Callender School Renovation+-

project name : Callender School Renovation & Restoration

location : Newport, Rhode Island

year of design: 1980

client: William Boggs

architect: George Ranalli

associates: Robert Silman Structural Engineer; Kiley Engineers

design team: Paula Beall, Turan Duda, Mark Mascheroni

photographer: George Cserna /Nick Wheeler

The Callender Schoolhouse, a National Historic Landmark in Newport, Rhode Island, was reborn when the client, William Boggs, commissioned a renovation to convert it into housing. The project incorporates the exterior restoration of the elegant Italianate schoolhouse with the creation of six architecturally compelling apartments.

The original building, built in 1862, is in one of the oldest sections of Newport. The primarily residential neighborhood is located between the town cemetery and the sea, with this stately masonry building set amidst seventeenth-century wood cottages.

Structurally, a brick cavity wall sits on top of a foundation of granite and sandstone. The building was constructed in two sections over a twenty-year period, and some unique conditions developed during that time, which were incorporated into the new architectural design. Most notable were the wood roof trusses on the second floor, left over from the original A-frame roof, and the two cast-iron columns on the first floor that help support the second. Both the size and quality of the interior spaces, as well as the powerful historic exterior, demanded a solution that would preserve the original exterior.

The project restored the exterior of the building to its original condition, with all moldings, cornices, and details matched and replaced where necessary. The existing interior stair hall was included in the renovation, but an effort was made to keep the feeling and quality of the school, so in this space the memory of the school is felt strongly.

To resolve complex zoning and local building-code requirements, all new construction is gathered toward the center of the building, allowing the major living spaces to occur in the space between the shell of the old building and the new dwelling units. These spaces are faced with a façade behind which are all the small-scale private rooms of necessity. The collective assembly of these façades, grouped around the public space of the central hall of the old school, forms a city within the building that is symbolic of the community of dwellers that exist within.

The metamorphosis of the space required removing the second floor ceiling and many interior walls and recombining portions of basement and attic. Restored stairwells remain central to common access of laundry facilities, a sauna, and storage. The original classroom doors act as front and back entryways for each apartment, and the old classrooms become the living quarters for the new domiciles.

The design for each apartment centers on a large living room/dining room on the first level with a soaring, 23-foot ceiling. A large sculptural form inserted into each apartment contains a kitchen, informal dining area, large walk-in pantry, and laundry room. The living room has built-in shelving, designed lighting, and a full bathroom. The second level provides a cozy inglenook around a fireplace and a master bedroom with full bath. Up a few stairs, a loft space is well suited for use as a family room or home office. The design borrows from the visual trickery of Cubist painters, by creating an interplay of color from a multiplicity of perspectives.