2009-09-17 / Front Page

JHS house tour offers glimpse of a bygone era

By Rosemary Enright

The Mallinckrodt Cottage is the most elaborate and best preserved of the summer homes built on Shoreby Hill at the turn of the last century. Photo courtesy of the Jamestown Historical Society The Mallinckrodt Cottage is the most elaborate and best preserved of the summer homes built on Shoreby Hill at the turn of the last century. Photo courtesy of the Jamestown Historical Society History buffs can take a walk through a few of the island’s oldest homes this weekend as the Jamestown Historical Society kicks off its annual tour of historic Jamestown homes.

Four houses on Shoreby Hill, designed in 1896 as a private garden-like district of summer cottages, will be featured on the tour. Visitors will tour an ancient farmhouse, the much-transformed Bevins house and a shingle-style bungalow. On Friday evening, members of the JHS are invited to a preview party that includes a tour of a colonial revival house overlooking Narragansett Bay.

The Shoreby Hill neighborhood itself, with its curving streets, strict building codes, sewer and water systems, waterside green and other amenities, was a novel approach to town planning in its day. Its layout was intended to create a community with the conveniences of the “city” in a relaxed country setting.

Turnbull cottage Turnbull cottage Greene farmhouse

One of the stops on the JHS tour, the Greene farmhouse at 55 Longfellow Rd., is the oldest house in Shoreby Hill. Although no one is sure of exactly when the original house was built, some sources say it was built in 1672 – with the possibility that at least part of it was moved from elsewhere to the farm. Other evidence suggests that David Greene built the house shortly after he purchased the farm in 1712.

The Greene farmhouse is notable because it is one of the few structures anywhere on the island to have survived the American Revolution. Located just yards north of the path that British troops took in December, 1775, as they systematically burned all but one house on Narragansett Avenue, tradition holds that the British commander spared the farm because its Quaker mistress offered him a cup of tea.

Greene farmhouse Greene farmhouse The last Greene to own the house died in 1839. He left a complicated will that was declared invalid in 1891, making way for the sale of the property to the Jamestown Land Company, a company founded by two St. Louis entrepreneurs to develop Shoreby Hill.

Turnbull cottage

Visitors on the JHS tour will also see the Turnbull cottage. It was designed by Charles Bevins, the premier architect in Jamestown in the 1880s and 1890s, although the St. Louis men on Shoreby Hill preferred to build cottages more like their midwestern homes.

The location of this Bevins house in the Shoreby Hill subdivision is almost accidental.

He designed the cottage for Dr. Laurence Turnbull, a Philadelphia physician. It was originally located on what is now Union Street. Turnbull’s daughter and son-in-law, Jeanie T. and John F. Joline, moved the house to its current location at 15 Priscilla Rd. in 1901.

Many changes have been made to the house over the years. Soon after its move to the Shoreby Hill neighborhood, the cottage was enlarged. Approximately 50 years later, its front porch was removed.

The present owner of the Turnbull cottage has not tried to reverse these changes, but has tried to create a whole that reflects Bevins’ architectural vision.

Primrose cottage

The “newest” house on the tour is the 95-year-old Primrose cottage at 95 Longfellow Rd., a structure that speaks to another aspect of summer life in Jamestown in the first half of the 20th century – the presence of the U.S. Navy.

Primrose cottage, a graceful and sophisticated shingle-style bungalow, features single unbroken gable sweeps from the peak to the front of the wide porch, which integrates the porch with the building and creates the illusion of an open-air room. The cottage was built by Etha Rhett, the granddaughter of Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren, head of the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance during the Civil War.

All of the cottage’s owners until 1989 had close connections to the U.S. Navy – by which time the Navy’s presence in Narragansett Bay had greatly diminished. Its new owners have worked to retain the house’s historic charm.

Mallinckrodt cottage

During Friday evening’s preview party, JHS members will tour Mallinckrodt cottage. Edward Mallinckrodt and his brothers founded the company now known as the Mallinckrodt Group Inc. in 1867.

By 1898-1899, when the only surviving brother built the colonial revival summer cottage at 41 Emerson Rd., Mallinckrodt Chemicals was one of the chief producers of anhydrous ammonia, a chemical needed in the burgeoning business of refrigeration.

Edward Mallinckrodt’s success is reflected in his house – the most elaborately detailed house on Shoreby Hill.

Its deep porch is more than 100 feet in length and stretches in one continuous sweep around three sides of the house, offering a panoramic view of the Shoreby Hill green and Jamestown harbor.

In the past 110 years, this house has had only five owners and is remarkably unchanged.

The Jamestown Historical Society’s house tour weekend starts with a members-only preview party at the Mallinckrodt cottage tomorrow, Sept. 18, from 5 to 7 p.m.

On Saturday, Sept. 19, the Greene farmhouse, the Turnbull cottage and the Primrose cottage will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The preview party is $40 and includes a ticket for the house tour. JHS memberships may be purchased at the door.

Tickets for the Saturday house tour, which may be purchased at any of the three houses, are $20.

Call 423-2674 for more information or to make reservations.

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