2018-05-24 / Front Page

Town asks architect to redraw Getty plans

Council wants rustic feel to the buildings
BY TIM RIEL

The architect hired to design two buildings at Fort Getty was directed back to the drawing board so he could capture the rustic scheme of the pavilion.

“We have a history of that place,” Councilwoman Mary Meagher said. “We need to pay attention to that and not cover it up.”

Architect Don Powers, the principal of Union Studio in Providence, unveiled preliminary drawings of a gatehouse and lower restrooms during Monday night’s meeting. Pointing to the ubiquitous cedar shingles, stone piers, covered porches, corbelled columns and rooftop cupolas in town, Powers said he was trying to establish an architectural consistency. He referenced the Mackerel Cove bathhouse that was installed last summer to rave reviews.

“Then you have a language that will repeat itself,” he said.

Although Meagher, also an architect, agreed with that concept, she said Fort Getty was unique.

“I’m not sure what works at Mackerel Cove gets translated back to Fort Getty,” she said.

Meagher urged Powers to remember the park’s history as a military installation from 1901 through World War II during his revisions.

“It’s a rugged place that takes a beating,” she said. “The pavilion is the better reference.”

“That’s great feedback,” Powers replied.

Powers, a Jamestown resident who was hired by the council for $18,000 in February, said he has a vested interest in this project. “I’ve always admired Fort Getty,” he said. “It’s an incredible asset.”

Powers offered a handful of “style explorations” for his proposed white-trimmed buildings, including high classical, vernacular, craftsman and contemporary. After viewing these drawings, however, audience feedback mirrored Meagher’s direction about the park’s ruggedness.

“It was an old fort,” said Jeff Boal, owner of the adjacent Fox Hill Farm. “Rather than submerge that history, we should bring it to life. The pavilion fits the space because of its simplicity and integrity.”

Mouth Hope Avenue resident Chris Powell agreed. “White is a little too Nantuckety,” he said.

Powell then pointed to Boal’s “absolutely stunning” barn on Fort Getty Road as an example to follow.

Powers said this “very clear direction” from the councilors and audience will allow for a “quick turnaround.”

The council agreed in October that work is essential to protect the town’s most valuable asset. Andy Wade, recreation director, said the gatehouse in not a functional workspace and “sets a negative tone” for visitors entering the waterfront park. The lower bathrooms are even worse, Powers said.

“Its current condition is not luxurious,” he said. “If you want to, you can look right into the other gender’s bathroom, which you shouldn’t be doing.”

While the designs were not a slam dunk, the council was receptive to Powers’ plan to relocate the gatehouse, which would enhance the entrance. He also recommended building it as a movable structure similar to the Mackerel Cove bathhouse.

Another idea that surfaced during the meeting was a request from American Legion member Dennis Webster to study the bathhouse, which he said could date back “well before World War II.”

“I often wonder about the originality of that old building,” he said.

If it’s determined to be the only original Fort Getty building that remains, Powers said he can look at options to rescue the exterior. Several residents also suggested restoring Battery Whiting to complement the new structures.

According to Andy Wade, recreation director, the ideal schedule is to have a concept approved by the council at its June 18 meeting. If that happens, he said blueprints with a rough cost estimate can be presented to the council in July, which will allow for a request for proposals in August. Work could then begin by late September or early October.

“It’s crucial to be able to move forward this year,” he said.

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