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J. D. Johnston Bungalow (Daybreak Cottage)

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Daybreak Cottage
1911, J. D. Johnston. 32 Coulter Dr.

J. D. Johnston built this secluded and modest cottage as a birthday present for his wife. Hence it also served as his getaway place during the final seventeen years of his career as a contractor turned self-made architect who was responsible in both capacities for many Newport and Jamestown buildings. His shingled bungalow might have been described as Japanesque when it was built. Intimations of the exotic appear in the wide bargeboards with rounded ends and the projecting purlins, simulating the heavy exposed timber framing under broadly projecting eaves of traditional Japanese houses. Here, however, the frame is adapted to American carpentry: boards instead of heavy timbers and nails instead of elaborate mortice and tenon joinery, with scroll-saw shaping and purlins that serve only to stabilize the boards and counter warping. The pavilionlike porch, the petiteness of everything, and the forced asymmetries also evoke Japan. But it is surely the American Arts and Crafts bungalow that prevails. As is the case with many Jamestown houses, the most extraordinary elevation faces the water and so is best seen by boat. One slope of a cross-gabled projection from the main gable is clipped in midcourse. The dynamic result is a lopsided gable sailing over the void of the wraparound porch, an eccentricity intensified by the contrast of the normative gable of the dormer and by the parallel slant of the stair enclosure up to the porch. The latter can even be viewed as a displaced fragment of the amputated effect above. Simple board flaps as shutters complete the straightforward handling of all elements. The carefully crafted woodwork on the interior (not open to the public) is intact. Johnston's wife continued to live in the house until 1954, when she sold it to its second owner.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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