From The Old Box: Seafair From The Air

This photo pulled from the old box features a bird’s eye view of Seafair on Ocean Avenue in Newport, RI.

Drive along the scenic coastal road and try resist pointing to the estate and exclaiming, “That’s Jay Leno’s house.”

So many of us locals seem to have a favorite When-I-Saw-Jay story.

We had the chance to meet him at the Audrain Automobile Museum Gala a couple of years ago.

John greeted Jay by saying, “I was the architect of your home.”

Jay quickly replied, “Wow, you don’t look that old!”

If I wasn’t so star struck, I would have remembered to ask Jay if he recalled my father from his days at Andover High School. Oh well. Another time.

Robert Hackett

Back to John’s connection to Seafair: The cover story for Architectural Digest in February, 1996.

Seafair was originally named Terra Mare. Here’s a clipping from the Newport Mercury on June 14, 1935.

The house boasts another nickname….Hurricane Hut. Here’s a clipping from the Newport Daily News on September 1, 1954.

Don’t you love this image? The property and surrounding landscape are truly spectacular!


FRom The Old Box. Everyone Keeps ASking

Since I began sharing the photographs from the old box, I’ve been inundated with kind sentiments and requests to see the box. So here it is:

The hundreds of photographs contained within the box represent a treasure trove of Newport’s architectural history. That’s why I’m honored to share them with you. Free Time well spent!!

To pair the photographs with clues I refer to our historic map collection.

I also pull some favorite books from our shelves.

Then there are some antique volumes that we have purchased at auction.

Sometimes my own book serves as a reference.

We also love this new book written by our dear friend John. We love this book so much we bought 12 copies and gave them as Christmas presents. Remember to support our local authors!


Want to build a collection of Newport books? Shop Commonwealth Books of Newport at 29 Touro Street in Newport. Set aside a couple of hours for pure browsing bliss. And bring a friend to help you carry the bundles of books I know you won’t be able to resist buying.

Our collection of Newport Tax Atlases from 1876 – 1921 always provides valuable insights.

Do you love Newport’s history as much as we do? You are welcome to browse through our collections any time. Write in the comments and I’ll promptly respond.


From the old box. Banking on history

This photo shows a row of buildings on Duke Street in Newport, RI. Zoom in and you’ll catch a glimpse of Washington Square in the distance.

Here’s a snapshot of Duke Street today. Bank Newport and its parking lot occupy the land where the buildings once stood.

These clippings provide some clues.
Newport Mercury June 7, 1929
Newport Daily News December 15, 1952
And this snippet shows the streetscape in the 19th century.
Newport Tax Atlas 1876 Grosvenor – Hackett Collection

FROM the old box. Farewell Old House

The next photo from the box captures a view of a grand home that presided on the corner of Marlborough Street and Farewell Street in Newport, RI.

The structure appears in the 1876 Newport Tax Atlas and the owner was Gilbert Chase.

1876 Newport Tax Atlas – (Grosvenor – Hackett Collection)
The 1903 Newport Tax Atlas shows the structure again. (Grosvenor -Hackett Collection). Mr. Dennis was the owner.
This article appeared in the Newport Mercury on on March 27, 1931. The article states that the structure was torn down.

Are you old enough to remember a car dealership on that corner?

Newport Daily News March 23, 1950

A community garden occupies the parcel today. The next time you pass by this corner remember the lost house.


From the old box. The Hartman House

Here’s a news item that appeared in the Newport Daily News on April 22, 1848.

And here’s an old photo of the Bellevue Hotel located at 10 Bellevue Avenue across from the Viking Hotel in Newport, RI.

Zoom in. The sign clearly reads Hartman’s House. Nonetheless, the structure was commonly known as the Bellevue Hotel.

Zoom in again and you’ll see a ghostly figure passing by the Touro Cemetery. Perhaps you like the lattice that was used to enclose the porch? Did the treatment deter the dirt road’s dust from finding its way into the hotel? Or did the shutters filter the dust?
This clipping was published in the Newport Mercury on October 9, 1936.

Today the building is called Bellevue Manor and operates as a boutique hotel.


FROM the old box. Estate Gates

The main entrance to Beechbound is featured in the old photo below. Peabody & Stearns and Frederick Law Olmsted collaborated on the estate’s architecture and landscape plan in the late 1890s.

Each of the 15-foot tall posts weighed about two tons and featured ornate iron lanterns. The gates’ aesthetic were equally impressive. What a first impression for the Ripley Estate!
The entrance’s precarious location on the bend of Harrison Avenue was no match for the automobile. Local newspapers report numerous accounts of drivers misjudging the roadway and crashing into the wall and gates.
Here’s a clipping from the Newport Mercury on September 1, 1933. (The reporter confused Beechmound with Beechbound).

Sadly, a 29- year old Newport woman lost her life after crashing into the post in December of 1951. The car was totaled upon impact and stones and bits of iron were scattered about Harrison Avenue.


From the old box: square RootS

The next photo pulled from the box shares a view of Frank Street in Newport, RI. Zoom in and you’ll notice a man standing in a doorway on the left side of the street. You’ll also notice Trinity Church in the background.

You may have strolled along the remains of Frank Street when you visited Queen Anne’s Square.

The snapshot below is from the Newport Tax Atlas shows how the street appeared in 1923 (From the Grosvenor – Hackett Collection)

These newspaper clippings provide insights into what happened to the structures and how a square was born.

Newport Daily News January 10, 1955
Newport Daily News November 25, 1958
Newport Daily News November 20, 1963

From the old box. For whom the bell tolls.

This old photo features a row of buildings located on Spring Street in Newport, RI. They presided between Barney Street and Sherman Street. The First Baptist Church can be seen in the background. Zoom in and you’ll catch a glimpse of the steeple before it was damaged during the 1938 Hurricane.

Read the clippings below to learn how bells were shuffled about town.

Newport Daily News March 23, 1950
Newport Mercury May 19, 1950


From The Old Box: a lost House

A handwritten notation on the back of this photograph reads “Sueton Grant House, Now Mary Street Parking Lot.”

When I check my 1967 copy of Antoinette Downings’ book, I see these sketches:
I’ll continue to sleuth and report back with any information. In the meantime, enjoy the charming iconography.