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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Belcourt of Newport “Gilded-to-Green,” An Example That Clean Energy Can Be Applied Anywhere Without Compromise /RNN

We are excited about our upcoming live broadcast, which will be next Wed, live, 1-3p, ET, in which we focus on the historic beauty combined with the contemporary transformation of s wonderful building in Newport, RI:  Belcourt Mansion.  As we talk here, this modernization is epic and proves the feasibility and value of integrating sustainability into all aspects of life.  Even those that could just as easily been left behind as a relic and reminder of days gone by.

By Peter Arpin 

It’s not too often when something crosses my path amazes me, and it’s not too often that I comment on my personal experiences. But on occasion, when I truly believe that there is an extraordinary story or event that I have experienced first-hand can positively benefit others, it would be irresponsible of me not to share it.

Recently, there was such an occasion that not only inspired and re-energized me, but moved me to share it with you. Back on May 15, I was personally invited by Shahin Barzin, Lead Restoration Architect for Belcourt of Newport to visit and experience first-hand, an extraordinary project in Newport, Rhode Island, a seaside village that happens to have more colonial homes in use than any other location in the United States. 

Newport is steeped in American history. For those unfamiliar with this New England town, Newport’s rich history can be stacked up against any place in America – from being home to the oldest US Naval War College, still standing since 1888, to being home to America’s oldest tennis tourney which was held on August 31, 1881. Newport is also world renowned as the summer playground for America’s ultra-wealthy families of the Gilded Age. During this historic heyday of 1885-1914, those families with names such as Vanderbilt, Van Alen, and Belmont, built opulent summer retreats that no words could possibly describe. From the Marble House, the Breakers and Rose Cliff, these homes and others like them are historic landmarks that inspire and educate visitors from around the world. 

One such home was Belcourt of Newport. Commissioned by Oliver Hazard and Perry Belmont, and designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt on Bellevue Avenue, Belcourt was inspired by Louis XIII’s hunting lodge at Versailles, but ultimately fell into disarray. In my humble opinion, its rich history was exploited for short-term gain. However, that changed on November 13, 2012, when Carolyn Rafaelian, founder, and owner of global lifestyle brand Alex and Ani, announced she bought Belcourt, and had plans – big plans to breathe new life to restore and resurrect this landmark. I was about to see some of these plans first-hand, and how they had started to take shape and evolve.

As I walked to the front gate and crossed a meticulously designed walkway, architect Shahin Barzin – who had been working on the restoration for four years – greeted me. As we entered, the first thing I noticed was the courtyard directly in front of me – a beautiful garden that was once used for exercising Belmont’s prized horses, but was eventually changed into the garden by his wife Alva Vanderbilt. The first place Shahin showed me was the temporary workshop being used for the restoration. When I entered, I quickly realized that it is being dedicated to the exact detailing and replication of the property. I was overwhelmed and happily surprised when he introduced me to the artisans working there, who not only are world-renowned, but local. A number of them either graduated from or taught at RISD. This reinforced my hometown pride in the state of Rhode Island – one of the smallest states in the country – that not only happens to produce a vast number of world-class artists, but is also now employing them in this homage to history. 

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