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Newport: UN World Heritage Site?

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Newport leaders are seeking a nomination for that city (or parts of it) to be designated as a World Heritage site. Some issues with the United State's relationship with UNESCO prevent Newport from being nominated as a World Heritage City at this time.

Newport's exaltation? [ProJo.com Editorial]

UNESCO World Heritage Centre

9th Annual US/ICOMOS International Symposium {sodEmoji.{sodEmoji.|}} Newport, RI

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Newport leaders are seeking a nomination for that city (or parts of it) to be designated as a World Heritage site. Some issues with the United State's relationship with UNESCO prevent Newport from being nominated as a World Heritage City at this time.

Newport's exaltation? [ProJo.com Editorial]

UNESCO World Heritage Centre

9th Annual US/ICOMOS International Symposium {sodEmoji.{sodEmoji.|}} Newport, RI

Question: I haven't looked at the links yet, but does this matter at all? It feels like a lot of effort for virtually no return except a pat on the back. Isn't more useful to get Historic Register designations that can actually protect historic properties?

- Garris

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Question: I haven't looked at the links yet, but does this matter at all? It feels like a lot of effort for virtually no return except a pat on the back. Isn't more useful to get Historic Register designations that can actually protect historic properties?

- Garris

i read the editorial... it seems that it's more to attract more tourism. might be good for a place that doesn't have the tourism that newport does, but i don't see how it makes a difference for newport.

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The sense I get is that the city is pursuing this because the number of tourists has been steadily declining over the past several years. A large majority of visitors to Newport are from the Northeast, and I wouldn't be surprised if a third or more come from the greater NYC area. The hope seems to be that this kind of international recognition would help to promote Newport to the wider world.

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The sense I get is that the city is pursuing this because the number of tourists has been steadily declining over the past several years. A large majority of visitors to Newport are from the Northeast, and I wouldn't be surprised if a third or more come from the greater NYC area. The hope seems to be that this kind of international recognition would help to promote Newport to the wider world.

kind of like you can only go see the mansions so many times? or you can only see waterfire so many times? :P

i don't really see why anyone outside of new england and the surrounding northeast would really make a special trip to go to newport...

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i don't really see why anyone outside of new england and the surrounding northeast would really make a special trip to go to newport...

Maybe not, but how many thousands of tourists come from all over the world to visit New York and Boston, or to see the fall foliage in northern New England? Many of these may well consider adding a day or two in Newport if they had a better idea of what it has to offer.

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kind of like you can only go see the mansions so many times? or you can only see waterfire so many times? :P

i don't really see why anyone outside of new england and the surrounding northeast would really make a special trip to go to newport...

Ah, a bit of provincialism creeps into the thread...

We may come to take for granted the kind of architecture, street layout, character, "feel," and aura of places like Providence and Newport, but this atmopshere is completely lacking in 98% of the rest of cookie-cutter, suburban America (see the ongoing Hotlanta thread for example).

I know a family from a prototypical suburb in Fairfield, CT that does a family reunion-ish outing to Newport one weekend a summer. They hit the beaches, "wander the quait streets," go to the restaurants, etc and they just love it because of how totally different the place is from their Anytown, USA suburb, and they're right.

Trust me, after living in Blandland, Minnesota for four year, the visual stimuli of Providence upon coming here nearly moved me to tears.

We live in a special place, and it's amazing how few people realize it.

- Garris

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I find that amazing.. and hope to realize that one day when I can afford to travel :P

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Newport has two separate applications for World Heritage Site status going. One, "A Lively Experiment," spotlights the colonial history of trade and religious tolerance. The second application focuses on the Gilded Age estates. Word on the street is that Newport has a far better chance with "A Lively Experiment" than it does with the Gilded Age application because the city's colonial history is far more historically significant.

If colonial Newport is named a World Heritage Site, it will be the first in New England and one of the few places where the designation blankets much of the city.

The volume of tourists visiting Newport has been declining for the past few years. In many ways, this is a good thing for the city. Its infrastructure was at the breaking point, stressed by peak season travelers in July and August. While the summer is still unmatched as peak season, the city's tourism sector is a year-round business (except for maybe January). Part of this change is because the city has lost its novelty/allure for frequent summer visitors in the Northeast, especially from southern New England. The city is now focusing its marketing efforts on wealthier travelers who spend more time and money and are more likely to visit throughout the year. These visitors are not looking for the beach and a t-shirt shop; they are looking for the flower show and an antiques store.

This shift is evidenced by the extremely high retail turnover on Thames Street this winter. The volume is no longer there to support store after store that sells shot glasses. The Preservation Society has been steadily changing its offerings to reflect the fact that many of its customers have already seen the mansions, including new tours such as a Behind-the-Scenes or Family Tour. To sum it up: more money with less volume. This strategy can be seen throughout the city: the vineyards, the floral and interior design events, the private parties at the mansions, the megayacht regattas. The city is recasting itself as a less expensive, more convenient (but no less high-end) high-profile resort between New York and Boston. This is best manifested by the multi-million dollar rehabs of Castle Hill and the Chanler hotels in the past couple years. Just listen to the way the owner of Carnegie Abbey talks about Newport.

