The Isaac Bell House & Its Neighbors: Progressive Architecture

The Isaac Bell House & Its Neighbors: Progressive Architecture (HM211I)

Location: Newport, RI 02840 Newport County
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Country: United States of America
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N 41° 28.768', W 71° 18.549'

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During the 1870s and 1880s, architects pioneered a new type of American house based on a more open design and the use of organic materials.
Queen Anne, Stick, and Singles Style houses, with their half-timbering and rustic shingles, contrasted sharply with the ornate decoration and brilliant colors of earlier Victorian houses of the 1860s.
The Isaac Bell House was a revolutionary design when it first appeared in 1883. The informality of its plan and use of natural wood shingles became the basic features of housed in the Shingle Style, which laid the foundation for modern American house of the early 1900s by such notable architects as Frank Lloyd Wright.

Voices from the Past
"But to the student of domestic architecture, Newport is the most interesting of our summer colonies— Colonial houses are abundant...
Its newer portions show a characteristic instance of that way of (American) village planning...
Wide streets of detached houses, each with its own small lawn and garden, and all overshadowed by thickset and lofty trees."
Marianna Griswold van Rensselaer "American Country Dwellings" The Century Magazine, May 1886

"One phase in American domestic architecture...the wooden, suburban building of the period 1872 to about 1889...developed...into a unique American achievement
in architecture, one which has since been acclaimed by the whole world."
Vincent J. Scully, Jr., Professor of Architectural History, Yale University, writing the Stick and Shingle Style (1955)

Bellevue Avenue: A Preservation History
The Preservation Society of Newport County

Bellevue Avenue National Historic Landmark District

Bellevue Avenue is a treasury of American architecture from the 19th and early 220th centuries. Generations of the nations's leading architects made Newport a laboratory for design during the city's "cottage" construction boom. This remarkable architectural legacy in America culture was almost lost through demolitions and neglect during the latter half of the 20th century.

This self guided walking tour consists of several history markers along both sides of Bellevue Avenue. Most of the buildings on this tour are private residence. Please respect their privacy.

The Bellevue Avenue History Marker Project is sponsored by the Preservation Society of Newport County, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to preserving Newport's architectural heritage.
For more stories and photos of the architecture, history and preservation of Bellevue Avenue, visit and click on education.

1. Isaac Bell House (1881-1883)
Architects:McKim, Mead
and White

· Isaac Bell, descended from a prominent colonial Connecticut family, retired at age 30 from the cotton brokerage business in New York City with a fortune he made, inherited, and acquired by marriage. His bother-in-law, James Gordon Bennett was heir to the New York Herald newspaper empire.

· Isaac Bell commissioned the new firm of McKim, Mead and White to build his Newport summer house just as the architects were completing the Newport Casino for James Gordon Bennett.

· The open plan-partly inspired by traditional Japanese houses-and the building's organic relationship with the landscape made a revolutionary architectural statement in 1883. The patronage of Newport families like the Bells, Bennett's, and Kings fostered the innovative design of McKim, Mead and White, who became one of the most fashionable and prolific architectural firms of there late 19th century.

· After a series of owners and a period as a nursing home, The Preservation society of Newport County acquired the building in 1994. The Isaac Bell House is now a National Historic Landmark.
Isaac Bell House and detail of dolphin porch bracket (photo 2009)
Interior detail
Breton woodwork
Isaac Bell House (photo 2005)

2. East Court (c. 1855)
Architects?Builders: Original unknown; alterations by J. D. Johnston, 1886-1887

· Coal
magnate Edward Julius Berwind purchased the Italianate style East Court in 1912 as one of three adjacent guest houses for his estate at The Elms.

· Upon the dissolution of the Berwind estate, the house was divided into tow town houses.

· East Court is once again a single private residence.
East Court (photo c, 2005)

3. LeRoy King House (1884-1886)
Architects: McKim, Mead and White

· LeRoy King, a descendant of the King family of Newport, selected McKim, Mead, and White to build his villa in the Queen Anne Revival style. The architects had just completed the dining room of Kingscote one block north for his cousin, David King, Jr., and a house for Isaac Bell across the street.

· With fortunes made in the China Trade, real estate, and finance, members of the King family began building impressive houses in this neighborhood in the 1840s. They continued as patrons of the finest American architects through the early 20th century.

· LeRoy King's son, Fredrick Rhinelander King, studied architecture at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris and worked for McKim, Mead and White before opening his own practice.

· The house is still a private residence.
LeRoy King House (photo 2009)

4. C. H. Baldwin House (1877-1978)
Architects: Potter and Robinson

· Rear Admiral Charles H. Baldwin built this Queen Anne Revival style cottage and names it Snug Harbor.

· The sweeping gables, half-timbering, and open floor plans of Queen Anne Revival style houses of the 1870s laid the groundwork, for the revolutionary design of the Shingle Style of the 1880s.

· Admiral Baldwin's house was targeted in a well-publicized theft:

"Another daring robbery, causing heavy loss, was successfully accomplished this evening in the cottage of Rear-Admiral Charles H. Baldwin... About 7:15, while the Admiral and Mrs. Baldwin were entertaining a party of friends for dinner, noise was heard in the second story, and as no one should have been there servants went up stairs to see what was the matter. A glance showed that a robbery had been committed... The cracksmen were experienced hands, having got through the roof into the second story. The loss is estimated at several thousand dollars."
(The New York Times, September 13, 1885 "Robbery at Newport")

The robber, noted Chicago thief Charles Engle, was apprehended ten months later.

· The house remains a private residence.

C. H. Baldwin House (photo 1950)
HM NumberHM211I
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, August 24th, 2017 at 1:01pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)19T E 307204 N 4594558
Decimal Degrees41.47946667, -71.30915000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 41° 28.768', W 71° 18.549'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds41° 28' 46.08" N, 71° 18' 32.94" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)401
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 70 Perry St, Newport RI 02840, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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