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Sarah King Birckhead House (Eastover)
The California architect Irving Gill designed three houses in the Newport area. His Newport connections apparently began at the famous Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, where he met the Mason sisters, Ellen and Ida, who summered in Newport and wintered in California. They in turn introduced him to the Olmsted clan—Frederick, Jr., Albert, and Marian—when this trio was staying at the hotel. As an avid gardener, Ellen Mason had in fact commissioned garden plans from the Olmsted office. The sisters called on Gill for a house in Newport (now St. Michael's School). From this commission, Gill derived two others, a second in Newport (the Albert H. Olmsted House) and Eastover, designed in a shingled style recalling earlier nearby works by McKim, Mead and White, very simply handled. The dominant exterior feature is a spreading frontal gable with strongly projecting eaves which vertically organizes the front elevation of the house. Inside, rooms open widely into one another, with the severe treatment of woodwork characteristic of Gill's designing toward essentials. Unhappily, the original natural wood finish has been painted. A beautifully landscaped approach drive has been associated with the Olmsted firm; but there seems to be no proof that they designed it.
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