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Newport Casino

Newport, Rhode Island
County of Newport.
186-202 Bellevue Avenue (entrance at 194)
National Register Number: 70000083
Resource type: Building.
Property type: Recreation & Culture - sports facility. The threat level was Watch in
Congressional District: RI-1 Certified Local Government: YES
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Current use/information: Historic Sporting Facility & Museum.

Statement of Significance (as of designation - February 27, 1987):
Built in 1880-1881, this Shingle-Style wood-frame complex of buildings is architecturally significant as an early design of the famed American architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White. It is also one of the first examples of the suburban and resort country clubs built with recreational facilities, which were a new feature of the sophisticated social life of the 1880s. The Casino hosted the U.S. Lawn Tennis Championships from 1881 to 1914 and has continued as a site for international tennis tournaments. Today it includes the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The 410-seat Casino Theater, along with its neighboring twin, the Court Tennis Building, form the eastern wall of the six-acre Newport Casino complex of buildings and tennis courts. The Theater, designed by McKim, Mead, and White, was built in the early 1880s. The two-story building, measuring approximately 90 feet long and 80 feet wide, is supported by wood and masonry construction. A stuccoed concrete block stage-set addition, approximately 30 feet deep and 50 feet wide was added to the east end of the Theater in the 1930s. The orchestra pit and dressing rooms are located in the basement, under the stage.

The dressing rooms in the basement bear directly on earth and the auditorium is over an earthen crawl space. In the basement beneath the stage, wall framing, wall and ceiling lath, and plaster and paint finishes have been seriously damaged by high levels of moisture rising from the bare earth beneath the original wood floor.The moisture has caused plasterwork to separate from its lath, with the lath falling away as its nails have rusted through. Surface water run-off from adjacent exterior paving and rainwater from roof downspouts is also penetrating the exterior masonry walls and window openings of the basement. Water wicked up into the wood studs caused the bottom two to six inches to rot. Similarly, the wood floor raised about two feet above the basement floor for the orchestra pit has completely rotted and collapsed. The steel columns in the dirt-floored basement are embedded in earth. Although the six-inch diameter lally columns seem to be generously sized, they are susceptible to rust damage below. the ground level, especially since the ground in this area seems to retain moisture readily.

Recommendation/Change since last report:
Although the Casino Theater requires an enormous amount of repair and restoration, the top priority is to ensure proper ventilation and waterproofing on the basement level. Funding is needed to help address the Theater’s moisture problems and to ensure the stabilization and preservation of the landmark.

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