Rising sea levels threatening historic US sites

July 25, 2019

As climate change causes rising sea levels, preservation experts are faced with new challenges for saving historic buildings and other sites.

The colonial-era homes in Newport, Rhode Island, many of which were built before the American Revolution, are among the sites at risk. Those homes include several in a waterfront neighborhood referred to as The Point, which sits just a few feet above sea level, The New York Times reports.

Conservationists usually combat rising sea levels by putting buildings on stilts, building sea walls or moving the buildings altogether, but these aren’t always options in historic neighborhoods. These efforts could remove the characteristics that make the neighborhood worth saving, so architects are looking for alternative tactics to save the houses.

Architects, planners and engineers are experimenting with allowing water to flow through threatened structures, turning basements into cisterns and installing building-size floatation systems. They hope these solutions will be applicable to more sites than just those in Rhode Island.

According to The National Park Service, a quarter of its properties are on or near the coast, and most of them have historic sites that could become vulnerable to a rise in sea level.

Rising sea levels threatening historic US sites