$200,000 challenge grant to preserve The Breakers landscape: Open Letter to the Preservation Society of Newport County
The landscape of The Breakers is historic and unique. The gardens, serpentine walk, lawns, trees, and vistas are essential to the grand Gilded Age experience, no less than the mansion itself.
Regrettably, over the years, the Preservation Society has allowed the property to deteriorate. Now, the decay is such that rather than repair and restore the northwest quadrant, the Society has apparently decided to complete the destruction of the landscape and construct a large venue to serve visitors.
This is wrong. It violates the historic integrity of The Breakers and violates the public trust placed in the Preservation Society to preserve the property.
There is still time to do the right thing. To that end, I propose the following – I will commit up to $200,000 in a challenge grant to restore the serpentine paths in the northwest quadrant at The Breakers for all who visit the property and future ages.
The potential of The Breakers' historic landscape can be seen in the above simulations created by Heritage Landscapes LLC. At the same time, the Preservation Society will agree to the compromise proposed by the community and construct the proposed venue across the street. We will work together to raise the funds for a full rehabilitation of the Bowditch Brothers design, restoring one of America’s most original landscapes from the Gilded Age.
The current proposal does not reflect the values of preservation, and is a grave error. It is in the spirit of constructive compromise, and avoiding that mistake, that I offer this challenge grant. As someone who cares about the historic integrity of The Breakers, I hope that you will accept this offer and we can move forward, together, to preserve Newport’s history, unencumbered by commercialism, or egos.
Ronald Lee Fleming
F.A.I.C.P., is the founder and president of The Townscape Institute, a not-for-profit public interest planning organization founded in the United States in 1979. He is a fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners.