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J. S. Lovering Wharton House (Clingstone)
There are two versions to the story of how this romantic summer cottage came to be. According to one, William Trost Richards, the painter of landscapes and seascapes who abandoned Newport when summer hordes disrupted the solitude he needed for his work, then lost his Jamestown cottage to Fort Wetherill, decided on the ultimate escape. He would move out onto one of the Dumplings off shore, reachable only by boat, literally surrounded by the water and mists he loved to paint. This version of the tale has Richards designing the basic scheme for his getaway, but finding no way to finance it, when J. S. Lovering Wharton took over the dream. The second version maintains that it was always the wealthy Lovering Wharton's intention to build the house, and that he simply used his artist friend as a cover to hold down costs.
Whatever sketches may have been made by the amateurs, the architect J. D. Johnston made them buildable and had a hand in the design, and Wharton moved in. The result is this rather grand, if plainly handled, architectural crab, part bungalow, part chalet. Johnston fixed heavy mill framing, overbuilt against hurricane-force gales, to the boulder. Rustic and rugged inside as well as out, it derived the first quality from Arts and Crafts sentiment, the second from shipbuilding. Thus inside walls were shingled like those outside, with burlap- covered ceilings and beach-pebble fireplaces. Picture windows of the same heavy plate glass used for portholes offered views in every direction. Too heavy to be practically movable, they were fixed and gasketed, with ventilating hatches opening through the walls. Wharton added a breakwater to shelter ferrying, with a house on shore for his ferryman.
Used into the 1930s by the Wharton family, the house was severely damaged by the 1938 hurricane. Still Clingstone clung, as a steadily deteriorating destination for curious and vandalizing sailors, until a Boston architect purchased it and gradually restored it to one of the most unusual summer retreats in the state. (For a fine overview of Clingstone in its setting, look down on it from the Newport Bridge.)
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