No Restoration for Blackwell

February 18, 2018

To the Editor:


It was with disgust that I watched forklifts carrying pallets of new laminate flooring to Blackwell House this past week. The surface of the wood looks like old flooring. The replacement wide-board flooring, much like the original probably was, could have been purchased from a sawmill, probably for less. Yet RIOC’s contractor has, as usual, opted for renovation over restoration.  




Every 15 or so years, RIOC wastes well over a million dollars to further bastardize this historic building. The windows have all been replaced with phony pretend-old glass with fake ripples in it; the wood shingles on the roof were replaced, putting tar paper underneath, which prevents them from breathing and will cause them to rot early; and heaven only knows how they have wrecked the interior, since the public never sees it.  


The fact is that this historic farmhouse, which is all that remains of the original owners of our Island, has been tinkered with so much, and so many times, by people who apparently know nothing about historic restoration, that nothing is as the original was, except perhaps the framing. 


This leads one to question why millions have been spent repeatedly by RIOC to produce a renovated, not restored, building of no historic value, for a price many times higher than the value of the work done.  


Anyone who has renovated a 19th Century or earlier wooden building knows that it can get costly, maybe into the six figures. I have had work done to restore a comparable old farmhouse in rural Connecticut; but millions, every 15-20 years? Some major padding of contracts must have occurred and the taxpayers are paying for it. Will there be no accountability for RIOC’s corrupt practices?


Mary Eliza Kimball



Editor’s Note: For an explanation of the renovation project underway at Blackwell house, see The RIOC Column.


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