roof lasted 119 years; I’m hoping for a similar run for our new one.

PBN: Are there any additional architectural elements that will also be replaced during this renovation?

TAYLOR: We’re not replacing any original architectural elements but are using the opportunity while the scaffolding is up to restore the elaborate wood-and-cast-iron decorative cornice on the exterior of the building. We’re going to remove the rust, repair the wood and paint the entire cornice. Since they’re integrated with the roof, we’re also repairing the wood gutters. Making sure we have a working gutter system that moves water away from the house is just as important as a solid roof.

PBN: When was the project begun and how long is the project expected to last?

TAYLOR: If the bidding process proceeds as planned and the weather cooperates, we hope to start work in May and finish by the end of 2018.

Emily Gowdey-Backus is a staff writer for PBN. You can follow her on Twitter @FlashGowdey or contact her via email,