Case study: Pinard Cottages, Newport, R.I.
Throughout my 30-year career, I have had the opportunity to work on more than 100 historic-preservation projects utilizing rehabilitative tax credits. My first project, in 1981, involved the Pinard Cottages in Newport, R.I., designed by noted architect Dudley Newton and constructed by J.D. Johnston in 1881. It was one of the first projects in the state to receive historic certification under the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.
The original six-building complex served as guesthouses for wealthy summer residents during the Gilded Age. Over time, one cottage was destroyed by fire and another was relocated a few blocks away. Years of neglect and economic recession left the complex in a state of deterioration. Four of the cottages were converted into 22 apartments in the 1940s. By 1981, the apartments had fallen into ruin and neared condemnation.
Aside from the cottages' history and venerable location in the Ochre Point historic district, the restoration project was appealing because the ill-planned apartments could be adapted to accommodate luxury condominiums without going through zoning approval. When we gathered historical documentation, the Rhode Island historic-preservation officer informed us about the newly formulated tax-incentive program. We were eligible for a 25% credit on all qualified construction costs.
During project planning and construction, we were required to complete three application forms that determined qualification for tax credits. The first form called for documentation of historical significance. So we went to the Newport Historical Society and gathered newspaper articles and photographs. By far, the most significant resource was an antique atlas site plan that traced the origins and evolution of the buildings. These atlases can be found at town halls, historical societies, and auctions.
Part two of the application packet required that we write a one-page description of the property, detailing the buildings' architect, owners, occupants, and historical integrity. We also had to explain how we would make changes and include architectural drawings and "before" photos.
Once the rehabilitation project was complete, we filed part three of the application, which included photographs and descriptions of all the preservation work.