Historic Structures

Malbone Mansion (J. Prescott Hall-Henry Bedlow House), Newport Rhode Island

Date added: August 27, 2010 Categories: Rhode Island House Mansion

The name "Malbone" is derived from the original structure on the site erected by Godfrey Malbone in 1741. According to contemporary accounts the structure was one of the largest and most magnificent dwellings in the Colonies. Built of pink sandstone from Mr. Malbone's plantation in Brooklyn, Connecticut, the house burned in 1766 on the seventh of June.

Built in 1849, this large castellated residence is the only example of Alexander Jackson Davis' work in Newport. Located on the ruins of Godfrey Malhone's country seat, the site was noted for its elaborate eighteenth century gardens.

Subsequently a two story wing was added to the north side of the house. According to Mary E. Powell, the wing was originally used as a library, but after the death of Mr Hall in 1862, the room was converted to the dining room by Henry Bedlow. The period from 1865 to 1890 saw numerous alterations and improvements made to the interior of the house and the outbuildings. In 1875, Dudley Newton, architect, and P.G. Case and Company builders, installed the elaborate staircase, entrance hall fireplace and the fireplace in the northwest parlor. William Barlow, carpenter, installed the black walnut panel work ornamented carving in three of the second floor rooms. This work was done in 1883. In recent years, Mr. Morris widened the verandah to a terrace and cut off the presumably rotted lower parts of the posts. The bookcases in the southeast room are from a Ludlow house in Ludlow on the Hudson. They correspond in date and style to "Malbone".

Over-all dimensions: About 40 feet by 80 feet; main block plus north ell:. 3 bays; 2 1/2 stories.

Floor plan: The original portion of the house has four areas. The northeast portion of the house contains the staircase, basement stairs entrance and closets. The southeast corner has a small parlor or reception room. The west side of the house is divided into two equal sized sitting rooms. The addition to the north contains a large dining room with a modern compact kitchen at the extreme north end. The second floor is similar to the first in plan.

Special decorative features: In the center of the north wall of the dining room between the two doors is a recessed sideboard with gothic trim The built-in sideboard is framed by columns with foliate capitals supporting a segmental arch within a rectangular composition. The wood fireplace mantel in the southeast reception room, a copy of the southwest parlor mantel, replaces the original which was marble. The hall and the northwest parlor fireplaces were remodeled when the new stairs were installed. The hall fireplace is of golden oak with gothic detailing and a mirror overmantel. The colors of the hearth tiles are gold, red, blue and white. Pink marble is used as facing on the fireplace. In the northwest parlor the fireplace is painted white. The architectural detail is of the "American Free Classic" with a mirror overmantel topped by a shield carving the picture of a castle. The hearth tiles are black and terra cotta in color laid in a running Greek key motif. There are several straight, high backed outdoor chairs with gothic detailing which appear to be original to the house.

The house, in a rural setting is aproached by a winding driveway. The longitudinal axis of the house is north-south with the entrance to the east and overlooking the Newport city dump to Narragansett Bay on the west.

Traces still remain today of the elaborate Malbone gardens which were in front of the mansion. According to contemporary descriptions there were three fish ponds, cedar trees various fruit trees, exotic flowers, rare shrubbery and a pink sandstone sundial. Until the construction of the present site for country walks. The remains of the estate were so famous that an attempt to establish them as a commercial venture was made in 1796 Presently the plantings are informal in their arrangement. A well within a wrought iron fence stands to the north of the house.