2023 Rhody Awardees
Historic Preservation Project Award
Unity Park, Bristol - Joseph M. Brito Jr., CEO
Looking at Unity Park now, bubbling with activity from businesses, restaurants, and shops, it’s hard to imagine that this complex just blocks from historic Main Street had been an abandoned industrial site for years. Opened in 1865 as the National Rubber Company, the mill remained active for over a century. In the 1940s, over 6,000 employees worked there—equal to half the town’s population. In 2019, Joe Brito brought his innovative entrepreneurial skills and redevelopment capacity to turn this special place around. Named Unity Park to reflect the cooperation between the developer, the town, and the community, the complex is home to “blue economy” businesses, restaurants, a coffee shop, brewery and distillery, creating a dynamic new commercial center in town.
Broadmoor, Narragansett - Gregory Slattery and Scott Mansfield
Imagine moving a 6,000 square foot historic house to a new lot in order to save it. Now imagine having to move two houses--to comply with zoning restrictions--in order to save the historic building. Who would be crazy enough to take that on? Meet Greg Slattery and Scott Mansfield. Built in 1896 as a "summer cottage", the cedar-shingle home would have been demolished without the intrepid spirit of the current owners, the cooperation of the previous owners, the town of Narragansett and the entire community. When moving day arrived, the whole town turned out to celebrate this miracle of engineering and determination.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Portsmouth
Tucked into a nearly 68-acre site off of Route 138, stands one of Rhode Island’s most architecturally significant buildings. Designed by Richard Upjohn in 1844, St. Mary’s is an early prototype of the rural Gothic Revival churches he popularized. It contains several works by prominent artists, as does the adjacent cemetery. The park-like setting, with over 47 acres protected by a conservation easement includes a labyrinth, community garden, playground and walking paths open to the public. A complete restoration of the exterior and interior was undertaken, removing inappropriate changes and bringing back original finishes. The interior was restored to its original design while updating for environmental factors and ADA guidelines.
Copley Chambers, Providence - Marathon Construction and Development
Constructed in 1913, Copley Chambers was built as a rooming house for the influx of blue- and white-collar workers flooding into the city at that time. By 2020, the building had been vacant for a decade, damaged by fire, and suffering severe structural issues. When the previous owners were presented with the bill of to stabilize the building in response to multiple city citations, they instead offered the property to the construction/development company. Marathon utilized historic and low-income housing tax credits, combined with other incentives, to create a new type of affordable housing, conceiving of the idea to turn the building into 26 fully-furnished apartments for young adults who are aging out of the foster care system. Supportive services provided for the tenants occupy the first level.
Paragon Mill, Providence - The Alexander Company
Built in 1898 as a textile mill, with several expansions over the years, Paragon Mill was utilized as a manufacturing facility until the early 2000s. By 2018, the underutilized complex was in peril and listed as one of Providence’s Most Endangered Properties. The Providence Redevelopment Authority awarded Alexander Company to redevelop the 125,000 square foot space into 101 low- and middle-income apartments and commercial space, while also addressing environmental concerns. Attracted to invest in Rhode Island because of the strength of the state’s historic tax credit program, the Wisconsin-based developers undertook preservation efforts that carefully considered ways to reflect Olneyville’s industrial history, retaining iconic features and repurposing historic materials where possible. Amenities include community spaces, a fitness center, recreational areas, a pocket park and an extension of the nearby bike path
Jeff and Abby Boal - Fox Hill Farm, Jamestown
On a lark, a couple drive up from New York, fall in love with a coastal farmhouse, and purchase it. Wanting to protect the rare historic landscape from development, they acquire the adjoining lots on either side. Thus begins a decade long journey transforming the land back into a working farm, a colonial farmhouse - parts of which date to the 17th century - into an elegant home, and the couple from city sophisticates to local farmers.
Natasha Harrison and Ben Randall - ILZRO House, Foster
Offered the chance to purchase her childhood home designed by her father Marc Harrison, Natasha and husband Ben undertook a sensitive restoration of this one-of-a-kind house that is both time capsule and love letter. A world-recognized designer and RISD professor, Marc Harrison was at the forefront of the “universal design” movement—designing for differently-abled people. Built in the early 1970s, the house pre-dates ADA requirements but is possibly the first designed with that philosophy in mind. Remarkably unchanged from its original construction, the house was in need of Natasha’s and Ben’s personal commitment to meticulous restoration.
City of Pawtucket - Slater Park Looff Carousel, Pawtucket
The historic Looff Carousel, built in 1895, is one of only six carousels in the country still housed in its original building. Designed by Charles I.D. Looff, known for his intricately carved and painted horses, it was considered the fastest carousel of its time. By 1970, the carousel was in disrepair, the building was scheduled to be torn down and the horses to be auctioned off. After a public outcry, the citizens mobilized and stopped the auction. With the help of grants, donations and city and state funding, the carousel reopened in 1979. Thus began the City of Pawtucket’s more than 40-year commitment to preservation and caretaking: the carousel continues to operate today, thanks to a consistent maintenance plan (approximately 12 figures are restored each year), and the hard work of dedicated city employees and volunteers.
J. Hogue - ArtinRuins, Statewide
Twenty years ago, Providence-based web designer J. Hogue was alarmed by rapid development and the demolition of historic mills and other landmarks. Armed with his web skills, camera, and willingness to trespass, he created ArtinRuins, a website dedicated to documenting endangered buildings throughout the state. Fast forward to the present, and this passion project has become the definitive guide to the state’s most endangered properties, a resource for historians and preservationists, and perhaps most importantly, a forum for Rhode Islanders to share their own experiences and memories tied to these beloved landmarks.