We were told when this course began that we would learn the meaning of “Death March” or “Sherman’s March to the Sea”, well it is day one, and yup we learned it right away.
First stop was Trinity Church. It is important to begin with a bit of Newport history, which at this point in time, is Rhode Island history. First there were the Antimonians. To make it simple, but I hope not offensive in it’s trite treatment towards the history of RI: in 1639 the Antinomians came to Rhode Island and settled in Providence. Then Ann Hutchinson left Providence with a slightly different take on religion and came to the island, a further group broke from that sect and came to Newport. For this reason Newport has always been known as a town of religious freedom. This point is important architecturally because, unlike most every New England town, there are no churches on the main square of Newport.
So back to Trinity Church. Assumed to have been designed by Richard Munday,(1725) it was a period in history, where most likely, Munday was a good contractor with a lot of wealthy church members overseeing what they thought a church should look like. There is so much history here that everyone will be happy to discuss, things such as the fact that you paid for your pew, that is how the church paid for its building, also you were taxed on that payment, another stipend in the daily grind of taxes, well afforded by the wealthy and impossible for the poor. Also the stained glass window, Tiffany versus the older English.
The church is stunning in its simplicity, but what I truly loved was the flattened-groin vaulted ceiling, somehow not noticed in the overall impressiveness of the church.
So, yes a stop for a Lobster Roll. This time at Brick Alley Pub – FABULOUS! Then on to 18th Century Newport…
We began with the Colony House (1739), again attributed to Richard Munday. Because Rhode Island is actually Rhode Island and the Plantation of Newport it originally had five State Houses and one of them was the Colony House.
The house is a mish mash on the exterior, and the interior consists of several different centuries of architectural styles, so I will just hit on the things I found to be outstanding. Underneath the second remodeling are the original beams, which show that they were discarded ship masts, how cool is that?
This lamp was on the second floor, and part of the second phase of construction, I just thought it was gorgeous.
Gilbert Stuart was born and raised across the water from Newport, I don’t really think I need to explain further who he is, but it is fabulous to see so many of his paintings, simply hanging in buildings around Newport, OUT of the museum setting.
Next stop, the Wanton-Lyman-Hazzard House. Assumed to be the oldest surviving house in Newport, the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House was built for Stephen Mumford around 1697. Mumford was a merchant and a founding member of Newport’s Seventh Day Baptist congregation.
Beams in the Wanton-Lyman-Hazzard House
This house has had its fair share of lives. It had a few things of note, the fact that the second floor was the entertainment floor. This, of course, was the way that homes in Europe were designed with the Piano Nobile being the second floor, but it surprised me to find that we had adopted that in our architecture here.
A high point of this house is that restorationists have found what appears to be the first attempt at faux-painting, or “wall art”. While looking at it, I can hear Professor Wilson saying “You will never see anything like this anywhere else”. I am thinking, I hope not. I really wish there was more understanding on my part as to what was being attempted. However, what I did walk away with was an admiration for the beautiful structural beams and the original-growth planks on the floor that were so divinely wide they made me lust after them.
“Wall Art” and structural beams in the Wanton-Lyman-Hazzard House.
We then moved on to the Vernon House. (Before 1708 Renovated c. 1760) So many things I can say about it this house. First, it is where Rochambeau had his headquarters and possibly met with Washington to plan the battle of Yorktown. It is pretty well accepted that the plans were hatched in Newport, in this house… is speculation.
In 1758, Metcalf Bowler, purchased the house at the corner of Clarke, and Mary Streets. He expanded it to its current form around 1760. It is thought that the expansion was designed by architect Peter Harrison who is responsible for the Redwood Library, Touro Synagogue and the Old Brick Market. In 1773 it was purchased by another wealthy Newport merchant, William Vernon.
William Vernon, a supporter of the American rebellion and later the president of the Eastern Naval Board (precursor to the Department of the Navy), lived at Vernon House from 1773 to 1806. However, he left Newport during the British occupation in the Revolutionary War. During his absence, the Comte de Rochambeau, leader of the French forces in America, used the house as his headquarters.
What is phenomenal are the Chinese style paintings, thought to be painted by the original owner around 1740. They were covered up during the occupation and remodel by the second owner, and only discovered during a restoration in 1937. While I found that the artist had absolutely no sense of perspective, the ability to draw birds was breathtaking.
This was followed by the Hunter House. (c. 1748) The house was restored in the early 50’s and it speaks volumes about the lack of proper restoration and the lack of monies to do it correctly in this time period. However, the woodwork is just gorgeous.