The UN World Heritage Site designation does two things: it broadens Newport's reach to international visitors and it establishes Newport as a serious high-end cultural and historic destination.

This change is probably invisible to most Rhode Islanders. They see the number of people visiting Newport dropping off and conclude that the city is no longer as popular as it was. What they don't see are the bigger wallets that are walking into town.

Ah, a bit of provincialism creeps into the thread...

We live in a special place, and it's amazing how few people realize it.

- Garris

Glad you caught that one, Garris. You're absolutely right; Rhode Island is a truly incredible place that seems to underestimate itself almost every time.

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The second application focuses on the Gilded Age estates. Word on the street is that Newport has a far better chance with "A Lively Experiment" than it does with the Gilded Age application because the city's colonial history is far more historically significant.
And rightly so.

On a related note, from today's ProJo comes a strange editorial piece that incorporates this absurd bit of Newport history:

In 1904, Mrs. Hermann Oehlrichs held her famous "Bal Blanc" at Rosecliff. Everything was white -- from the women's gowns to the truckloads of exotic flowers dumped in the gold ballroom. Mrs. Oehlrichs even asked the U.S. Navy to anchor its "White Fleet" just off her property, as a kind of decoration. When the Navy said no, she commissioned an army of carpenters to build a dozen full-size ship models, which were set in the Atlantic Ocean.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why Newporters and the city of Newport insist on throwing around the term "Gilded Age" as if it were a badge of honor. Yes, you were the capital city of culture in the period of time known as the Gilded Age. You were the pinnacle of high society. And Mark Twain coined the term Gilded Age to ridicule the excesses and injustices and entrenched standards of that same high society.

Twain, of course, wasn't one to suffer fools kindly. I'm sure he would be quite amused to see us advertising our Gilded Age mansions as tourist attractions. And making an attempt to qualify as a World Heritage Site on the basis of those Gilded Age mansions.

Let's stick with the Lively Experiment tack. It's far more ... relevant.

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For the life of me, I can't figure out why Newporters and the city of Newport insist on throwing around the term "Gilded Age" as if it were a badge of honor.

Let's stick with the Lively Experiment tack. It's far more ... relevant.

I agree: "The Lively Experiment" is far more significant internationally. There is a direct line between colonial Rhode Island and many of the freedoms the West takes for granted today. Nothing in the Gilded Age even comes close.

As for why Newport has made the Gilded Age its public persona? It sells. Newport fills a market (and temporal) niche in the public mind that no other resort in the US can match to any significant degree. "Colonial" is everywhere in New England. "Gilded Age" is less common and has connotations of old wealth that set Newport apart from other resorts - for better or worse. I will be interested to see if Newport begins to diversify its persona in the future. I feel that the city is beginning to do that, but fabulous wealth will continue to be its core message.

On a related note, whenever I tell someone that I am from Newport, they usually immediately make very drastic assumptions about me. It's actually pretty funny.

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I agree: "The Lively Experiment" is far more significant internationally. There is a direct line between colonial Rhode Island and many of the freedoms the West takes for granted today. Nothing in the Gilded Age even comes close.

As for why Newport has made the Gilded Age its public persona? It sells. Newport fills a market (and temporal) niche in the public mind that no other resort in the US can match to any significant degree. "Colonial" is everywhere in New England. "Gilded Age" is less common and has connotations of old wealth that set Newport apart from other resorts - for better or worse. I will be interested to see if Newport begins to diversify its persona in the future. I feel that the city is beginning to do that, but fabulous wealth will continue to be its core message.

On a related note, whenever I tell someone that I am from Newport, they usually immediately make very drastic assumptions about me. It's actually pretty funny.

you must be loaded since you're from newport... only rich people live there. :lol:

what's the lively experiment?

as for the gilded age... are there any other places in the country that can come close to what newport has? sure there are other towns and cities with mansions... but i don't know of any that have anything remotely close to the mansions of newport, at least not such an abundance of them (there's the biltmore mansion in one of the carolinas i think, but i'm pretty sure it's the only one in the area).

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As for why Newport has made the Gilded Age its public persona? It sells. Newport fills a market (and temporal) niche in the public mind that no other resort in the US can match to any significant degree. "Colonial" is everywhere in New England. "Gilded Age" is less common and has connotations of old wealth that set Newport apart from other resorts - for better or worse. I will be interested to see if Newport begins to diversify its persona in the future. I feel that the city is beginning to do that, but fabulous wealth will continue to be its core message.

Granted. It's still equivalent to us walking around with a dunce cap on our heads. It's Marie Antoinette all over again.

But for the sake of the almighty dollar, I guess. As a wise man once said, ya gotta eat! Or wait, maybe that was Don Zimmer in a Checker's commercial. Hmm. Well, at at rate ...

I don't think we need to be ashamed about the mansions themselves. Take them for what they are and always were: they're gorgeous buildings. Leading examples of American architecture of the timeframe, according to those who know better than I do. American castles, truly. But some of the things that went on there ... call it opulence at its worst. I find it denigrating that we choose to associate with that proudly.

