RI.gov R.I. Government Agencies | Privacy Policy |

About the Commission: Program Overview & 2008 Highlights

The Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission is the state office that identifies and protects historic buildings, districts, and archaeological sites. The Commission conducts statewide surveys of historic sites and buildings; nominates significant properties to the National Register of Historic Places and the State Register; administers programs of financial aid including grants, loans, and tax credits; enforces federal and state laws to protect cultural resources; and regulates archaeology on state land and under state territorial waters. The Commission also is responsible for developing and carrying out programs to document, support, and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Rhode Island's people.

The Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission operates under the authority of the 1968 RI Historic Preservation Act (RIGL 42-45), and under the National Historic Preservation Act, RIHPHC is the federal government's designated agency for historic preservation Rhode Island. RIHPHC receives federal funds that are matched through State appropriations. RIHHPC programs comply with federal as well as state regulations and procedures. Federal and state responsibilities are integrated into a single unified program. The Commission's work has been recognized by national awards from the American Association for State and Local History, The Society of Architectural Historians, the Society for Historical Archaeology, and the American Institute of Architects, and others.

Essentially the Historic Preservation program does three types of things: documentation of historical resources, development and reuse of historic buildings, and regulatory review.


RIHPHC does the work necessary to find and research Rhode Island's historic buildings and archaeological sites. In relation to its size, Rhode Island has more historic buildings and sites than any other state. RIHPHC has compiled data on 50,000 buildings and 3,000 archaeological sites. Our online database provides information about 17,772 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Knowledge about historic properties is a critical part of community and State Planning, is a valued educational resource, helps owners qualify for economic benefits, and speeds up project review reducing potential costs. For every city and town RIHPHC has published a report that gives a brief history of the community's development, contains an inventory of historic properties, and offers planning recommendations. These reports are available online. Under the State Planning Law, RIHPHC has helped every city and town to write the historic preservation section of their local comprehensive master plan, and we continue to help local governments with technical assistance and grants to eligible communities. RIHPHC statewide studies have documented Native American archaeology, historic landscapes, outdoor public sculpture, state-owned historic properties, and Rhode Island's six statehouses. RIHPHC worked with the RI Department of Transportation to inventory historic bridges, and worked with the federal Historic American Engineering Survey to inventory historic engineering and industrial sites.

Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor

Under Federal law, RIHPHC is a permanent member of the Commission that manages the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. During 2008 RIHPHC assisted the National Park Service carry out a Special Resource Study to evaluate designation of the Blackstone Valley Heritage Corridor as a Unit of the National Park System, and the Corridor continued to carryout a full program of educational, interpretation, recreation, and resource protection activities.

In 2008, 961 historic properties in Rhode Island were nominated to the National Register.

2008 Highlights include:

Southern Thames Street National Register Historic district, Newport
An eclectic residential, industrial, and commercial neighborhood on the Newport waterfront, the Southern Thames Historic District exemplifies Newport’s development as a port and resort town, complete with working-class residential neighborhoods and commercial enterprises. The 135-acre Southern Thames Historic District includes almost 900 dwellings and public and institutional buildings. The streetscape possesses a rich mixture of building periods and styles, from fine 18th- and early 19th-century houses to two- and three-story Victorian blocks, to late 20th-century commercial buildings—interspersed with vernacular houses with stores at street level. All phases of Newport’s development are reflected in the Southern Thames Historic District. The arrangement of streets and wharves and distinctive 18th-century houses recall Newport’s colonial era. In the 19th century, land was subdivided for intensive residential development with row upon row of small residences, rental cottages, and tenements built to accommodate the working-class population as Newport grew to be a leading summer colony. Second-generation natives of Irish and English descent, with new Irish, English, and Scottish immigrants, made their homes in the neighborhood.

