Old State House 150 Benefit Street Providence, RI 02903 | (401) 222-2678



957 North Main Street Providence, RI 02904 | (401) 272-5101


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 14, 2015

Contacts:   Sarah Zurier, RIHPHC, (401)222-4142,

Morgan Devlin, PRI, (401)272-5101 ext. 202,




 A professional preservationist from North Kingstown who launched the smart growth movement in Rhode Island and a local lumber company which completed a DIY storefront rehab on Wakefield’s Main Street are among the eleven people, projects, and places that will be honored at the sixth annual Rhode Island Preservation Celebration. The event will take place at the Dunes Club in Narragansett from 4:00 to 6:30pm on Sunday, September 27.

The Rhody Awards, chosen by Preserve Rhode Island (PRI) and the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) from nominations by the public, honor individuals, organizations, and projects for their contributions to the preservation of Rhode Island’s historic places.

Sheila Deming Brush of North Kingstown will receive the Frederick C. Williamson Professional Leadership Award. Dedicated. Methodical. Resourceful. Visionary. Brilliant. These are a few of the words Sheila’s colleagues use to describe her. For nearly 30 years, Sheila has applied these qualities to the causes of historic preservation and smart growth in Rhode Island, helping elected officials, advocates, and the general public understand the connections between the two.

Sheila joined the preservation movement in Rhode Island in the 1980s, volunteering at the Providence Preservation Society and later serving as its Director of Development. In 1997, while working at the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, Sheila organized a conference that brought preservationists, environmentalists, land conservationists, and business leaders together to tackle the problem of haphazard development in Rhode Island. Titled “Preserving Place, Growing Smart,” the conference attracted 600 people and led directly to the establishment of Grow Smart Rhode Island, the statewide leader in promoting sustainable and equitable economic growth.

Shelia spent the next 18 years at Grow Smart, providing operational support and strategic planning, securing the organization’s initial funding, and serving as its first staff person. She has applied her coalition-building skills to a wide range of programs and initiatives, from expanding housing affordability to strengthening food systems. In 2001, Sheila worked with a team of over 20 organizations and agencies to establish Grow Smart’s award-winning Land Use Training Collaborative, which has delivered workshops to more than 3,000 municipal officials, land-use practitioners, and historic district commission members. Sheila was instrumental in establishing Rhode Island’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit, a powerful tool for preservation and economic revitalization. When the tax credit was suspended, Sheila was critical to its reinstatement – mobilizing advocates, organizing testimony before legislative committees, and analyzing the program’s fiscal impact. Sheila retired from Grow Smart earlier this year, having played a central role in the organization’s development and its effectiveness.

When Sheila moved to Rhode Island, she was attracted to the sense of history, the mix of urban centers and rural countryside, and the ocean. It was here, she says, that she found a sense of belonging. Sheila’s career has been dedicated to ensuring that future generations may continue to find those special qualities that, fortunately for us, drew her to the Ocean State.

Arnold Lumber will receive a Project Award for rehabilitating the storefront of the Wakefield Branch Company. In 1874, William C. Caswell established a lumber and coal business on Wakefield’s Main Street adjacent to the Narragansett Pier Railroad. The complex expanded to include sheds, yards, and a two-story building with crisply corbelled brickwork, an inviting recessed entrance, and a handsome parapet atop the roof. For generations, “The Branch” served as a social center for local farmers, builders, and neighbors.

When Arnold Lumber purchased the property in 1990, the old storefront had already been modernized beyond recognition. The distinctive parapet had been removed to install a wood-shake mansard, while the rest of the storefront was hidden behind aluminum panels, vertical board siding, and a relocated aluminum-and-glass entryway.

An anonymous letter from a neighbor prompted the Arnold family to begin renovating their Wakefield property. Architect Frank Karpowicz drew up plans for refurbishing the Main Street storefront, but the project was put aside. At last in 2013, Arnold Lumber engaged local contractor Sweenor Brothers to remove the 1960s storefront. Under the wood siding, they discovered the old brickwork—largely intact but covered with canary yellow paint.

Guided by historic photographs, the contractors removed the paint, repointed the bricks, and replicated missing elements. The aluminum doors were replaced with a custom-made mahogany entryway set back in the original location. Wood sash were installed on the second floor to match the original windows. As a crowning touch, Sweenor Brothers painstakingly recreated the parapet, installing antique lettering designed by the Sign Guild as well as Arnold Lumber’s logos.

When the project was complete, the neighbor—no longer anonymous—wrote a second letter to thank Arnold Lumber for a job well done. The restored storefront not only enhances the historic village streetscape but also showcases Arnold Lumber’s products and the work of local tradespeople. What’s good for the neighborhood is also good for business.

The Rhode Island Preservation Celebration and Rhody Awards event is open to the public. Tickets cost $30 before September 23 or $35 at the door. To buy a ticket or request more information, call (401)272-5101 or visit


Antoinette F. Downing

Volunteer Service Award
Varoujan Karentz of Jamestown

Frederick C. Williamson

Professional Leadership Award

Sheila Deming Brush of North Kingstown

Community Award

Providence City Archives

Homeowner Award

Rita Danielle Steele

for the Rumford Library, East Providence

Project Awards

Audrain Building, Newport | Beaman & Smith Company Mill, Providence | James L. Hazard House, Newport

Old Slater Mill, Pawtucket | Providence G, Providence | Reuben and Emily Sweet House, Providence

Wakefield Branch Company Building, South Kingstown