Removing the crucifix at Portsmouth Abbey for restoration
Photo: The Providence Journal / Frieda Squires

Anna Hattendorf, of Newport, who is working with Newmans, Ltd., also of Newport, painstakingly disassembles The Trinity, a sculpture that has about 20,000 feet of gold and bronze wire. The piece was designed and executed by Richard Lippold.

Newmans, Ltd. at work 

We are restorers of unusual objects and mechanisms. Recent projects range from the entire metal collection of North America's oldest synagogue, to a set of Oceanic ceremonial weapons, an electric salesman's stove created in 1900, and a 19th century French Taxiphote stereoptic glass slide viewer.

We solve problems through the liberal, fine, and applied arts. One of us is a Fulbright Scholar and a recipient of the Rome Prize, one of us graduated Magna and another, Summa Cum Laude. We have worked in industry as teachers, directors, large project managers, legal aides, systems coordinators, designers, bakers, retail shop owners, clerks, and museum guides.

We solve complex problems outside the box.

the spirit of a chapel
Portsmouth Abbey School

By Chloe Thompson

Journal Staff Writer

From The Providence Journal, Thursday, July 10, 2008

The following paragraphs are exerpted from a more extensive Journal article about restoring the entire Church of St. Gregory the Great.

See a slideshow about this fascinating project.

For the first time since its creation in 1960, the Church of St. Gregory the Great at the Portsmouth Abbey School is undergoing renovation.

The $4-million project officially began construction in April, though senior development officer James MacGuire said the research and preparation for the project began nearly two years ago. The project is expected to be completed by Christmastime.

The chapel serves both the students and the 15 or so monks who reside on the boarding school campus, Brother Joseph Byron said.

"It's often been called the greatest single piece of architecture in Rhode Island," MacGuire said. "Restoring it is extremely important."

... The church, designed by Pietro Beluschi, imitates the design of a sixth-century church built in the lifetime of Pope Gregory the Great.

Administration at Portsmouth Abbey hired Newport Collaborative Architects, Carmello Artigiano and Advanced Building Concepts to assist with the projects.

... Another large part of the project is The Trinity, crafted by Richard Lippold, a gold and bronze wire art work that typically overlooks the main altar in the chapel, 60 feet above it. The 20,000 feet of wire radiate from points on a metal sculpture of the crucified Jesus to form 15 separate triangular arrays, and each wire is strung through a series of aluminum bars with intricate knots to hold it all together.

"There are thousands and thousands of feet of gold wires all over the place," Brother Joseph said. "It's a real conundrum. It's a brilliant piece of work ... but it's a tricky thing to try and figure out how to take it [out] and how to put it back in [the chapel]."

The main problem with the wire structure was it lacked the luster it once possessed, and the strength of the wires was deteriorating. The structure was fully removed last week, after six months of research and planning by Newmans Ltd. from Newport, which will restore and reinstall it. They will also be polishing and cleaning the metal crucified Jesus to match the new sheen of the wires.

... During the process of removal, the 15 arrays were separated and affixed to rolls of carpet padding. Newman said this helps him to keep a record of what goes where in the structure. Along with this, every other piece of wire is categorized, and scaled models of the sculpture help the restoration process go a bit smoother, Newman said.

"Several people just said, 'I don't understand why you don't just cut it down and rebuild it,' "Newman said. "The issue is that [the sculpture] is like archeology." The Newmans have photographed or taped every step of the renovation process to ensure 100 percent accuracy, "everything perfectly like it was in the church."

Click here to read the complete article.

Howard and Mary Newman

Newmans, Ltd.
designed by
Joshua Newman Design. quiet, compelling, powerful design.