Some of the biggest attractions in Newport are the Newport Mansion, which wouldn’t be available to the public without the efforts of the Preservation Society of Newport. The Preservation Society was founded by a group of visionaries in 1945. Their goal was to save Newport’s historical architecture from neglect and ruin. It is a non-profit organization, which now has 11 properties, 7 of which are National Historic Landmarks. They have worked to “protect, preserve and present” these houses as museums to share the history of Newport with further generations. The Preservation Society of Newport is the largest cultural organization in Rhode Island, and is continuously working to engage the public in America’s heritage.
These historical building date back as far as the 1700’s and tell the story of America from the Colonial Era through the Gilded Age. More than 900,000 people visit these 11 properties every year, learning about what New England life was like within the last 250 years. From the Hunter House to the Breakers, guests can explore history and see what life was like. Both audio tours and guided tours are available.
The Preservation Society is always working to improve the historic experience and get their guests involved. This past summer, the audio tour of the Elms was updated, which includes recent research and tells the story of the Venetian paintings in the dining room. It also adds more information about servant life in the Gilded Age, incase you can’t experience the separate servants life tour.
In October 2013, the Preservation Society was approved by the RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, to create a visitors center at the Breakers, Newport’s largest mansion. This new center will get rid of the current ticket booth, portable restroom trailer, vending machine shed and seasonal ticket tent and create a one-story building that adopts the style of the original landscape. It will offer visitors information about the Breakers as well as the other Preservation Society properties. It will also offer refreshments and comfortable bathrooms. No irreversible alteration to the landscape will happen and the historic “fabric” and “viewsheds” will be preserved. They are just waiting on the appeal to the Newport Zoning Board.