2018-05-17 / Around Town

Symposium on Our Architectural Heritage

By Ross Sinclair Cann, AIA

Newport Colony House Assembly Chamber (1739) Newport Colony House Assembly Chamber (1739) Newport is a treasure trove of important architecture from the time of the earliest European settlement in North America to the present day. Through the end of the 19th century, it is where some of the most ground-breaking architecture was done by the most important architects of the time.

Newport was once the fifth largest colonial city behind New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Charleston. But unlike those cities that continued to grow and change, Newport remained largely intact and today boasts one of the largest and most important portfolios of Colonial Era architecture in America.

This vast, irreplaceable portfolio is managed by a large and varied group of organizations, individuals and companies. Together, this heritage is what Newport is best known for worldwide and is also an essential economic driver for the community.

The Newport Historical Society, Trinity Church, the Preservation Society, the Touro Synagogue, the Redwood Library and other organizations all share in the burden of preserving and presenting this magnificent collection of buildings. The Newport Restoration Foundation also has a special role to play. Although their Colonial Era assets are not generally open to the public, under Doris Duke’s guidance and generosity, more than 50 18th- and early 19th-century buildings have been restored and are rented to private individuals, thus keeping them vital and an active part of the community.

Ross Cann is an architectural historian, teacher, author and practicing architect who lives and works in Newport. Ross Cann is an architectural historian, teacher, author and practicing architect who lives and works in Newport. On June 2, various organizations within the Newport community are coming together to host the annual Newport Architectural Forum. This event, long hosted and supported by the International Tennis Hall of Fame, will hopefully prosper and be shared by many organizations that are joining forces to celebrate this rich architectural heritage.

This year, the topic of the symposium is “Newport’s Colonial Architectural Heritage.” This one-day symposium will include lectures by scholars, lunch and visits to nine of the important structures that play such a central part in the evolution of architecture in America during the Colonial Era.

Lectures will be delivered in the assembly chambers of the Colony House, where legislators conducted official state business for more than 150 years. These lectures will include “Newport’s Place in Colonial American Architecture,” “The Newport Tower — An American Colonial Monument” and “Adventures in Restoring Colonial Architecture.” There will be a lunch served, followed by tours of colonial buildings in Washington Square, Historic Hill and the Touro Park area. The day will conclude with drinks and hors d'oeuvres in a Colonial Era mansion.

Tickets for the day of lectures, lunch, tours and the cocktail reception are $65 ($50 for Architectural Forum Members). Because of space limitations, tickets are offered on a first come, first served basis, with preference to Architectural Forum members. To reserve your spot, email ArchForum@A4Arch.com. Payment must be received by May 22, after which names will be taken off the waiting list.

The symposium is an opportunity to remind those from Newport and from afar of the importance and longstanding impact the city’s Colonial Era buildings have had on American architectural history, and to see and celebrate this magnificent treasury firsthand.

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