2015-12-17 / Around Town

Trinity Project Receives Go-Ahead

By Barry Bridges

Trinity Episcopal Church’s proposal to erect a new multi-purpose structure at the site of its Carr-Rice building at 23 Mill St. won the support of Newport’s Historic District Commission at the board’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

The demolition of the existing building was OK’d in November, and architectural plans for the new construction were accepted on Tuesday following changes to the renderings effected through the HDC’s design review subcommittee. Additional minor alterations to front windows will be incorporated and approved administratively.

Carr-Rice, built in 1978, joins Honyman Hall and the church itself on Trinity’s grounds at the top of Queen Anne Square. According to Trinity’s Rev. Canon Anne Marie Richards, Carr-Rice is “no longer safe” and has been officially closed since January of 2014. In addition to a state of general disrepair, mold and lead problems contributed to the congregation’s decision to vacate the premises almost two years ago.

Project architect Glenn Gardiner of Northeast Collaborative Architects presented the details of the project to commission members, with testimony elicited through attorney Turner Scott. Gardiner said, “The existing building has a number of issues that are problematic, with fire concerns and public safety being the main considerations.”

Richards elaborated with Newport This Week in November. “It became increasingly apparent that even if we fixed everything that was wrong, we would still have a space that was fundamentally flawed in size and configuration.” She described the layout of Carr- Rice as outdated and inflexible, and noted its energy inefficiency and escalating maintenance costs.

The new building will be built on the existing foundation, with the 14-foot basement re-purposed into a conference room, dividable space, and restrooms. The first floor will feature a gathering area, as well as a kitchen and additional restrooms. A choir loft, small chapel, and nursery will round out the second floor, while an outdoor plaza in the rear will connect to Queen Anne Square. In the HDC application, the design was described as one that will “fit seamlessly within the historic Mill Street fabric.”


Trinity Church plans to raze the Carr-Rice building (c. 1978) at 23 Mill St. to make way for new construction. Shown above is the rear of the present building from Queen Anne Square (left) and the future appearance once the project is complete. The view from Mill Street (right) will replicate the Colonial architecture of the neighborhood. (Photo and renderings courtesy of Northeast Collaborative Architects) Trinity Church plans to raze the Carr-Rice building (c. 1978) at 23 Mill St. to make way for new construction. Shown above is the rear of the present building from Queen Anne Square (left) and the future appearance once the project is complete. The view from Mill Street (right) will replicate the Colonial architecture of the neighborhood. (Photo and renderings courtesy of Northeast Collaborative Architects) In a staff report to the commission, Historic Preservation Planner Helen Johnson was supportive of the project, writing, “The [proposal] uses simple lines, modest details, and appropriate massing and materials which pay homage to the historic nature of the surrounding neighborhood while still allowing for the campus to evolve architecturally with a modern and energy-efficient structure.”

“We don’t want to replicate Trinity Church or compete with it, but we are replicating Colonialstyle architecture,” Gardiner said at the hearing.

Commissioners queried the architect on one amenity that will be unique to the neighborhood: solar panels on the south-facing gable roof.

Gardiner described methods that will “minimize the visual impact” of the solar array. For example, the panels will be installed so that their edges are not pronounced, and the roof shingles will be of a complementary color.

He also said the solar feature speaks to Trinity’s desire for overall sustainability. “The church needs to look at [providing its] services, but at the same time wants to be able to afford the structure now and into the future. It makes a lot of sense from the church’s financial standpoint… and if it’s acceptable to the community, we’d like to do it.”

Commissioner Joseph Babcock commented, “It’s a good opportunity to blend new technologies into the historic district.”

But Richards views the effort as more than a construction project and hopes that it will speak to how the church engages its constituencies. “It should be reflective of our vision as an organization … and advance our mission of serving the community.”

She previously advised Newport This Week that a start date will depend on the success of fundraising. Trinity’s goal is to raise between $2.8 and $3.2 million to cover the work at Carr-Rice and for needed improvements at Honyman Hall. “Work will commence at some point in the next two years,” Richards predicted.

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