You are here

Seaside Colony

-A A +A
Most houses 1885–1910. Bluffs along Ocean Rd.
  • Seaside Colony (John M. Miller)

Off season is the only time to take in this group of substantial summer houses, many of which are now year-round residences—although the narrowness of Ocean Road and the press of traffic make even off-season viewing difficult. What is visible, tight against the road, are a row of gatehouses, gate lodges, and stables which provide a period overview of these architectural types, despite their modification to a great extent to residential use. The most interesting of these are probably the gatehouses for Dunsmere and Suwanee Villa, at 560 and 380 Ocean Road, respectively, both very large houses which, like most others of their size, have been sacrificed for a greater number of somewhat more modest replacements. Dunsmere was originally the summer estate of Rupert Dun, one of the founding partners of the New York financial firm of Dun and Bradstreet. This random masonry gate and gate lodge (1895) are as pretentious as they get in Rhode Island. The lodge makes an arc of turrets and gables (much larger than it appears from the road), from which a thin arch of rough boulders leaps over the approach road to another tower in a structure which appears ominously ready for collapse. The ironwork of the gates is also interesting. The equivalent gate lodge for Suwanee Villa, the property of David Stevenson, another New Yorker (c. 1889, James H. Taft), a handsome mix of granite and shingle rising to a stepped gable for the carriage barn, butts a fat turret, its shingled upper story extended by gables and bays as living quarters.

One of the public streets, Newton Avenue, approaches the cliff edge, a vantage point for an oblique view of typical cottages, especially to the south. In the foreground is McKim, Mead and White's Stonelea, designed for George V. Cresson (1883–1884, altered 1940s), at 55 Newton Avenue, again granite below, shingles above. A stone-piered porch projecting across the ocean front and the second story with an exceptionally tall double-pitched roof rising above it, are broadside to the view. Changes to the roof, originally quite exotic, were the most pronounced of exterior alterations made in the 1940s. Three tall dormers in a double row once looked to the sea, with bell-shaped caps rising to mini-pinnacles, and two mini-dormers above these. The side elevation at the third-floor level under the eaves was scooped out for a balcony with elaborately turned supports and a sunflower frieze. Another bell-shaped dormer projected from the roof of the rear ell, which was repeated in the capping for a clock tower on the barn (now another residence). All of these eccentric and exotic shapes, which constitute a secondary theme in much of McKim, Mead and White's early work, have been tamed to prosaic “colonial.” But the extraordinary altitude of the roof, rising above the forceful containment of the granite base, remains.

In the distance, north to south (near to far), are a gambrel Colonial Revival house all but concealed by a modern addition, and more sizable Shingle Style houses: Turnberry (1910–1911), for Emma R. Sinnickson of Philadelphia; Stone Croft (1890–1891, William Gibbons Preston), for Francis H. Dewey, a lawyer from Worcester, Massachusetts; Over Cliff (1884–1885), for Charles H. Pope, a cotton merchant from Providence who was active in trading Pier real estate and also built Gardencourt (see entry, above); finally, barely visible around the bend, Fair Lawn, the Jeffrey Davis–Charles H. Pope house, and Indian Rock (c. 1880–1890), for the Reverend William Babcock.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Seaside Colony", [Narragansett, 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, 371-372.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.