Barrington's own 'Downton Abbey' a victim of vandals

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One of the most historically significant buildings in town was vandalized last month.

A caretaker for the former Zion Bible Institute property in the north end of Barrington called police at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 25, to report that someone had broken into the Belton Court mansion and vandalized its interior.

Belton Court is an historic estate that was built in the early 1900s as the country home for Frederick Stanhope Peck, who was a noteworthy figure in Rhode Island politics at that time. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976; it is one of a handful of Barrington properties to be earn the distinction.

Local historian Elizabeth Warren has toured Belton Court and said it includes handsome woodworking, an attractive two-story fireplace in the main room and a dining room with beautiful oak paneling.

"It is our Downton Abbey," Ms. Warren said, adding that the mansion's interior was in good condition during her most recent visit a few years ago.

A group of people representing a company called Shineharmony Holdings, LLC., purchased the 39.5-acre property that includes Belton Court and a number of other buildings for $3.5 million at an auction in October 2011. Since the sale there has been very little done to the property, Belton Court in particular.

Ms. Warren said she had recently grown concerned about Belton Court.

"Any vacant building is a target (for vandals)," she said. "I drove by it the other day and I was thinking, this is an accident waiting to happen. … The owner has to show responsibility if they are serious about using it. … The big question is 'What is its future?'"

The extent of the damage done by vandals was not clear from the police report.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.