I'm far more impressed by Touro Synagogue and its 500 year-old copy of the Torah, put it that way.

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So many people (especially tourists) don't realize that Newport is far more than just mansions and nice shops. There's a fairly large low-income and minority population residing there that nobody wants to talk about.

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So many people (especially tourists) don't realize that Newport is far more than just mansions and nice shops. There's a fairly large low-income and minority population residing there that nobody wants to talk about.

Like I said earlier, when I tell people that I am from Newport, they immediately think that I am wealthy. The truth is that image is only skin deep, as they say. An incredibly wide variety of people live in Newport. The city is considered - along with Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket and Central Falls - as one of the state's five poor "inner cities," yet Forbes 500 billionaires spend millions there each summer. It's a truly incredible combination.

While Tonomy Hill and its housing projects aren't featured in the city's public image - since when does poverty sell hotel rooms? - the city's poor are far from ignored. They are as much a part of the city's life as anyone else is. Tonomy Hill itself is going through a complete reconstruction using Hope VI funds from HUD. The Boys and Girls Club of Newport County is a very well-supported organization that serves youth from across the city. The same can be said for the Newport Public Library, and the list goes on.

While I am often frustrated by the public's one-dimensional, wealthy, rose-colored perception of Newport, I am also frustrated when many try to paint Newport as a divided city where the wealthy ignore the toiling underclasses. While Newport is certainly home to extremes on the income scale, it is not a Marxist dystopia. It's more complicated than both extremes would like you to think.

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Tonomy Hill itself is going through a complete reconstruction using Hope VI funds from HUD.

This is getting ever further off topic, but since you mentioned it, that project is pretty impressive, too. I only hope they have the funding to maintain the buildings once they're built. That whole area was in a horrible state of dilapidation like you wouldn't believe.

And will be again if not maintained. Which would be a shame. That would be a lot of effort (not to mention money) going to waste.

You can still see what the whole area was like in Parkholm and the remaining Tonomy Hill units. Take a drive through there, if you happen to be in the area sometime soon.

Parholm is a depressing place.

Here's a link to the North End Master Plan, if anybody is interested what they're doing there.

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While Newport is certainly home to extremes on the income scale, it is not a Marxist dystopia. It's more complicated than both extremes would like you to think.

An extremely well stated post. Thank you.

- Garris

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Here's a link to the North End Master Plan, if anybody is interested what they're doing there.

The link Lone Ranger gave is to Calthorpe's summary of their somewhat conceptual North End Master Plan from a few years ago. The City just hired Parsons Brinckerhoff to create a more detailed plan for the North End, focusing on the developable commercial land between the Newport Bridge and the Middletown line. Parsons has been to airing some ideas and getting input, but no official plan as of yet.

As for Tonomy Hill specifically, the City got the Hope VI funds in 2003 and has been working since then. (The NY Times has a nice roundup of the project.) The developer that has done all of the work for the Housing Authority so far just dropped out for future phases, so the City is searching for a new developer to construct future portions of the project. Here is the City of Newport's official (and short) page on the project.

From what I gather, the developer that the Housing Authority selects to build each portion of the project will act as a property manager for its section of the project, as well. (This will hopefully prevent the lapse in maintenance that occurred under the City's watch in decades past.)

The new neighborhoods are a mix of subsidized and market-rate rental and ownership units. For some reason, Hope VI tends to encourage lower density; as a result of community pressure, the Housing Authority has to help create subsidized units elsewhere on the Island so there will be no loss in the total number of subsidized units. The Housing Authority has been working with Church Community Housing, primarily, to create those units across the Island. It's been interesting to watch the slow progress as they complete the patchwork of projects - some controvertial, some not so much.

So I hope that puts to rest the myth that Newport doesn't want to talk about its poor population? :good:

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The Newport forum's been quiet lately (especially this thread), so imagine my surprise when I found this in the Daily News today:

Newport's Historic Landmark status under review

Much of Colonial Newport, including the Point, Historic Hill and lower Thames Street, was designated a National Historic Landmark nearly 40 years ago. That designation now is being reviewed.

"In 1968, we did not require the same level of detail and comprehensive documentation we require now," said Patty Henry, historian with the National Park Service program that oversees the process.

Newport's historic district is being scrutinized under today's criteria because the boundaries are being modified, Henry said. It is part of the city's effort to win a spot on the elite World Heritage List of the United Nations.

The Landmarks Committee of the National Park System Advisory Board will evaluate the Newport Historic District's designation as a national landmark on April 11-12 in Washington, D.C.

Henry said the boundary is being redrawn to include Newport's Common Burying Ground off Farewell Street.

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That's what I get for not opening up a newspaper today. I didn't know we were still trying to earn this designation.

Compared to the Lively Experiment argument, the Gilded Age argument seems trivial.

Newport was the fifth largest city in Colonial America. While Boston, New York and Philadelphia were larger at that time,

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Can you imagine this state with 2 or 3 million people? I can. :)

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