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Historic Newport Structure Was to Be Moved, Now Its Future is Uncertain

There were some big plans for a tiny structure in Newport's downtown.

The 1920s full service gas station that was Raymond Motors when it was last occupied was to be lifted off its foundation at Fifth & York Streets and moved to Tenth & Saratoga Streets where it would be renovated to be a hub for the bicycle community.

Those plans were first announced seven years ago when the City of Newport received $272,000 in state funds move and renovate the building. When the City took bids from companies to do the work in 2008, the price was right but the timing wasn't.

There was also a plan to move it to the 700 block of Monmouth Street and make it a visitors center for Newport and a place to rent bikes.

There was at one time a development plan for the site that houses the former filling station and when that plan called for the building's demolition, the City stepped in to save it. But that plan is no longer on the table and suddenly, when the funds became available, the price to move the building doubled. 

On Monday night, the Newport City Commission voted to transfer its $272,000 state grant that was originally allocated for the Raymond Motors project to its Riverfront Commons efforts. With the recent opening of the pedestrian bridge at the Riverfront Commons site, the money will still be used towards efforts to make the city more bike friendly.

But the building's future is now uncertain. City Manager Tom Fromme said he had heard from consultants who predicted that the water damaged structure likely would not have survived a move and that it should likely be razed.

"It's bittersweet," said Mayor Jerry Peluso. "There's very few of those buildings left. It's a prime example of what happens when you don't take care of a building."

Indeed, the Raymond Motors building was part of a trend in the 1920s where drive-in filling stations sought to assimilate more with the existing environment, according to a webpage produced by the University of Vermont. In order to preserve the character of residential neighborhoods, the stations were designed to look like the styles of houses. The one in Newport reflects a bungalow house style.

"It's another sad day seeing that one go, but I understand the finances of it," said City Commissioner Beth Fennell. City Commissioner Tom Guidugli said the City is lucky to be able to hold on to the funds and to use them towards Riverfront Commons. 
The ultimate fate of the building now remains the owners' decision.
Story & photos by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

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