Living with Style, People, Places & Spaces, The Newport Diary

Carriage and Gate Houses of Newport, Part 2

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There are more carriage and gate houses in Newport than I had ever imagined, so here is part 2 as a wrap-up to my summer post on the subject. I must confess that I’m partial to these wonderful outbuildings to many of the private properties in Newport, especially as they so often reflect the specific architecture of the main house…stone, shingle, brick or stucco. On the edge of town, out on Ocean Drive and environs, many of the structures tend to be the blue-gray stone quarried from this ledge island itself. The two handsome examples above and below housed the carriages and cars to Beacon Hill House (famous for its Blue Garden), which burned down in 1967.

On the same hill, the carriage house to Wyndham has seen the inner “horse shoeing” courtyard turned into the great room for this comfortable home.

The fascination for me with carriage and gate houses is not only their often smaller size but how much this varied scaling adds visual interest to a neighborhood. Many, especially the carriage houses, are large enough for present owner’s living needs, while others have served as the core for expansion projects. Fortunately, many retain identifying details of their former use, as here at Wrentham with the hay loft doors to the right on the second level and the large carriage door in the wing on the left.

And some others serve as guest houses.

The Beacon Rock carriage house is a residence with a particularly impressive pedigree. Designed in 1881 by McKim, Mead, and White, the eleven thousand square foot building later functioned as a studio for the well known sculptor Felix de Weldon, most famous for his statue of The Flag Raising on Iwo Jima.  Converted years ago to a residence, the former carriage house has it’s own idyllic view of Newport Harbor at the bottom of the sweeping three acre lawn.

Some structures stand out for their considerable architectural charm, like Normandy on Ocean Drive. A true gate house with its own kind of Gallic aesthetic, the tile-roofed structure mirrors the main residence that can be clearly seen through the arch.

While just up Ocean Drive, a pair of very small gate houses repeat the old red brick construction of the main residence that recalls the English countryside.

Back in town, one of my favorite gate houses has always been this quirky yet charming example on the Bel Air estate, whose architectural idiosyncrasies are repeated in the carriage house further down the drive (second image).

As a close I have chosen what could easily have been a carriage house but was actually the kennels to Gray Craig. An intriguing, scaled down version of the main house, “even the architects couldn’t believe it was being built for dogs, (and 35 of them!)” as one family member recalled. Included in my first book Private Newport:  At Home and in the Garden, it comes with a delicious story “of its time”… the Pekingese, which were bred there, each had their embroidered pillowcase washed and ironed daily. And every autumn when the family went abroad, the matriarch took her favorites with her in specially made Chinese Chippendale carrying cases with red satin cushions. Of course!

Look around you, there may be a carriage or gate house that you’ve missed.

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

6 thoughts on “Carriage and Gate Houses of Newport, Part 2

  1. Fabulous article, Bettie … Parts 1 and 2! I’m a fan of the many gorgeous carriage houses and gate houses in the Newport area, too. Your Facebook post was shared over to the Mansions of the Gilded Age FB forum, and we’ve had fun there adding several other Newport carriage houses and gate houses to the thread. There’s lots, all tucked away, as you well know. And, I’m sitting in one, as I type this … the Havemeyer stable on Coggeshall … one of the larger ones in town.

    Again, many thanks for sharing this history and these fabulous photos!

  2. Bettie, when you are preparing the next installment of carriage and gate houses don’t forget the gate house at Shamrock Cliff, now Oceancliff! It is unchanged and in excellent condition.

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