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The renewal of this Gilded Age icon required the creation of a cultural landscape report in order to return to public life the spatial drama and horticultural richness created for the Vanderbilt family at the beginning of the twentieth century. A first phase of landscape renewal completed construction in summer 2019.

Today, the Breakers is preserved as a museum and owned and operated by the Preservation Society of Newport County. It welcomes some 500,000 visitors each year, and this popularity began to compromise visitor experience as well as important landscape features. A planned Welcome Center would relieve the site with easy ticketing, comfort stations, and a new cafe​, while also acting as a catalyst to a more comprehensive renewal of the full site. In collaboration with Robinson & Associates, Reed Hilderbrand prepared a cultural landscape report to site the new building within the context of the historic landscape. Using historical photographs, written records, a detailed survey, tree core analysis, and oral interviews, Reed Hilderbrand documented the evolution of The Breakers landscape, analyzed the integrity of the site, and determined the appropriate treatment for each of its various landscape components. The Preservation Society found that the cultural landscape report empowered them to create new interpretative opportunities across the site, further expanding and improving the visitor experience.

Upon completion of the historical analysis of the cultural landscape report, Reed Hilderbrand master planned the renewal of The Breakers landscape and is now engaged in phase implementation over the next several years. Based on the range of integrity across the property, Reed Hilderbrand modulated the intensity of intervention — restoration, rehabilitation, preservation — always preserving the coherence of the site. The renewed landscape is conceived in response to contemporary maintenance and management as well as the additional pressures of the changing climate and invasive species that had not factored into the original design. In Summer 2018, the Welcome Center completed construction, reintroducing visitors to the Serpentine Walk that had once been the most important itinerary around the grounds. One year later, the first phase of the Serpentine Walk rehabilitation has opened; the next phase will open in 2020. The wider project will re-establish the series of garden rooms that framed views of the dramatic Newport coast.


Newport, RI




13 acres




  • 2018 Laurel Award for Horticulture for The Breakers, The Preservation Society of Newport County
  • “Here’s how an iconic Newport mansion’s landscape is changing” by Kristi Palma,, September 9, 2019