Redwood Library is one of two cultural institutions that provide an architectural hinge between the buildings on the slope down to the harbor and those on the hilltop, which gradually falls in the opposite direction toward the salt marshes around Easton's Pond. Adjacent to it is the Newport Art Museum, the principal building of which is the former J. N. A. Griswold House, an early work of Richard Morris Hunt. This establishes the keynote for the district, which is predominantly Victorian edging into the early twentieth century. An array of work by the leading local practitioners is here, together with important beginnings. For here, densely clustered, are other early works by Richard Morris Hunt and shingle houses by McKim, Mead and White.
During the final decades of the nineteenth century, well-to-do Newporters—professionals, leading merchants, local real estate tycoons—built houses here, as did relatively wealthy summer colonists, also mostly in the late nineteenth century. Well-known residents included painter John La Farge, whose summer home was a one-and-one-half-story Greek Revival house (c. 1845) with Egyptianate corner boards and window trim, at 10 Sunnyside Place, and Clement Moore, the author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (“'Twas the night before Christmas …”), whose greatly enlarged Italianate cottage is at 25 Catherine Street.
The intersection of Catherine Street and Bellevue Avenue was the center of architectural activity in the 1870s and 1880s, with the offices of Newport's most prominent architects clustered around this corner. Richard Morris Hunt's studio and home, Hilltop, was across the way on the site of what is now the Viking Hotel. Dudley Newton's office was the small, bay-fronted building with an ornately patterned mansard roof in slate at 20 Bellevue Avenue. The local contractor-architect James Fludder had his home and office at the corner of Catherine Street and Bellevue Avenue; the Mason firm was located around the corner on Catherine Street; Clarence Luce's office was only a block south at Bellevue Avenue and Mill Street; and J. D. Johnston's office was a little farther down the hill on Pelham near Spring.
The following sequence moves counterclockwise around the perimeter of the neighborhood and then into the center.
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