The New York Times

'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 home of a prosperous merchant more than 200 years ago. “There is a very organic feel to the neighborhood.”

Thompson heads the Newport Restoration Foundation, one of the organizations that in recent decades have purchased and restored many of the city’s properties, saving them from the tourism development that has overtaken much of the 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.

Similar efforts are underway in many communities on the East Coast, where European colonists settled centuries ago. The task is complicated, and success is far from assured.

According to a 2014 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, sea level rise threatens sites ranging from Faneuil Hall, where the Sons of Liberty planned

This article originally appeared in .

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The New York Times

The New York Times6 min read
J.D. Salinger, E-Book Holdout, Joins the Digital Revolution
“The Catcher in the Rye” and other Salinger novels are coming out in digital formats, and the writer’s son plans to release more from his archives.
The New York Times2 min read
4 Books For A Better Understanding Of The Border
(Newsbook) When it comes to writing about border towns like El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed in a mass shooting Saturday, “there always seems to be something that’s a little bit off about how it’s depicted,” novelist Oscar Cásares said. “I
The New York Times7 min read
A Pop-Culture Glossary for 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'
Quentin Tarantino’s film is filled with references to TV shows, movies and other totems of midcentury Los Angeles. We explain who’s who and what’s what.