Ocean Drive Historic District, Newport

Spread across most of the peninsula that forms the southwest tip of Aquidneck Island, the Ocean Drive Historic District is a 1,750-acre area occupied by approximately 360 individual residential and recreational properties. Physically unique in its natural, environmental, and developmental composition, the Ocean Drive Historic District represents one of the nation’s most significant examples of a late 19th/early 20th-century summer resort and as such achieves national significance in the areas of landscape architecture and architecture. Ocean Drive represents one of the country’s first efforts to plan and develop an upper-income residential seaside summer resort: nationally important landscape architects as well as significant local gardeners have shaped both the topography and texture of the landscape; the district’s overall appearance owes much to the large-scale planning that occurred during its development, and many designers and gardeners played significant roles in the planting and cultivation of individual parcels. Architecturally, the district includes many examples of high-quality domestic architecture designed by nationally important architects and constructed over a hundred-year period between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries.

Blackstone Boulevard-Cole Avenue-Grotto Avenue Historic District, Providence
The Blackstone Boulevard-Cole Avenue-Grotto Avenue Historic District, containing 253 primary buildings on approximately 100 acres of land on Providence’s east Side. The district, located in one of the last areas of Providence to develop as a residential neighborhood, is predominantly characterized by a visually diverse and generally well-preserved collection of early 20th century single-family houses built for middle- and upper-income residents, but it also contains examples of earlier and later construction that reflect more than two centuries of development activity, as well as changing trends in neighborhood planning, housing design, and American lifestyles.

Other properties Registered:

Jennys Lane-Mathewson Street Historic District (Barrington) is a residential neighborhood with houses dating primarily from the 1850s through the 1920s. Architectural styles include Greek Revival, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival and Craftsman styles, as well as more vernacular forms.

Greystone Historic District (North Providence) is a 19th-century mill village.

Howard House (Burrillville), a 1740 dwelling used in the 19th-century as an inn.

Murphy House (Middletown), a 1900 vernacular Queen Anne farmhouse, and Ogden Farm.

Weybosset Mills (Providence), nine Olneyville industrial buildings were constructed for cotton, worsted, and woolen production beginning in 1836.

Stone House Inn (Little Compton), a historic inn originally built as a grand private residence in Little Compton in 1854.

Paradise Farm (Middletown), a coastal farm of about 130-acres1 comprising a mid-18th-century farmhouse, mid-19th-century barn, agricultural outbuildings, burial sites, a stone-lined sheep pen, stone-fenced pastures and fields, wooded areas, and the picturesque geological formation "Hanging Rock."

2009 Objectives:

The Arnold Farm plats (Edgewood - Cranston)
Kay, Catherine, Old Beach Road Historic District, Newport
Anthony Village Historic District (Coventry)
Collins Street Historic District (Woonsocket)
Indian Avenue Historic District (Middletown)
Pocasset Mill (Johnston)
Green Animals Garden (Portsmouth)
Clouds Hill Farm (Warwick)
Bit O Heaven (New Shoreham)
Old Stone Church (Tiverton)
Central Diner (Providence)


RIHPHC administers programs of financial aid including grants, loans, and tax credits. The vitality of our cities, towns, and neighborhoods is heavily dependent on successful reuse of Rhode Island's inventory of historic houses, factories, and commercial properties. RIHPHC programs have preserved 2,362 historic buildings and leveraged direct investment of $2,283,000,000. The indirect economic benefits of historic preservation are many times greater. This investment has created thousands of jobs, renovated affordable homes, increased household income, and generated millions of dollars in new state and local tax revenue.

Tax Credits

Since 1976, RIHPHC has approved Federal and State tax incentives for rehabilitation of historic income-producing buildings for 689 projects valued at $2.25 billion.

In 2007–2008, 24 historic commercial buildings were rehabilitated with a combined investment of $58 million. An additional 38 projects scheduled for completion in 2008 with combined investment of $178 million have been delayed and are now projected for completion in 2009.

In 2009, an additional 36 projects are scheduled for completion with combined investment of $426 million.
Examples of 2007-2008 projects include:

