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Welcome center roils tourist destination Newport

The Breakers (above) hosts about 400,000 annual visitors. The center (below) would be built inside a grove of trees.
The Breakers (above) hosts about 400,000 annual visitors. The center (below) would be built inside a grove of trees. Stew Milne/Associated Press/File 2001

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A proposal to build a visitors center on the grounds of The Breakers, the Gilded Age Vanderbilt family mansion and national historic landmark, is dividing Newport’s preservationists, neighbors, and even some family members in a seaside city where tourism is its lifeblood.

The Preservation Society of Newport County, the nonprofit group that owns the 70-room mansion, says the center is badly needed to serve The Breakers’ 400,000 annual visitors. Many opponents agree something is needed, but they want it across the street in the parking lot or elsewhere, not on the 13-acre grounds of the property, which they say would be irreparably damaged.

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