It’s not often that a building has not one, but three distinct and beautifully designed facades. Lucky for us, the 1926 Alumnae Hall at Pembroke College (now Brown University), fits the bill! Alumnae Hall on the Pembroke Campus was dedicated in October 1927 with funds for the building raised through the efforts of the Alumnae Association with Stephen O. Metcalf would duplicate all gifts of students and alumnae. The campaign continued until 1926, when the $50,000 contributed by the students and the $150,000 contributed by the alumnae, together with Mr. Metcalf’s matching funds, were deemed sufficient to start the building. The cornerstone was laid in May 1926 with the Boston architectural firm of Andrews, Jones, Biscoe and Whitmore as architects, who designed the building in the Colonial Revival style. Alumnae Hall, built of brick with limestone trim, was designed to accommodate the social and religious activities of the Women’s College. Its main entrance is a balustraded stone terrace on the campus leading to an auditorium on the main floor, the various sections create a visually stunning complex of wings and facades built into the landscape.
Preserve Rhode Island
The Elms // 1899
One of my favorite things to do each holiday season is to explore Newport and the mansions all gussied up with lights, ornaments and holiday cheer. This year, I visited The Elms, one of my absolute favorite buildings in Newport, which is a house museum! Stay tuned for some room features, similar to my series last year on The Breakers mansion.
The Elms was commissioned in 1898 by coal baron Edward Julius Berwind (1848–1936) and his wife Sarah Torrey Berwind (1856-1922) as a summer cottage where the couple could escape the woes of city life for a few weeks of every year. Edward was “new money” (his parents were middle-class German immigrants); and by the 1890s, he was hailed as “one of the 58 men who rule America”, making him one of Newport’s most important summer residents. To live up to his new status, he hired Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer, who took inspiration from the 18th century Château d’Asnières in France. The site on the iconic Bellevue Avenue is not directly on the water, so Trumbauer sought to enhance the siting of the mansion by elaborate landscaping (more on that later). The house was built to be fireproof, after the complete loss of the original Breakers mansion in 1892 and is clad with Indiana limestone. The couple held many lavish parties in the Elms until 1922, when Mrs. Berwind died. Mr. Berwind invited his youngest sister, Julia, to become his hostess at his New York and Newport houses. Mr. Berwind died in 1936 and Julia continued to summer at The Elms until her death in 1961. Childless, Julia Berwind willed the estate to a nephew, who did not want it and fruitlessly tried to pass The Elms to someone else in the family. Finally the family auctioned off the contents of the estate and sold the property to a developer who wanted to tear it down. In 1962, just weeks before its date with the wrecking ball, The Elms was purchased by the Preservation Society of Newport County for $116,000. It remains one of the most visited house museums in the nation to this day.
Lawton-Warren House // 1809
The Lawton-Warren House is one of the few large, brick Federal mansions in Newport, and is located a short walk from the Tillinghast House (last post) and the mysterious Newport Tower in Touro Park. The collapse of maritime trade in Newport following the British occupation was so complete that this house style, prevalent in Providence, is virtually nonexistent here. Robert Lawton was a sea captain and merchant who died at sea in 1818 off the coast of Africa and left the house to his wife, Penelope. After Penelope’s death in 1855, the traditional Federal style home was given Italianate detailing at the second floor. The home was likely painted around this time, which thankfully has been removed. The home was purchased in 1932 by George Henry Warren and his wife Mrs. Katherine Urquhart Warren. Katherine was a preservationist and art collector interested in preserving the Colonial town of Newport. To assist with this endeavor, she convinced the Countess Szycheni, a descendant of the Vanderbilt family and owner of The Breakers, to open The Breakers mansion to the public for tours. It was the start of the Preservation Society of Newport County. She would later be appointed by First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, to the committee to restore the White House in 1961. Katherine died in 1976, she willed the home here to the Preservation Society, and it held offices there until 1994. The home was sold to a private owner who restored the home to near original conditions, keeping the Italianate detailing.
Armington House // c.1863
This beautiful mansard-roofed home in Newport was long the residence of the Armington Family. The history is a little murky, but deed research shows the property was purchased in 1863 by Horace E. Armington, a Boston tailor. Horace likely purchased an earlier home and from it, built this larger, Second Empire style house to serve as a summer retreat. The family eventually settled in Newport full-time and their son, also Horace, took a job as Assistant Librarian at the Redwood Library in town. The family owned the property for generations until it was converted to professional office use, likely due to the commercialization in the 20th century of the main streets in Newport. The house retains much of its original detailing including the rooftop belvedere. The later-added shingle siding adds a rustic touch.