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NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — The ruins of a crumbling stone structure in Newport will eventually be torn down, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM).
Mike Healey, a spokesperson for the DEM, tells 12 News that “The Bells” at Brenton Point State Park has been cordoned off for more than a decade due to safety concerns.
“We’ve been warning people to stay out of there,” he said, adding that despite the chain-link fence and no-trespassing signs, parkgoers still regularly sneak into the dilapidated structure.
Those safety concerns were brought to the forefront Monday afternoon, when a portion of the structure’s roof gave way. Healey said the roof collapsed under the weight of a teenager who had climbed on top of the abandoned structure.
The 15-year-old fell 25 feet to the ground, according to Healey, along with a concrete slab that landed on top of two other teenagers standing below. Those three boys were rushed to the hospital with serious injuries, while a fourth was treated by first responders.
Sky Drone 12: Bird’s eye view of “The Bells” roof collapse (Story continues below.)
“The Bells” used to be a grand estate and was first built back in 1876. The building was destroyed by a fire in 1960 and has been in disarray ever since.
“Before this even happened, we all agreed it should come down,” Jeffrey Emidy, executive director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission said.
Emidy said both the commission and DEM agreed back in February 2022 that the structure needed to be torn down.
The DEM surveyed the former estate and determined that it not only isn’t structurally sound, but it also can’t be salvaged or restored.
“We came to the conclusion that there was no feasible alternative to demolishing the building,” he explained.
Emidy tells 12 News that, since the dilapidated structure is part of the Ocean Drive Historic District, it needs to be preserved before it can be torn down.
The commission and the DEM are currently brainstorming ways to preserve it. Emidy said one of the ideas being floated is to record the structure’s history through a series of photographs.
“It would allow researchers in the future to look and see what was there and have a very thorough documentation of it,” Emidy explained. “That’s one possibility.”
There is no current timeline as to when the structure will be demolished.
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