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William P. Henszey–Joseph N. Ewing House (Altamira)

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1905, Selfridge and Obermeier. 60 Racquet Rd.

Set well back from the public roads around it, the hip-roofed block of Altamira nevertheless shows itself from many points. Although long porches with vista views are endemic to this island, because of its altitude on the highest of the Dumpling hillocks and its central position among vantage points nearby, Altamira's may star as the Jamestown porch. Another elongated Shingle Style house, it appears thin despite considerable breadth only because its veranda front provides a platform 100 feet long overlooking Newport Harbor and its channel north and south. Then, for good measure, the porch folds across its entrance width for views to the ocean as well, while a service wing angled from the main block extends it farther. Whereas most of Jamestown's traditional white trim against weathered shingle is thin, here porch posts are bulky with square timber and solid brackets (perhaps a minimal “colonial” reference). They bring a spanking nautical whiteness to this breezy place. The principal interiors are nominally Neo- Colonial, with plainly handled woodwork which may always have been painted white. In the living room a reticent but elegant stair descends in two flights, making a half turn into a semicircular projecting bay at the landing. It comes down to a generous random stone fireplace with a sort of Adamesque frame. The aim seems to have been a sense of dignity that also preserved vacation informality. Call this perhaps a Bull Moose taste in architectural design: big, bold, unpretentious, expansive, comfortable, and uncomplicated, with a stuffed bison's head over the fireplace to give the label more credibility. The authenticity of the interiors results not from an earnest effort at preservation so much as the desire to hold onto the spirit of the past, made possible by continuous ownership in a single family (with a succession of surnames through marriage).

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "William P. Henszey–Joseph N. Ewing House (Altamira)", [Jamestown, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 600-601.

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