“Breakwater” – Charles W. Lippitt Mansion // 1899-1924

Photo courtesy of Providence Public Library

Rhode Island is home to some amazing old homes, but “Breakwater”, the Charles W. Lippitt Mansion was NOT one of them! Former Governor, Charles Warren Lippitt (1846-1924), the son of Governor Henry Lippitt, wanted to be a member of Gilded Age society in Newport, after spending his time in Providence all year, so he had this absolute fortress built. Poor taste did not run in the family, as his father’s Providence mansion was very tasteful (featured on here previously). Breakwater was built on the southern tip of Newport, ironically across the street from Edith Wharton’s tastefully designed cottage, Land’s End (also featured on here recently). Wharton used the term “White Elephants” to describe the influx of massive, masonry mansions that replaced the traditional wooden cottages, similar to what she observed with the Vanderbilt estate, The Breakers. It is understood now why Edith Wharton abruptly moved when this monster of a house was built right next door! Architect Robert H. Robinson designed the fortress – erh I mean house…- and it remained on the site only until Lippitts death in 1924, when the castle was demolished by his son to make the property more marketable for sale. The property was purchased in 1926 by John Russell Pope, an architect, designed his own Tudor style home, “The Waves” (featured on here previously) atop the ruins of the previous estate. MUCH better!

Governor Waller Castle // c.1905

Who doesn’t love a good castle?! This stunning stone house atop a hill in Neptune Park, a neighborhood of summer cottages at the southern tip of New London, CT, was built around 1905 for Thomas M. Waller (1839-1924), an attorney and 51st Governor of Connecticut. Some estimate that the “castle” is much older (1850s), and was built by Samuel Mackenzie Elliott, a prominent NY doctor and abolitionist, but I could not prove that, though the street name “Elliott Ave” is a good starting point. The home was occupied by former Governor Thomas Waller as a summer retreat while he ran his legal office in downtown New London. The home suffered neglect (and possibly a fire) and was partly rebuilt with a new rear wing fronting the ocean proving amazing views of the Long Island Sound.

Beckett’s Castle // 1874

On a rise above the Cape Elizabeth’s rocky shore stands Beckett’s Castle, a picturesque Gothic cottage of a century ago. Designed and built by the Portland literary figure Sylvester Beckett for his summer residence, the Castle was begun in 1871 and finished in 1874. It is said that Beckett constructed the cottage from local gray fieldstone largely with his own hands, though he must have had help, or fabricated this fiction as he would have in his own books. The home was patterned after a typical English castle, but on a much smaller scale, and is tucked away from the street. Sylvester Blackmore Beckett was born in Portland, Maine in 1812, as the son of English parents. Although never attending college, he acquired a modest education and became a prominent journalist and articulate writer. He was admitted to the bar in 1859 and spent much of his time administering and settling estates becoming well-connected in town. Beckett held massive parties in the home, and invitations to the social gatherings held there were highly prized; guests were served expansive dinners cooked in primitive fashion in a large fireplace. Sylvester Beckett died in 1882, and went to his only child, Lizzie. The home fell into disrepair in the 1970s, but was restored by the most recent owner. It was sold in 2018, and the listing photos show some great interior spaces.

Warren Armory // 1842

A castle in Rhode Island! Well not quite. At the conclusion of the Dorr Rebellion, where a mini Civil War in the state occurred, the State of Rhode Island gave the Warren Artillery Company $1500 for their loyal support during the conflict for the construction of an armory. Architect Russell Warren was reported to have designed Armory Hall, which is a one-story gable roof, Gothic Revival structure with two hexagonal castellated turrets. The building’s two turrets stand on either side of large arched front doors and were designed to house two Revolutionary War cannon. These cannon, named Pallas and Tantae, were built in Strasbourg, France in 1862 and were also given to the Warren Artillery Company for their support during the Dorr’s Rebellion. During the American Civil War, the Warren Artillery Company served with the Ninth Regiment of Rhode Island.

By WWI, the Artillery Company effectively disbanded and Armory Hall was rarely used. After WWII, with large numbers of returning veterans, the American Legion Post in Warren purchased the building for just $10! Over the years the crenellations on the two turrets deteriorated and were removed. Since 2012, a group has been restoring the historic armory back to its former glory to be used for functions and events.

Hazard Castle // 1846

Set on 38 acres of land in Narragansett, Rhode Island, Hazard Castle stands prominently over the tree-line expressing designs of medieval European forts. The building was begun in 1846 as the main house for Joseph Peace Hazard’s seaside farm and was supposedly modeled after an abbey which Hazard had seen in England. The tower, which is 105 feet tall, was apparently constructed as a platform from which Hazard could more easily
communicate with his deceased ancestor’s spirits. The tower was completed in 1884. The Providence Catholic Diocese bought the property from the Hazard family in 1951 as a retreat house, and now is home to the Middlebridge School, a private boarding school for children with learning difficulties.

Joseph Hazard (1807-1892) lived in Peace Dale (now part of South Kingstown) Rhode Island and became involved in the family textile mill owned by his brothers Rowland G. and Isaac P. Hazard. Joseph was admitted to the partnership of “R.G. Hazard & Co.” in 1828; this business later became the Peace Dale Manufacturing Company. In his latter part of his life, Hazard was instrumental in the development of Narragansett Pier as popular summer resort.

Hazard Castle c. 1890 after completion of tower. Courtesy of Digital Commonwealth.