Historic Structures

Samuel Whitehorne House, Newport Rhode Island

Date added: September 22, 2010 Categories: Rhode Island House

This house built in 1810-1811, was the residence of Samuel Whitehorne, a prosperous Newport merchant in partnership with his brother, John, until they went bankrupt in 1843. It is a fine example of the large merchant houses built in the 18th and 19th centuries on Thames Street facing the owners' commercial properties on the waterfront.

The house was built for Samuel Whitehorne, a prosperous Newport merchant, who, often in partnership with his brother John, engaged in a variety of business undertakings, including a distillery, a merchant ship, an iron foundry and machine shop, and a bank. The Whitehorne brothers, nevertheless, went bankrupt in 1843, and the house was sold at auction in 1844, by which time Samuel Whitehorne had died.

In the mid 19th century, the two front rooms were altered to serve as store fronts, lowering the floor to grade level and carrying the front wall out to the sidewalk line. These store fronts were removed and the original wall line and floor levels were restored in 1969. The roof cupola was added about the same time. The interior of the house deteriorated as a slum apartment building during the mid 20th century, but light partitioning added for this purpose has been removed, and the basic fabric of the house is largely intact. Other major alterations include the removal of fireplaces on the first floor (except in the kitchen) and the relocation of the stairway. Sufficient evidence remains for authentic restoration of the stairway and central hall, as well as for many small details on the interior. The original entrance was altered by the addition of the storefronts. Growing evidence suggests the restoration of a semicircular entrance porch.

Over-all dimensions: 46 feet by 46 feet; square plan; 5 bays; 3 stories.

Floor plan: The central hall plan with the four principal rooms on the first and second floors also includes an unusual narrow room across the rear southeast corner on all three floors. There are six rooms on the third floor. The room arrangement is as follows: the kitchen at southeast on the main floor, the dining room with archway and closets probably at the southwest. The opposite side of the hall has a parlor at the front, the northwest corner, and a second parlor, office or bedroom with a large closet on the northeast corner. Judging from evidence in the floor, a smaller room was probably partitioned off from this northeast corner room. This partition was later removed, to enlarge the room. The fireplace was then relocated to the center of the north wall, blocking the east window. To compensate for this loss of light, the single window centered in the east wall was replaced by two flanking windows.