The green which fronts Trinity dates only from the 1970s, when demolition for vistas was a key aspect of downtown planning, here doubly encouraged by nostalgia for the New England common—in a city that had none, and in a state that has very few. Such fictionalized prettification obscures the relationship which the church actually had with the town, rising out of the houses like the pulpit from its pews. In pluralistic Newport, no one church dominated a common open square. Clearing should have been selective and at least suggested fact. “Early” buildings in the area to be bulldozed for the common were moved to other sites to enhance the “colonial” rehabilitation of the area around the harbor. In their place is a brand-new parish house adjacent to the church, in a hybrid between colonial and Greek Revival that confuses the picture (to put is as politely as possible).
What remains from the past is a nice if somewhat overrestored row of houses along the north side of the green (facing the church), the John Langley House (c. 1807; NE57.1), 28 Church Street (one of the moved houses); the Joseph Cotton House ( NE57.2; c. 1720), 32 Church; and the Erastus Pease House ( NE57.3), 36 Church. The row shows, side by side, a variety of roofs—a gable, gable-on-hip, and, most interesting, a low, spreading gambrel with a rare curve out to the overhang. To the south of the green, at 35–37 Mill Street, is a rare colonial double house, the Billings-Coggshall House (see also the Cozzens House, above), with simple pedimented doors ( NE57.4; c. 1784), in which two three-quarter houses are coupled into a stretched format. The elevation can, in an oscillating way, call up ghosts of both a full five-bay and a half house. The Alexander Jack, Jr., House, which was moved in 1969 from another site to 49 Mill Street (corner of Spring St.) ( NE57.5; 1811), is a version of the threequarter formula on which the double house was based.