Manisses bringing back the old addition
The Hotel Manisses is planning to build an addition on the back of the building, reminiscent of what used to be there. The Historic District Commission approved the preliminary application for siting and massing on August 23.
There are two applications from the Hotel Manisses to build an addition. The HDC received a letter from the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, stating its unfavorable opinion of the first application to build an addition on the existing basement at the Hotel Manisses. At the July meeting, HDC Chair Bill Penn suggested denying the application outright, due to this negative opinion by the RIHPHC.
After receiving the letter from RIHPHC, the owners of the Hotel Manisses seem to have filed the second application with the HDC, one that stated simply “construct an addition.” Owner Blake Filippi told the commission he had no comment on the first application, but would speak to the second application.
When asked, Filippi said they were not withdrawing the application for the addition onto the basement. Penn said the commission should defer action on that application in order to “give us the opportunity to write a formal rejection letter.”
As to the second application, Filippi produced a new letter from the RIHPHC, which indicated that the design of the addition had been redone for the second application in response to the unfavorable opinion that was originally rendered for the first application.
“We commend the design team and the property owner for making significant modifications to their original design which protect the historic integrity of the property, and, by extension, the historic district,” the letter stated. The RIHPHC noted that the new design complies with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation for National Register listed properties, and the “siting and traditional design vocabulary is based on a historic precedent, seen in historic postcards and other images.”
The new design more closely matches the rear wing that was originally on the building fifty years ago.
Calling the Hotel Manisses a “significant building in the historic district,” HDC member Martha Ball described the original back of the hotel being taken off in the 1970s after being deemed “uninhabitable.” Member Bill Koch pointed out that “this is a building that was already there. This is something that has huge historic value. We have somebody that wants to spend the money to restore the building to its original form, but a little bit less.”
Architect J. Michael Abbott of Newport Collaborative Architects confirmed that the proposed wing is only 75 percent of the size of the original wing. Abbott explained that after the comments from the RIHPHC on the first design, they decided to refer to the original wing which was perpendicular to
the building, forming a “T”, and matched up with the roof and eaves line, with a matching mansard roof. “It’s a slightly reduced-sized version of what was originally built,” Abbott said.
Member Mike Ballard praised the design team for their new plan of “going back to original.”
Penn pointed out that the original “T” was slightly to the north.
Abbott told the group the restaurant is now located where the original wing came off the building, and that by moving the new wing slightly south they could avoid redoing the whole kitchen and be able to enclose the HVAC systems so there is no exposed equipment.
The letter from RIHPHC states that “the addition will not alter the historical appearance of the original building from its primary public view, Spring Street.”
This drew criticism from Pat Doyle, whose property abuts the Hotel Manisses property from the High Street side. Doyle described the side of the proposed addition that will face her house as a “big flat wall,” that erases the view of the hotel and its “historic nature from High Street.” Doyle also mentioned that if the addition was located in its original spot, it would be out of the viewshed.
“The viewsheds are important on High Street, as they are important on Spring Street,” Doyle said.
Penn agreed, saying it was important to protect the viewsheds from High Street as well as Spring Street.
The architect explained that the wall facing High Street was blank to prevent the neighbors from being able to see into the hotel rooms.
Member Mark Vaillancourt suggested softening the building with windows, and Ballard recommended the architects “do the magic” on the back of the building.
Member Arlene Tunney stated that there shouldn’t be a back of that building, meaning that both sides of the building should be attractive, given the concerns about the view of the building from High Street. Ball agreed that it shouldn’t look like the back of a building.
Penn reminded the group that the next meeting would be to discuss the details and facades, and that this meeting was just for mass and siting. The HDC voted unanimously to approve the siting and massing, with Doyle speaking again from the public to say that the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation state that “any addition must not destroy details that bring character to a historic building.”