Perhaps it is because there are so few in a town noted for it’s stunning architectural diversity. But on a very late afternoon with a crystalline blue sky, at just the propitious time, there is nothing more breathtaking than Beachmound and Seaweed. Facing west, overlooking the water, these two white clapboard jewels reflect the sun’s rays and for a few brief minutes seemingly glow. You are fortunate if you can catch this sight during what many refer to as “the golden hour.”
It is a magical sight, prompting me to look with fresh eyes at some other noteworthy white homes in Newport. Of course, one of our most celebrated houses, Rosecliff, (under the aegis of the Preservation Society of Newport County) is inspired by the Grand Trianon at Versailles (see feature image at top). It’s appearance at sunset takes on a soft roseate glow. Might that be credited to the original materals (white glazed terra cotta) chosen for the facade?
Directly across the street from Rosecliff, Sherwood was built exactly thirty years before it’s celebrated neighbor. The wing at the far left is the ballroom, which was added later. Sherwood’s future was secured when the large private home was turned into apartments, and then condominiums; a practice that has saved many a fine home in Newport from being demolished.
Constructed in 1900, Vernon Court is a 30,000 square feet sumptuous American Renaissance “cottage” now housing the National Museum of American Illustration.
Bellevue House (only one of two homes in the country for which Ogden Codman was both the architect and the decorator) brings a distinct character to the beginning of the Bellevue Avenue residential corridor, looking more New England than Newport with its Federal Revival facade and complementary wooden gates. While the interior is an even greater contrast to the facade — a three-story Adamseque rotunda with apricot walls.
The house’s southern-facing garden side has a sleeping porch on the second floor to catch the evening breezes.
More typical of summer resorts in other parts of the Northeast, The Beeches, a comfortable grand dame built with lots of entertaining in mind, sports striped awnings on its southerly and westerly sides to shade the interiors from the season’s heat.
And in town, two representative sea captains’s houses provide a reminder that Newport was home to wealthy traders who made their fortunes in the Far East.
Interesting note…more white houses may have succumbed to the practice of “updating” them by literally building a new style facade around the existing wooden house. This was true of the Queen Anne cottages that went on to become Tudor style (Fairholm) or French stucco (Rock Cliff). And then there is Sherwood, shown earlier, that was originally built as a Stick Style cottage, then was remodeled in the Queeen Anne Revival Style and was given it’s Georgian Revival styling in 1906. Anything was possible on this limited real estate at the tip of Aquidneck Island.