Strolling through Time
An Architectural Tour of Newport Doorways
The Newport Landmark Historic District has more restored homes than any other city in Colonial America. With well over two hundred period homes of the 18th century, half along the waterfront in the Point area, and the balance throughout Historic Hill. Newport showcases one of the most diverse displays of architectural doorways. Early Colonial designs line the cobblestone streets.
In Colonial Newport, the Quakers and Jews helped transform 17th century architecture. But simple Federal style doorways soon changed in the18th century. Homes built at that time were straightforward in design. The style of the two story structures were not built from an architect’s sketch or a blue print but as styles passed on from generation to generation. Wood shingles covered all sides of the exterior with only the wealthy showing off the front with clapboard. The homes were then painted in a colorful array of rich blue, green, red, and black, imitating the Colonists native soil. At that time, white paint was so costly; it was used singularly on the door facades. A competition of sort took place in the 18th century resulting in elaborate and fancy doorways.
One of Newport’s oldest surviving residences of the 17th century is the Wanton-Lyman Hazard House. The home was originally built as a two story with two single rooms on either side of the chimney. Then used as a private residence and home to a Colonial Governor, merchants, lawyers, and craftsmen it was the site of the Stamp Act riot in 1765. A clear illustration of the luxuriant Georgian style entry way is shown on Hunter House. This architectural style gave birth to an elegant entryway as viewed on the fishermen’s homes along the waterfront in the Point section.
Simple 18th century doorways on the Point display top lights, flat colonial casings and raised panel doors, noticeably aesthetic to the eye but simple in design.
As the century progressed, more elaborate entry ways can be viewed at Betsy Coddington House, Christopher Townsend’s, and Thomas Townsend’s doorways.
Travel from the waterfront along the pasts of our ancestors to the heart of the city at Historic Hill, to view yet another display of noteworthy doorways.
Many of the uncomplicated homes erected in the 18th century were distinguished from others by means of creating detailed doorway styles, this was one way to show-off your individuality and to make a statement to your neighbors.
As you meander along Division Street, the embellishments of the historic doorways became more complex and larger in fashion.
The Georgian style featured Pediments without lights of glass contrasting to the ornate Greek revival enhanced with top and side lights. A perfect example of the Greek revival illustration reveals decorative Capitals, fluted full-round columns with an attic base in addition to rectangular columns and recessed panels.
One of the most sophisticated doorways is found on the corner of Pelham and Corne Street, presenting Scamozzi Capitals, fluted rectangular and full rounded columns painted in hues of gold and green, a magnificent display of architecture, color, and style. And of course, as the grand finale, we can’t forget, for the most part, color. Hues of crimson, tangerine, and yellow beautify this unique demonstration of architecture and style found on Bellevue Avenue across from the Hotel Viking.
Capping our tour of historical doorways, many of the homes located on the Colonial streets of Newport amass distinctive and structural doorway designs depending on the century in which they were built. In taking the time to walk the narrow streets you can attain a glimpse of the doorways in days gone by, notably as a historical timeline of impressive architecture.
The Kitt Shepley House
23 Division Street Newport, RI 02840