Rehabilitation of the former Dreyfus Hotel, 121 Washington Street, Providence
Organized in 1985 as an open venue for artists, AS220 is one of the leading forces in Downtown Providence’s revitalization as an artistic center. In 1993 AS220 acquired and rehabilitated a blighted historic building on Empire Street to create a thriving arts complex. Fourteen years later, AS220 completed a top-notch rehabilitation of the ca. 1890 Dreyfus Hotel on Washington Street The Dreyfus Hotel had most recently served as a dormitory for Johnson & Wales University. Cheap wood paneling covered the walls of the hotel rooms, and the old dining room and pub were repurposed as a college cafeteria. AS220 put together an all-star team of financial, architectural, and construction consultants to carry out the $7.5 million rehabilitation assisted by Federal and State historic rehabilitation tax credits. On the exterior, masonry and terra cotta were repaired, historic windows restored, and stained glass renewed. Inside, following a substantial structural upgrade, the pub, dining room, and function rooms were restored for Local 121 restaurant, and an art gallery opened its doors on Mathewson Street. Upper floors were rehabbed for 10 affordable artists’ work studios, 14 artists’ live-work spaces, and a community print studio. The Dreyfus fills the need for more affordable artists’ space in a city where the arts have been a major community focus for more than 150 years.

Hope Street School, Woonsocket
The 1899 school remained in use until 1978. Even after more than 20 years of vacancy, it remarkably retained all of its original architectural fabric. A non-profit developer used state and federal preservation tax credits to fund a $5.8 million rehabilitation that converted the building into a mixed-use child-care facility on the two lower levels with office space on the upper story. With original stained wood-paneling and hardwood floors, the interior projects a rich and warm historic character throughout its stair halls and spacious, high-ceilinged classrooms. The sensitive and sensible quality of the rehabilitation handsomely returns the building to useful service for Woonsocket youth. Moreover, the development marks a milestone in the 13-year, $30 million effort to revitalize the Woonsocket's Constitution Hill neighborhood.

Rosedale Landing, 1180 Narragansett Boulevard, Cranston
The Art Moderne Rosedale Apartments is stunningly sited on a wide, tree-lined boulevard and overlooks upper Narragansett Bay. When the building opened in the spring of 1940, it was admired for the modernity of its design and of its kitchen and bathroom appointments. The $13.5 million restoration assisted by Federal and State historic rehabilitation tax credits included repairing the masonry walls, reconstructing the entrance canopies, restoring the windows, repairing the glass-block oriels, and refurbishing interior decorative features. The project not only recaptures the Rosedale’s jazzy elegance but also provides new residents with conveniences as up to date now as the originals were in 1940.

Berkander Building, 891 Broad Street, Providence
The 1920 Berkander Building, a former jewelry factory, was transformed into a state-of-the-art facility for CVS Highlander School and Providence City Arts for Youth. The two non-profit organizations used State tax credits and a State Preservation Grant to complete the $6 million project.

Monohasset Mill, 532 Kinsley Avenue, Providence
The 1866 Monohasset Mill, designed by prominent architect James Bucklin, was long home to artists renting inexpensive studio space. Rather than turn the building over to a large-scale developer, the artists themselves redeveloped the property to create vibrant live-work space for themselves and others at a cost of $9.5 million, assisted by Federal and State historic rehabilitation tax credits.

Slatersville Mill, Railroad Street, North Smithfield
Slatersville Mill (1806) is one of the first cotton textile mills in the United States. Vacant for many years, this landmark now houses 222 residential units, with gallery, theater, and health facilities. The $55 million project was assisted by Federal and State historic rehabilitation tax credits.

Royal Mill, 125 Providence Street, West Warwick
West Warwick’s Royal Mill (1921) was abandoned and scheduled for demolition until redeveloped for 150 rental units and 78 condominiums. The $102 million project was assisted by Federal and State historic rehabilitation tax credits.

Previous Projects have included:

Ashton Mill, Cumberland (Blackstone River across from State Park)
215 market-rate rental apartments; $35 million project

Lebanon Mills, Pawtucket (Blackstone River across from Pawtucket City Hall) 55 condominium units; $13 million project

National & Providence Worsted Mill, Valley Street, Providence
150 market-rate rental units; $45 million project

Burgess, O'Gorman, & Alice Buildings, Westminster Street, Providence (Downcity)
57 condominium units; $14 million project

8 severely deteriorated houses on Adelaide Street, Providence
28 affordable housing units; $3.5 million project

Avery Pettis House, West Side, Providence
1st floor commercial and 2nd floor apartment; $160,000 project

Historic Homeownership Credits

RIHPHC approves State tax credits for homeowners who preserve their historic house through the RI Historic Homeowner Assistance Act. To date, 909 historic homes have been preserved or maintained representing homeowner investment of $10.5 million.

