AUDRAIN AUTO MUSEUM • Newport, RI

Noted architect Bruce Price designed the Audrain Building in Newport, Rhode Island that  was constructed in 1903.  The commercial building  represents one of four Gilded Age buildings that form an architecturally significant block on Bellevue Avenue. The three adjoining historic buildings include the Travers Block  designed by Richard Morris Hunt; the Newport Casino designed by McKim, Mead, and White; and the King Block designed by Perkins and Betton. Price drew inspiration from the Florentine Renaissance to create an iconic two-story edifice defined by broad arched windows that rise through both stories and a roofline distinguished by white terra-cotta balustrade with lion sculptures.  The Audrain building is faced in red brick with jewel toned terra cotta trim that accentuates the entry, bays and roofline. Street-level terra-cotta ornamentation is relatively restrained but increases at the arched second floor windows and cornice. The first floor was originally designed to feature six retail shops and the second floor featured 11 offices.

During the 20th century, a hurricane damaged the balustrade and the lion sculptures warranting their removal. Over time, the first floor retail shops transitioned into medical offices while the second floor housed many commercial tenants who made few improvements to the lackluster offices. In February 2014, the client enlisted NCA to transform the first floor into an auto museum that would showcase his collection of antique automobiles. This project was on a parallel track to designing his summer headquarters on the second floor of the Audrain Building.  During the museum renovation the building was sheathed in white plastic so crews could work around the clock to meet the fast track deadline. The project was completed in six short months.

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The museum project entailed removing all of the existing bearing walls, shoring the structure, reinforcing the floor to accommodate triple load bearing tongue and groove Douglas fir decking, and installing steel powder coated, fire-rated trusses. All of the windows were replaced with impact resistant glass.  The South elevation was upgraded with a large two story arched opening that was custom fit to allow antique cars to access the building .  Other elevation changes include three double-hung windows and a new fire stair. The local Historic District required that the new South façade details be discernible to the observer by the simplification of replicated detail.  The museum’s interiors feature state-of-the-art LED/RGB lighting for the structural trusses and track LED lighting for the cars. The program also called for public restrooms.  The architect used stainless steel to create custom dividers and counters. 

Members of NCA’s design team include Parker Construction, Camera/ O’Neill, Lana Nathe and BETA. This project earned the 2014 AIA RI Honor Award, 2015 Doris Duke Historic Preservation Award, 2015 Rhody Award for Historic Preservation and the 2015 Rhode Island Monthly Design Award.