Woodbine Cottage // 1873

George Champlin Mason (1820-1894) can be credited as one of the most influential people who helped make Newport what it is today. He was born in the old Colonial town in 1820 and after a brief period working in New York City in dry goods, he traveled to Europe in his twenties to study art in Rome, Paris, and Florence, specializing in landscape paintings. Mason spent the 1840s trying unsuccessfully to make a living as landscape painter and published Newport and Its Environs, a collection of 11 engravings of his landscape views of Newport that is one of the earliest books about Newport to showcase its potential as a vacation destination. In 1851, Mason switched professions and became part owner and editor of the Newport Mercury newspaper. He often wrote on architectural subjects. In around 1858, he took his love for art and architecture and became an architect/developer, just as Newport was seeing early stages of development as a summer colony. He was hired by some early summer residents to design their homes, and did not disappoint, gaining notoriety all over the northeast. His son George C. Mason, Jr. (1849-1924), followed in his father’s footsteps and is said to have been the first professional architectural preservationist in the United States. George Sr., built this house as his primary residence in 1873, a stunning and rare example of Swiss Chalet architecture in New England, notable for the use of pierced bargeboards, board-and-batten sheathing, and cut-out railings. The property also included a charming stone English Revival tower in the rear yard, built in the 21st century as a workshop for the previous owners. How cool!

Ms. Rebecca Jones Cottage // c.1870-1899

Formerly located adjacent to “The Lodge” (last post) on Newport’s iconic Bellevue Avenue, this mansion once stood and today, would be one of the finest in town, but it suffered a similar fate as its neighbor. The home was built for Rebecca Mason Jones (1803-1879), a widow (who married her first cousin) and daughter of wealthy New York banker and developer, John Mason. Rebecca made money from her late father’s estate, developing some parts of Manhattan. For her summer residence, she hired local society architect, George Champlin Mason to design the cottage. The cottage was razed in 1899 for Rose Villa, which also necessitated the demolition of the two neighboring mansions (more on that tomorrow).

The Villa – Sigourney House // 1864

Margaret Barker Sigourney was the wife of Boston lawyer Henry Sigourney (1783–1849). In 1864, just as the Civil War was coming to a close, Sigourney purchased a piece of land on Bellevue Avenue in Newport soon after the time that Newport had been rediscovered as a tourist destination for the elite class. Sigourney wanted to make a splash as a single woman summering in Newport, so she hired local architect George Champlin Mason to design her cottage in the fashionable Second Empire style. The refined facade is more academic, while the rear and side facades exhibit porches with delicate bargeboards and trim. Sigourney spent summers at her cottage with her only son until 1873 when he and his family perished and were lost at sea aboard the Ville du Havre, when it collided in the Atlantic with another ship, killing a total of 226 aboard the ships, many of which drowned and their bodies never recovered. Alone, Margaret Sigourney continued to spend her summers in Newport until her own death in 1885.

“Seaweed” Cottage // 1860

“Seaweed” is a spectacular oceanfront estate situated on Newport’s famed Cliff Walk and overlooking Bailey’s Beach. This home is three-stories with an enormous enclosed porch that offers sweeping views of the Atlantic from all windows. The house consists of 16 rooms including an inviting foyer, nine bedrooms, seven bathrooms, dining room, and living room, all with original fireplaces, flooring, and detail throughout. Views of the sea are from nearly every room. “Seaweed” was originally built and owned by Mr. Henry Howard in 1860-61. It was altered in 1867 by renowned architect George Champlin Mason. Within a decade it was sold to Mr. C. Davis who passed it on to George T. M. Davis. In the 1880’s the property became a rental property owned by Alfred Smith, a real estate agent who lived near the center of town. In the early 1900’s it was purchased by Thomas Dolan of Philadelphia who re-baptized the home “Seaweed” after having architect Horace Trumbauer bring it to its present Colonial Revival style. The name is one of my favorites! What do you think of the name Seaweed for a home?

Codman Place // 1870

In 1870, unmarried sisters of the esteemed and respected Codman Family of Boston, Catherine Elizabeth and Maria Potter, commissioned this house from the Newport Rhode Island architect George Champlin Mason. Like many who built in Bristol after the Civil War, the sisters seemed to view the location as a kind of suburb of fashionable Newport. In 1875 they were joined by their brother Henry Codman, who was given a large tower addition to dwell in, preserving the architectural significance to the Second Empire style home. Henry died in 1879, only four years after his tower was constructed, Catherine died in 1898, and Maria died in 1902 and the house was sold soon after her death. The home was converted to seven condominium units in the 1980s, yet retains its architectural grandeur from the delicate iron cresting at the roofs, down to the historic 2-over-2 windows.