Historic District Commission

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In 1965, the City of Newport passed an ordinance establishing the Newport Historic District (NHD) and the Newport Historic District Commission (HDC). Since that time, the Newport City Council has designated numerous areas within the city boundaries as local historic district zones.

The establishment of local historic districts in Rhode Island is allowed by state statute (Rhode Island General Laws Chapter 45-24.1 - Historical Area Zoning). The goal of establishing local historic district zoning is to preserve the historic buildings and other significant resources that define and reflect elements of the City's history.

The historic resources found in local historic districts embody the traditional qualities and characteristics of a city or town, creating an attractive environment which is conducive to residential, commercial, and industrial uses as well as tourism and promotes the pleasure, education and welfare of the residents of the community.


The boundaries of the Newport Local Historic District were based on architectural surveys of the city. Approximately 40% of the physical area of Newport, and more than half of the City's existing parcels, comprise the Newport Local Historic District and are thus under the jurisdiction of the Newport Historic District Commission.

You can consult the Historic District Map to see whether your property lies within the boundaries of the Newport Local Historic District. Maps are also available at the Department of Planning, Zoning, Development and Inspection located at Newport City Hall.


Soon after the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966, surveys of the architecture and cultural resources of the City of Newport were undertaken. These surveys resulted in a substantial number of Newport properties being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which is the federal government's list of significant historic places in the United States.

Many properties were also designated as National Historic Landmarks, the highest recognition that historic properties can receive in the United States. Listing on the National Register of Historic Places, or designation as a National Historic Landmark property, is important for many reasons, including forming a justification and basis for the local historic district boundaries.

Each National Register and National Historic Landmark District has different histories and patterns of architectural development. Newport's National Historic Landmark Districts are the Newport National Historic Landmark District, Bellevue Avenue National Historic Landmark District, Ocean Drive National Historic Landmark District, Fort Adams National Historic Landmark District and U.S. Naval War College National Historic Landmark District.

The National Register of Historic Places districts in Newport are Kay Street-Catherine Street-Old Beach Road Historic District, Ochre Point-Cliffs Historic District, Bellevue Avenue-Casino Historic District and Fort Hamilton (Rose Island) Historic District.


The Historic District Ordinance allows for the purposes of the Newport Local Historic District to be carried out by the Newport Historic District Commission (HDC.)

The HDC is comprised of nine (9) members, (seven full-time and two alternates) who are city residents appointed by the City Council to serve three-year terms. Each year, the HDC elects a chair, vice-chair and secretary; HDC members may serve up to two three-year terms each.


Exterior alterations within the Newport Local Historic District must be reviewed and approved by the HDC or Historic Preservation Planner prior to any work beginning.

The HDC does not require property owners to make changes to their buildings; rather, the HDC reviews changes that are proposed by property owners. HDC approval is issued in the form of a "Certificate of Appropriateness."

The only exception to the requirements for the "Certificate of Appropriateness" is for "ordinary maintenance and repair of any of the existing features of a structure or building that does not involve a change in design, materials or the outward appearance."


Applications (Application for Certificate of Appropriateness - PDF) for proposed work are filed with the Department of Planning, Zoning, Development and Inspections, located at Newport City Hall, 43 Broadway, Third Floor. Applications are reviewed by the Historic Preservation Planner and, if deemed complete, will be docketed for that month's meeting.

Incomplete applications will not be heard by the HDC and will be returned. Applicants are encouraged to work with the Historic Preservation Planner prior to submitting their application. HDC meetings are held on the third Tuesday of every month; the meetings are held in the City Hall Council Chamber, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

This process of review and approval by the HDC ensures that the historic character of Newport's Local Historic District is maintained. Increasingly, research shows that local historic districts stabilize and strengthen local economies by ensuring that alterations or new additions to the district are compatible with an area's identified historic resources and character.





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