‘We Cannot Save Everything’: A Historic Neighborhood Confronts Rising Seas

NEWPORT, R.I. — The Point, a waterfront neighborhood here, is one of the largest, best preserved and most important Colonial-era communities in the United States. Its grid of 18th-century streets contains scores of houses built before the American Revolution, and dozens more that are almost as old.“It’s incredible to walk around a neighborhood like this that is so intact,” Mark Thompson said one morning this spring as he strolled along Washington Street, past the Jahleel Brenton Counting House, the 200-year-old home of a prosperous merchant. “There is a very organic feel to the neighborhood.”
Mr. Thompson heads the Newport Restoration Foundation, one of the organizations that in recent decades have purchased and restored many of Newport’s historic properties, saving them from the tourism development that has overtaken much of the city’s waterfront.Today, the neighborhood faces a new threat. The Point sits only a few feet above sea level, and because of climate change, the ocean is rising. So people have been thinking again about how to preserve the neighborhood.

The number of climate change related incidents have increase four fold between 1980 and 2010.