A Short History
The Kaiser Aluminum plant covered nearly every inch of what is now Carnegie Harbor Drive, The Carnegie Tower and the Royal Cottages at Carnegie Village. This photo, taken in 2001, shows the sprawling industrial complex with its 220-foot wire manufacturing tower. Strands of cable passed from the top floors to the bottom as they underwent various manufacturing processes. On the ground floor, the coated cable was cut, spooled, loaded onto trucks and driven away.
Local attorney, Eric Chappell recalls a tour of the Kaiser facility, “This is the only property tour I have ever done that required a car.”
2001: Sale to Carnegie Abbey Developer
The property had been vacant for over 10 years when developer, Peter de Savary, purchased the 53 acre complex for $4,250,000. The previous year, Mr. de Savary had opened The Carnegie Abbey Club, an exclusive golf and sporting resort on Narragansett Bay created on 350 acres of farmland leased from the Benedictine monks at Portsmouth Abbey. The acquisition of the Kaiser land provided the opportunity to create a luxury neighborhood centered around life at The Carnegie Abbey Club.
Demolition of the Kaiser Loading Docks and R&D Complex
At the time of purchase, no one understood how difficult it would be to remove the existing research, development and trucking facility on the ground level. The long, low building surrounding the manufacturing tower sat on a concrete slab over 6 feet deep and 10 acres wide.
Removing the massive building was slow and painstaking, but eventually, the debris was carted away, the land was subdivided into condominium lots, roads were built, utilities installed and lots went on the market to members. The Tower remained while plans for its future proceeded.
Carnegie Waterfront Lot Sales
In 2002 and 2003 the demand for luxury waterfront land was strong – so strong, in fact, that buyers interested in purchasing waterfront lots were also required to buy one of the “Land Yacht” units on the second floor of The Golf House. Enthusiastic buyers made the dual purchase, kept or resold the Golf House units and started construction along Carnegie Harbor Drive. Shortly thereafter, large, elegant shingle-style homes with exquisite views of Narragansett Bay began to take shape and the neighborhood emerged. The photo above left was taken in October 2015.
For a current list of ALL Carnegie properties for sale, click here.
Village? Tower? Pond? Tennis? The Evolving Plan
Plan for the Village around the Kaiser Tower went through several iterations. The rendering here shows one plan later rejected in favor of a renovated tower and 21 smaller lots now known as The Royal Cottages.
View 2015 aerial photos, subdivision map, home plans and other listing details for Carnegie Village homes here.
Changing the Shoreline
Adapting the coastline to accommodate a protected 41-slip marina, areas for run off and existing wetlands, required many hours of planning and negotiation with Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council (a.k.a. CRMC). Where land was filled, compensatory wetlands were added nearby. The marina, originally planned to extend out from the shoreline at the northwest end of the property (see photo below), was carved into the coast at the end of Willow Lane. The engineering was complex and ambitious, but it moved along in an environmentally sensitive manner in compliance with state regulations.
In 2004 O’Neill Properties purchased the 53 acre Kaiser site for $13M. The old tower was torn down and a new high-rise was built on the existing footprint with 79 condominium units. It was completed in 2009. The penthouse unit occupies the entire top floor offering 360 degrees of unparalleled views of the Bay including Newport, Providence and Warwick.
Early Plans for Carnegie Village, Carnegie Tower and Carnegie Marina
A few images of early concepts.
Before Kaiser Aluminum: Coal Mining
Few Portsmouth residents know about the vast network of abandoned coal mines beneath northwestern Aquidneck Island. In fact, some of the water used to irrigate the Carnegie Abbey golf course comes from these mines which are now filled with water. At one time, there was a plan to bottle the water under a private Carnegie label. Read more here. The mining operation included a railroad, housing for miners and their families and coal processing machinery and buildings. When Kaiser plant was under construction, hidden mine shafts were discovered along with vestiges of a railroad that transported coal from of the mines.
Notation on back of photo to right: “Portsmouth Coal Miners. Tall man in center: John W Marshall, on his right is Tom Hughes, the company clown & fiddler. Extreme right: Dr. Steele. Man kneeling: Souza (?)” Provided by John T. Pierce, Sr.
At this writing, 14 remaining developer lots on Carnegie Harbor Drive and Carnegie Village are for sale awaiting the next chapter in the development of this unique and beautiful area.