Doris Duke’s Extraordinary Vision: Saving Eighteenth Century Newport

Images of NRF restorations

Newport without Doris Duke would not be the architecturally handsome sight, or the city it is today. Rough Point, Ms. Duke's spectacular oceanfront home, opened for the season with a fascinating exhibition of how the heiress saved Colonial Newport architecture by founding the Newport Restoration Foundation in l968.


When Doris Duke inherited Rough Point, her family’s Newport Rhode Island summer home, she began a love affair with the City by the Sea. Over the course of nearly 40 years, she dedicated herself to saving over 80 historic homes throughout the city Colonial houses which are at the heart of Newport’s historic neighborhoods, particularly The Point and Historic Hill sections.

Pieter Roos welcoming guests

Displayed in two galleries within the mansion, the exhibit explores the rescue of Newport and Miss Duke as the guiding force behind it. In addition to a tremendous financial contributions, she took an engaged, hands-on approach to preservation. She was known for personally selecting paint colors for the houses and helping to locate trees in Queen Anne Square.


In creating the NRF, Miss Duke had a simple plan: to purchase dilapidated 18th century homes and completely restore them from top to bottom. The NRF would then maintain the houses and rent them as private living spaces. This model of "living preservation" was groundbreaking in the field of historic preservation. Saving eighty-two properties was an undertaking on a scale and scope that has never been repeated. Doris Duke gave $21.9 million to the Newport Restoration Foundation, the largest philanthropic gift she made to a single organization during her lifetime. The new exhibit includes audio clips from oral histories about Doris Duke, and a full-scale model of a house section, detailing preservation construction techniques. It will run through November. For information on the exhibition, go to


Newel posts and architectural elements

Board members, town officials, architects, and preservationists attended the private reception recently, dining on hors d’oeuvres, listening to the music of Lois Vaughn, and taking in the house’s spectacular rooms and the documents and history delineated in the displays.

Pieter Roos, Executive Director of the NRF, welcomed guests by commenting on the “remarkable” project, and thanked the hundreds of NRF carpenters, as well as Frank Cardoza, Dick Long,  Robert Foley, NRF's director of preservation, Darcy Magratten, a graphic designer who created the exhibit, Annie Wilson, personal assistant to Mrs. Charles, who helped to create centerpiece display with Barbara Schlubach, NRF's operations coordinator,  and NBC 10.  He then called the Board of Trustees, the “hard center” of the Foundation’s work.

Mary Riggs & Elizabeth Goddard

Listening appreciatively to Mr. Roos’ comments were Linda Gordon and Edward Sanderson, Mrs. John (Oatsie) Charles, Bette Pardee, Richard Nelson, Mayor Jeanne Napolitano, Superintendent of Schools Jack Ambrogi and wife Mary Ambrogi, Karen & Tom Roskelly, Kate da Costa, Carrie and Jan Slee, Mohamad and Dorienne Farzan, and Elizabeth and Perry Lewis among the throng. 




NRF Docents Jackie Lydon & Kate Dempsey 


Bruce MacLeish
Director of Collections, Rough Point

NRF Board President Mrs. Robert H. (Oatsie) Charles

Mr. Roos describing the exhibit

Talking with Newport Seen were Linda Gordon

& Ted Sanderson

The intriguing centerpiece

Crowding the historic exhibition at Rough Point

Perry Lewis, Mary Ambrogi, Elizabeth Lewis

& Jack Ambrogi

Dorienne & Mohamad Farzan,
& Heather de Pinho

Carrie & Jan Slee, Ginna Macomber at Rough Point

Deborah Chambliss & Bette Pardee

James Michael & Richard Nelson

NRF Board member Eric Hertfelder & Karen Roskelly 

Pieter Roos, Kiki Mitchell & Captain Charles Weishar smile

for Newport Seen's Tom Roskelly


Shawen Williams & Barbara Roos


Jo & Ken Yellis laugh for Newport Seen


Pointing out "before" photos at the Doris Duke exhibition


Steven Fielding & Christine MacDonald


Children's artwork on display




NRF Board member Eric Hertfelder studies a restored

window from Colonial Newport, Rhode Island


Robert Foley, NRF's Preservation Director,

& NRF docent Anne Joslin


Mr. & Mrs William C. Clarke enjoying Rough Point


Jon Stevens, Teddy Aspegren & Robert Bailey


Barbara Roos & Don Desrosiers


The NRF color palette


NRF's Maintenance Supervisor Marc Lennon

& Education Assistant Liz Spoden 


Flowers in the main hall


Richard Youngken an advocate for Newport historic preservation
enjoyed the exhibit

Connie & William Enos


Bari & Jacob George, Terry Miller &

Sheri Miller-Robinette at Rough Point

Christopher M. Roberts and Carol Flohr enjoying the reception
Shawna Snyder & Robin McGill


Martha Ginty & Patty MacLeish

Anne & Peter Damon


Casper & Shirley Anne Roos


Beth O'Shea, Kathy Ward &
NRF paint crew member Tim Alsheimer


Ginna Macomber & Daniele Alsheimer


Will Dewey, Mary & Manny de Pinho smile for Newport Seen


Eileen Warburton, Susan Daly & Mary Weaver


Captain Charles Weishar with

Mrs. Robert H. (Oatsie) Charles 


The second exhibition hall


Don Desroisers discussing NRF's work in Newport,  RI

The Clarkes & Enos enjoying the reception


Ann Arnold outside of Rough Point


Attendees in the main hall


The Rough Point staircase, with mullioned windows


An architectural rendering













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