The Preservation Society of Newport County today selected Behan Bros. of Newport as the prime contractor for the construction of The Breakers Welcome Center. They were selected from among three finalists who bid on the $5.4 million project.

“This is a major milestone toward the creation of the kind of world class hospitality that we feel a National Historic Landmark should provide for its visitors,” said Monty Burnham, Chairman of the Board of the Preservation Society. “With this step we move toward offering our visitors the hospitality they deserve, and that they enjoy at museums and historic sites around the world.” 

Each year, The Breakers is visited by 450,000 people from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

“Behan Bros. provided the best value and strongest plan for the construction of both the remarkable building that has been designed and the revival of the landscape,” said Trudy Coxe, CEO and Executive Director of the Preservation Society. “All three finalists were Rhode Island firms and all three proposals were exciting, but it is especially satisfying to be able to award this work to a Newport company.”

Michael J. Behan of Behan Bros. said “I am humbled by the Preservation Society entrusting us with such an important project and look forward to its successful conclusion.”

“Behan Bros. showed that it has an excellent grasp of the design,” said Alan Joslin of Epstein Joslin Architects, who designed the welcome center. “This is a compact, one-story design that is in harmony with the structures and the historic landscape of The Breakers, and puts all the necessary visitor services under one roof just as travelers arrive on the property.” 

The welcome center will only operate during museum hours and will serve only ticketed museum visitors and Preservation Society members.

“The landscape design is of principal importance,” said Doug Reed of the nationally recognized landscape architecture firm of Reed Hildebrand, which created the landscape plan. “Preserving the existing massive beech trees and other specimen trees on the north side of the driveway requires a rehabilitation of the landscape and serpentine path. We are rehabilitating the visual and spatial character of the original Bowditch design, adapting what was a sunny, colorful flower garden to one that will thrive in the shade of the existing canopy trees.” 

Construction will begin soon and is expected to take one year to complete. The design provides for indoor ticketing, expanded modern comfort facilities, and refreshment service. The construction will be supervised by Preservation Society Properties Director Curt Genga.

The Preservation Society has completed a Cultural Landscape Report and anticipates a master plan-driven, multi-million dollar landscape rehabilitation program over the next few years. Additional work now underway at The Breakers includes completing the restoration of the underground boiler room; developing a new, ADA-accessible exitway from the house; and finalizing construction of a geothermal climate control system.

The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, is a non-profit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes, decorative arts and social history.  Its 11 historic properties–seven of them National Historic Landmarks–span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.