Local historians are sponsoring a blast from the past when the doors of four private homes, built from the Civil War into the Gilded Age, open to the public for a day.
The Jamestown Historical Society is sponsoring its annual tour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 16 at Thorncroft, 175 Narragansett Ave., Meadowside, 11 Friendship St., Vinecroft, 20 Lincoln St., and Full House, 215 Walcott Ave.
Admission is $25 at the door through cash or check at any of the homes. Credit cards will be accepted at Thorncroft, which is the oldest house on the tour.
Thorncroft, which dates to about 1860, was built by Robert H. Watson Jr. and his son, John Jay. The younger Watson was an arboriculturist who was devoted to collecting rare and foreign shrubs and trees.
This work by Watson is the reason the residence is “distinguished by its beautifully landscaped grounds consisting of large trees, including beech and locust, and shrubs, such as rhododendron and boxwood,” according to the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission. The house stayed in the Watson family until 1976. Renovations incorporating existing materials where possible were done in 2009.
Meadowside was designed in 1886 by Jamestown architect Charles Bevins for Leavitt Logan, a U.S. Navy lieutenant who was promoted to rear admiral in 1908. Bevins also designed many of the larger summer cottages in The Dumplings, and Meadowside shows many of the design elements associated with Bevins’ houses, such as large, welcoming porches, shadowing overhangs and hip, gable and an eyebrow dormer.
Lionel Champlin, a sea captain based in Newport, built the house at 20 Lincoln St. as a rental property in 1888. At the turn of the century, the property became a private residence, renamed Vinecroft, until 1922 when Emily Craven opened the E&E Tearoom. In 1987, a major renovation reclaimed the building and transformed it into the Lionel Champlin Guest House.
Full House was built by Thomas Clifford Potter, a Philadelphia physician, in 1897. Only three families have owned the property in its 126-year history: the Potters until 1926, the extended Carton and Swett families from 1926-2014 and the current owners. They have turned the summer house into a year-round residence with a primary goal to maintain the character of the house during its restoration and expansion.