I’ve long wanted to write this post and a conversation with house guests was the welcome impetus. Naming one’s home is such a long-standing tradition in Newport. These names, and the intriguing (or amusing) stories that go with them, provide a little peek into our town’s culture. Until fairly recently, no actual address was needed for the postman to deliver his mail; the house name was sufficient.
We experienced this early on, when our weekend getaway was an apartment at The Waves, John Russell Pope’s former private residence. There’s still no definitive answer, though, as to why it was called The Waves — was it the forty-foot plumes that were thrown up when a storm hit the ledge island in front of the small peninsula? Or was it because the slate roof was designed with a ripple, or wave, pattern?
Of course there are the obvious name selections like High Tide (below), Moonwatch, The Ledges, Near Sea (and its sister house up on a hill, Far Sea). And then there’s Ocean View…occupied by two brothers and their families, their smaller cottage, on a side street, was named No View.
Or my Atlanta friend who chose a play-on-words for her small weekend landlocked getaway, Ranch-Sur-Mer (a rif on the Preservation Society’s mansion, Chateau Sur-Mer).
To this day I still have trouble sorting out Beachmound (below, facing Bailey’s Beach) versus Beechbound (surrounded by…beech trees!…and overlooking the harbor).
But again, there’s a lot to be said for clarity…
Clingstone is just too interesting to leave out even though it so states the obvious (as seen in this image from my book, Living Newport). Taking up the whole of its small ledge island, the house is still lived in today (it is shingled both on the outside as well as the inside). Positioned in the harbor between Newport and Jamestown, Clingstone surprisingly survived the storm surge that swept up Narragansett Bay during the devastating Hurricane of ’38 (lore has it that the owners opened all the doors and windows so the water went straight through the house).
Seaweed is a rather understated (in true Yankee fashion) name for a most handsome and wonderfully comfortable Newport home. But since it does have a view of the “weed” that often washes ashore, I knew that I had to have just this image for Living Newport.
Miramar (French for “By the Sea”) inspired an actual story line in Downton Abbey…Lord Grantham’s cousin, James Crawley, who was the Lord’s heir presumptive, and his son, Patrick, died in the sinking of the Titanic, throwing all the predictable succession plans into turmoil. As it played out in real life… Mr. and Mrs. George Widener, and their 27 year old son, in the design stages of their new home on Bellevue Avenue, sailed to Europe in 1912 to retain a chef. Their voyage home was on the Titanic. Only Mrs. Widener returned to Newport; her husband and son went down with the ill-fated ship. Three years later, she completed Miramar as a memorial to her husband.
And just up Bellevue Avenue from Miramar, on what is now our property, was the former nineteenth century mansion, BYTHESEA. Note that it is treated as one word, which is rather amusing when pronounced quickly.
Today, our new home on this location is called Parterre, a French design term for an “ornamental arrangement of garden beds of different shapes and sizes, that are delineated with paths between the designs.” This is so much more appealing than one witty neighbor’s nickname for the house as our building phase slowly moved along, Tyvek®-by-the-Sea (we miss you, Ronnie, and all of your peers who contributed so much to Newport’s unique personality).
Featured Image Credit, Meredith Brower.
7 thoughts on “What’s in a Name? Newport’s Private Residences”
I just loved this story! Did Mat ever tell you that his English house guest at No View would call it No Air as he lay in bed with a wet sheet over his head pining for the cool temperatures of England? You should continue your research on all the names of the houses in Newport as they are really amusing! So many have names of have hidden meanings (Clover Patch, Play House, Sea Fare (Hurricane Hut). The best story about a house name is “Win Fall”….. a fun blog! Kisses & hugs to Clicquot..
Our house is called “ShipWatch,” however during our remodeling which went on forever and ever it was nicknamed “ShipWreck!” What a fun story. I have always wondered where some
of the names of homes in Newport originated. Thanks, Bettie.
Too funny…and can’t we all relate?!
Thanks for the shout out, Bettie!!!!
Hi Bettie…..Your piece on the names of private residences in Newport just got moved to my file “Favorite Private Newport Blogs”….since I have always wondered about this naming tradition and now I’m in the know. Great piece !!
So enjoyed reading LIVING NEWPORT Houses, People, Style.
Is there a list somewhere of the seventeen properties covered in this book?
Thank you ever so much for your dedication and publication of all that is Newport, RI!
Hello Patricia,lovely to hear from you. “Living Newport” is almost out of print, so I’m glad you had a chance to read it.
The houses in the book are listed on the table of contents in the front pages of the book. Happy Fall!
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