University of Rhode Island to be honored for Edwards Hall restoration

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KINGSTON, R.I.- October 18, 2012-The restoration of Edwards Hall and its Depression-era murals have earned the University of Rhode Island a Rhody Award for historic preservation.

The University will be cited at a celebration sponsored by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission and Preserve Rhode Island tonight, Oct. 18 at Rosecliff in Newport from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

The Rhody Award nominees are chosen by the public and various organizations to honor individuals and agencies based on their contributions to the preservation of historic sites in Rhode Island. Officials from URI will be attending the celebration to accept the University’s Project Award. Six other beneficiaries from across the Ocean State are also receiving awards.

During the Edwards project, workers restored the stage, bathrooms, windows, doors and lobby and also made significant fire safety improvements.

“Edwards Hall is much more attractive and functional after the transformation. The URI community is very appreciative, especially those who saw the building beforehand. We are sensitive to historic preservation, but also understand the need for technology,” said Vice President for Administration and Finance Robert A. Weygand.

While completing the project, employees came across Depression-era murals, which had been “accidentally preserved” behind a false wall during a remodeling project in the 1960s, according to Weygand. Gino Conti created the murals during one of America’s most trying times.

The murals project received primary support from the Division of Administration and Finance. Weygand, the division’s vice president, commended Dan Lonergan, a property and control officer at the University, Paul DePace, director of Capital Projects, Tom Frisbie-Fulton, director of Campus Planning and Design, Mary Brennan, now the campus recycling coordinator, David Maslyn, dean of University Libraries, Peter Conti (no relation to artist), of Calson Construction Corp. of Johnston and Peter Scalora, the project manager from Gilbane Building Co., for their central roles in discovering and protecting the artwork for preservation.

“I was thrilled with the discovery in 2010, but I am even happier to see them in excellent condition hanging in one of our public venues for everyone to enjoy,” said URI professor and art historian Ron Onorato. “This artwork is not only from an era of national significance, but is also of state significance, since Mr. Conti was a well-known Rhode Island and regional artist who came to this country from Italy with his parents. What a great opportunity for our students to be able to learn about and see relics from the nation’s past.”

The Rhode Island Preservation Celebration and Rhody Awards event is open to the public. Tickets are $30 at the door. For more information call (401) 272-5101 or visit

Victoria Antonelli, a senior journalism major and intern at the Marketing and Communication Department, wrote this press release.

Mural photo

URI Marketing & Communications photo by Michael Salerno Photography.