The north half of Hunter House was constructed between 1748 and 1754 by Jonathon Nichols, Jr., a prosperous merchant and colonial deputy. After his death in 1756, the property was sold to Colonel Joseph Wanton, Jr., who was also a deputy governor of the colony and a merchant. He enlarged the house by adding a south wing and a second chimney, transforming the building into a formal Georgian mansion with a large central hall.
During the American Revolution, Colonel Wanton fled from Newport due to his Loyalist sympathies. His house was used as the headquarters of Admiral de Ternay, commander of the French fleet, when French forces occupied Newport in 1780. After the war, Colonel Wanton’s house was acquired by William Hunter, a U. S. Senator and President Andrew Jackson’s charge d’affaires to Brazil. The Hunters sold the house in the mid-1860s, and it passed through a series of owners until the mid-1940s.
Mrs. George Henry Warren initiated a preservation effort, purchasing the house in 1945 and forming The Preservation Society of Newport County. The Preservation Society restored Hunter House to the era of Colonel Wanton (1757 to 1779).
Furniture by Townsend and Goddard
The Goddard and Townsend families of Newport lend their name to an extensive body of New England furniture associated with Newport, Rhode Island in the second half of the 18th century.
Newport furniture is also associated with a distinct ball and claw foot, in which there is an open space carved between the talon and ball. Such a form is thought to be unique to Newport, though not unique to the Goddard or Townsend families.
We visited the home of Tom Robinson which had been in the family from the 1700’s until it was sold about 20 years ago. This broad, gambrel-roofed house is one of the best examples of Newport’s merchant residences of the 18th century. It was beautifully preserved, and full of wonderful sailing items, as the people that now own it are avid sailors. What, at this point in the day most likely stood out more than anything was the siting of the house.
The original three-bay, three room-plan house could have been built as early as 1725. Soon after the purchase of the land and house in 1760, Thomas Robinson enlarged the house to the north, adding a sitting or living room to the east and a kitchen to the west. The small entrance was enlarged to accommodate the symmetrical arrangement of windows and entrance on the street or east facade. This addition was deeper than the original house. Therefore there is an eight-foot projection on the west facade. The second and third floors have this same room arrangement–one room in the northwest corner and one in the northeast corner. In 1874-1875, Charles F. McKim converted the 1760 kitchen into a sitting room, adding a five-sided bay to the north. He placed a single story porch on the west facade, extending from the center hall axis to the old kitchen door on the north wall. A single-story kitchen ell with a decorative, shingled gable at the chimney was added to the south at this time. A roof-top gallery with squared and turned balusters and flame corner finials appears in photographs of the house taken after the addition of the kitchen….From Historic-Structures.com
St John’s Church (1891-94), across the street, was next. The new priest was especially delightful to me, as he was obviously a history buff. I am always drawn to art work done by the nuns of any church, as it is so rarely appreciated, displayed, or even acknowledged. There is a stunning painting in the Lady Chapel, sadly, I was unable to determine the name of the Nun that was responsible for the work, but the priest assured me it is in the church records.
I also, as a tile nut, was thrilled to see Monrovia tile in this church. The tiles in the pew area are Minton, but the tiles in the nave and chancel are Monrovia. I have written about Mr Mercer, the owner of Monrovia tile here.
The Church was designed by Frederick Clarke Withers, with Ralph Adams Cram adding the Lady Chapel between 1913 and 1916.
Our final stop, despite the death march and exhaustion, was still able to make ones jaw drop This was the Sanford-Covell house (William Ralph Emerson architect – 1870), now called Villa Marina.
I am starting with the peacock, because seriously, who doesn’t love a house with a stuffed peacock. That aside, I am leaving you with a house who’s woodwork, frescoed walls and simple grandeur of entry should speak for itself.
The Sanford-Covell Villa Marina was completed in 1870 by architect William Ralph Emerson for Milton H. Sanford of Pimlico Race Course fame. It is also known as the William King Covell III House.
William King Covell II bought the house in 1896 and it has remained in his family until this day. It is currently owned by Anne Ramsey Cuvelier, the great granddaughter of William King Covell II, who now runs the home as a Bed and Breakfast.
The truly difficult part about a class like this, is, after a day that had everyone dropping from exhaustion, a quick dinner of oysters and wine at the Black Pearl, I came back to the dorm and continued until midnight with stimulating conversations about restoration, historic preservation and how all of it fits into life in general with great young minds. I am loving it, but it is now 1:00 in the morning. – Good night all!