The George Noble Jones house, one of Newport's first ornately outfitted summer retreats, was built near the crest of a hill in a location then just south of the old, crowded part of town. Jones, a southerner, probably chose Richard Upjohn as architect because Upjohn had earlier designed a house for his in-laws in Maine. Familiar with Newport as a summer visitor from the early 1830s, Jones selected his site well; not only does it enjoy water views and cooling breezes from three sides, but the property was surrounded by that of other summer colonists from the South and was also adjacent to ponds and fields (long gone) where Jones could fulfill his favorite leisure pastime, bird hunting.
The primary image Upjohn achieved was that of a cottage orné, a relatively small house intensely decorated—in this case with medieval motifs—and intended to blend into its natural surroundings. The high-pitched gables, polygonal tower, diamond-paned windows, and carpentered details—sawn serpentine bargeboards, crenellated balcony rail, and trefoil droplets under porch roofs—are all Gothic Revival icing on Upjohn's wooden structure. Most of this early exterior finish is intact, but there have been some significant changes. The original sand-textured, buff-colored paint has been altered to a darker tone; a prominent striped awning over the second-story pointed-arched window to the left of the entry is gone; and the wood-shingled roof is now replaced with red slate. The most dramatic change occurred after David King, Jr., took charge of the house in the mid-1870s. (The house was named Kingscote, or “King's cottage,” by the King family of Newport, who purchased it in 1863.) At that time, architect George Mason, Jr., added an updated dining room and service wing, which was moved back from the original structure in 1880, when Stanford White's dining room addition (with upper-story bedrooms) was inserted between the two. Although White attempted to harmonize his extension with the picturesque roofline, textured shingles, and other details of the original Upjohn design, its sheer size altered the cottagelike character the earlier architect intended. As a result, the best place from which to view Upjohn's work is off the southeast corner of the building, where the bulk of his polygonal tower and roof peaks hides the later wings.
The dark paneled woodwork and heavy cove moldings of the interior are in keeping with Upjohn's medievalism, although they too were added during the King residency. The most emphatic departure from this sensibility is visible in White's dining room. This light-filled space, in its low, horizontal proportions, its gridded orderliness, and its wealth of materials and textures—cork, Tiffany glass, glazed tiles, brass, marble, and stained woodwork—typifies the look McKim, Mead and White achieved in many of their residential designs of the early 1880s.
The nearby stable, surrounded by an alternating palisade fence designed by Upjohn, was redesigned by Dudley Newton to conform to the main house in 1893.
- William H. Jordy et al.
Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward, NY: OUP, 2004, pp. 565–566.
SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012. Online. http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-NE144. Accessed 2013-05-24.