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Preservation commission hears update on Breakers welcome center proposal

At the Breakers mansion in Newport, where visitors buy tickets out of a flimsy temporary shelter on the walkway to the main house, The Newport Preservation Society wants to build a proper welcome center. (WJAR)

At the Breakers mansion in Newport, where visitors buy tickets out of a flimsy temporary shelter on the walkway to the main house, the Preservation Society of Newport County wants to build a proper welcome center.

Attorney William Landry represents the society.

“It will be a comfortable visitors center for the over 400,000 people a year and school children who visit the Breakers,” Landry told NBC 10 News.

A determined set of opponents, including descendants of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who built the 70-room mansion in 1895, has been fighting the plan for years. They have taken it to court, and lost twice at the state Supreme Court. They have raised money and asked for the governor to intervene.

But on Wednesday, the Providence Historical Preservation Society, which has an easement on the property because of its administration of federal funds used there, once again rebuffed a challenge to the plan.

The commission first approved the $5.4 million project in 2013.

“It’s exasperating for the commission,” Landry said. “They want to get on with the welcome center project.”

An alternative proposal to put the welcome center in a parking lot across the street from the Breakers was deemed inappropriate by the Preservation Society, in large part because it would be more visible and more of a detraction to the mansion than the welcome center, which is hidden behind trees near the property’s caretaker’s cottage.

The Preservation Society said it will begin building the planned welcome center as soon as the permits are in hand, which could be any day now.

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