Historic Structures

Samuel Tilton House, Newport Rhode Island

Date added: September 10, 2010 Categories: Rhode Island House

This house is an outstanding early building of the architects McKim, Mead, and White. An example of their "Shingle Style" work, it is characterized by open planning and richly textured surfaces on the exterior and interior.

Over-all dimensions: 68 1/2 feet by 58 feet; irregular rectangle; 3 1/2 stories.

Floor plan: The entrance on the west leads to a large stairhall at the northwest corner of the house. The parlor, dining room and studio are ranged from west to east along the south side. The kitchen at the northeast corner completes the plan of the first floor. The second floor has three principal bedrooms opening off a center hall to the northwest, the southwest and south, each with fireplace and built-in cupboards. The balconies off the northwest and south bedrooms are reached through double hung windows. The lower sash of the windows continues to the floor. The second floor has a fourth, small bedroom to the northeast, and a bathroom on the east side. The third floor is divided into two small simple bedrooms, one large bedroom, and a bathroom. The larger bedroom has a fireplace. A passageway from the large bedroom leads down several steps to a large room over the studio. There are three very small bedrooms on the fourth floor. Only the room under the studio in the cellar is finished.

Entrance Hall: The south wall has an elaborate fireplace with a pale orange marble facing, a marble shelf, with a mirror above. This composition is framed by slender colonettes. The other wall surfaces are panelled in dark, unfinished wood with either vertical combed surfaces or smooth surfaces with occasional insets of spindle work in rosette patterns. The panelling is seven feet high, finished with a cornice which runs around the room, leaving a band of wall sixteen inches wide to the ceiling. The cupboards along the north wall are framed as a part of the wall panelling. The stairway and the window north of the entrance door are screened with spindle work. The plaster ceiling is divided into panels by wood strips and framed with a denticulated cornice. Brass hinges and escutcheons with nail stud patterns are prominent decorative features. The edges and corners of the woodwork are emphasized by small scale, finely carved patterns, guilloche, fish scale, etc. The window south of the entrance door is filled with small panes of colored glass, square and round bottle glass.

Parlor: The parlor, at the southwest corner of the house, is reached through a six foot wide door at the right of the entrance hall. The elaborate fireplace composition is located on the north wall. The center opening with a marble facing is capped by a heavy mantel shelf carved with stylized leaf patterns similar to those in the reeded cornice above. The reeded wood overmantel has a large enframed oval mirror with four small circular enframed mirrors at the corners. The composition is flanked by built-in cupboards topped by niches with shell hoods. The cupboards have brass hinges and escutcheons. Built-in wood seats project from the fireplace wall and enframe the tile hearth. The built-in shelf work on the west wall suggests oriental designs. The south wall contains a group of three double hung windows with small panes of leaded glass in the upper sashes. The remaining plaster walls are covered with a textured wallpaper, originally a greenish gold color. The ceiling has been covered with beaver board.

Dining Room: Located at the center of the south side. It connects with the parlor, the entrance hall, the pantry, and the studio. The walls are panelled in dark wood. The north wall contains a built-in buffet with brass hinges and drawer pulls. The composition is topped by a decorative screen of elaborate spindle work. The east wall contains a built-in cupboard to the left of the fireplace and hearth. The plaster ceiling is painted a dark blue green. An open woven fabric of chair reeding covers this ceiling. Due to water damage, it is in need of repair.

Studio: The studio, at the southeast corner of the house, is entered through wide sliding double doors from the dining room. The doorway is divided by a pair of columns carved with a fish scale pattern. The room has a high wall cornice with wood panelling below and plaster wall above. A large window seat on the south wall is recessed within a frame of spindle work. A fireplace is set in one diagonal face of the polygonal north end of the room. The beamed ceiling is painted in greens and gold with a starry sky pattern.

Kitchen: The kitchen, at the northeast corner of the house, communicates with the dining room through a butler's pantry which is also accessible from the entrance hall. The kitchen contains a coal cooking stove and built-in cupboards. The pantry has glass front cupboards and counters with shelves below.