Preservation Loans

RIHPHC offers limited low-interest loan financing for rehabilitation of historic buildings. The $2 million historic preservation revolving loan fund has made 113 loans worth $7.2 million.


Federal Grants
As the National Park Service's designated agency for Rhode Island, RIHPHC receives and administers federal funds.

In 2008, RIHPHC received approximately $500,000 in program support from the National Park Service.

In 2008, $1 million in Federal Save America's Treasures Grants was awarded to:

RI Historical Society Library, Providence: $295,000
Slater Mill, Pawtucket: $300,000
Channing Memorial Church, Newport: $450,000

In 2008, Rhode Island received 3 Federal Preserve America Grants totaling $310,000:

Fort Adams, Newport: $125,000 for structural condition analysis and restoration planning study.

Communities statewide: $150,000 for "Preservation Is Local" grants to assist local preservation projects.

Historic Sites Coalition: $35,000 to develop model business plans for nonprofit historic sites. Historic attractions are the number one destination for our state's $4 billion tourism industry. Enhancing and protecting historic places makes Rhode Island a stronger travel attraction and encourages increased visitation.

RI State Preservation Grants:

In 2002 and 2004, the voters approved $6 million in Bond Funds for restoration of historic buildings used as museums or cultural arts centers. RIHPHC developed program guidelines and has awarded 100 grants, and the total project investment of grants and matching funds is $75 million.

2008 – 2009 continue to administer approximately $3 million in State Preservation Grants to more than twenty historic sites statewide.


State and Federal law requires RIHPHC to review and approve federal and state financed or permitted projects that might destroy historic properties.

RIHPHC Project Review includes transportation projects carried out by the RI Department of Transportation, Community Development Block Grants in every city and town, Coastal Resources Management Council permits, federal Department of Housing and Urban Development affordable housing projects, etc. We also provide technical assistance to the Division of Central Services in the Department of Administration and review projects that involve historic buildings owned by the State including the State House, the Newport Colony House, and various courthouses and armories.

RIHPHC sees its regulatory mission as having two parts: protect historical resources and assist Rhode Island projects to secure needed federal and state approval. RIHPHC staff members help government agencies and individual citizens to meet historic preservation requirements. We do this by giving fast turn-around; our goal is to respond to every request for review within 30 days and within 15 days for most. Our staff professional historians, archaeologists, and architects provide technical assistance to applicants in designing and carrying out projects in order to meet historic preservation requirements.

In 2008, RIHPHC issued 1,161 project comments.

Some of the projects under review in 2008-2009 include:

Redevelopment of the former Interstate 195 corridor in Providence.

• Review of $1 Billion in Federal Economic Stimulus Spending projects, including transportation projects, neighborhood stabilization and housing rehabilitation projects, Community Development Block Grants, and other public infrastructure projects.

National Grid placement of gas meters on the fronts of historic homes in neighborhoods statewide.

• Rehabilitation of historic schools like Colt School in Bristol or Nathan Bishop School in Providence. RIHPHC is participating with the RI Department of Elementary & Secondary Education in a statewide planning study of 378 schools.

• Protection of a 2,000 year-old Narraganset Indian Village at the Salt Pond Site, Narragansett.


The RIHPHC is responsible for developing and carrying out programs to document, support, and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Rhode Island's people.

RIHPHC Heritage program commemorates the history and culture of Rhode Island's ethnic groups and fosters mutual understanding. We put on the annual Heritage Day Festival at the State House and other smaller events throughout the year. Thirty-two ethnic subcommittees have been organized for particular heritage groups, and we are working closely with the Heritage Harbor Museum project in Providence.

In 2008, Heritage Programs served an estimated 38,750 people.

RIHPHC operates the historic Eisenhower House at Fort Adams State Park, Newport as an events and meeting facility. Used by President Dwight Eisenhower as a summer White House, RIHPHC rents this 1875 mansion overlooking Narragansett Bay for weddings, social functions and meetings.

In 2008, Eisenhower House earned $134,900 that was deposited into the State General Fund.

Please visit RIHPHC's website for more information.