A newly redesigned Queen Anne Square opened to the public in downtown Newport today, with much fanfare. But the project nearly divided the city.
Tobacco heiress and Newport preservationist Doris Duke reclaimed the space as a community park in the early 1970s. But since then, the organization she founded to save Newport’s history says Queen Anne’s Square had been in decline. The job to re-imagine the space went to artist and architect Maya Lin, known for creating the Vietnam memorial in Washington D.C. Lin says the design incorporates historic quotations, chiseled into native and recycled stones.
“We were able to take building elements through history as well as language that is absolutely historically pure," said Lin. "And we’re celebrating everyday vernacular as well as celebrating the 350th anniversary of the charter.”
A quote from Rhode Island’s historic charter appears on the park’s prominent granite water fountain. Lin calls the installation “The Meeting Room” because of the park’s three distinct stone foundations meant to invite visitors to meet and relax. The project drew vocal community objection. Opponents said the design was misguided and the park should have been left alone. A lone protester appeared at the dedication ceremony.