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Joseph Tompkins House

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1853, Thomas A. Tefft. 38 Catherine St.

This is the only extant Newport example of work by Thomas A. Tefft, the Providence architect best known for his Romanesque Revival designs and mill buildings in other parts of the state. The geometric mass of the two-story Tompkins House is decorated with the most restrained detailing: its clapboard facade is bounded by a surround of wide trim boards on all sides, broken only at the Doric-columned entry porch with inset doorway. The wide, uniform, overhanging eave of the hipped roof is duplicated on the smaller-scale cupola, flanked by original chimneys of particular visual interest. A walk around the house reveals the intensity with which Tefft considered the cupola, chimneys, and arched windows as separate entities. From the side, the curious extension of the main block along Greenough Place creates a layered effect accentuated by the original rear kitchen block. Only small breaks in the uniformity of the design are evident: a triglyph motif that turns the corners above the columns at either end of the entry porch or the flat-arched board that trims the top of each second-story window; but even in these instances the house retains a sense of planar severity.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Joseph Tompkins House", [Newport, 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, 556-557.

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