Newport’s Rosevale estate has hit the market for $4,950,000.
Built in 1876 by Peabody & Stearns for William Cabell Rives Jr. of Virginia and Grace Winthrop Sears of Boston, Rosevale is one of the few residential examples of High Victorian Gothic architecture in the United States. The house is built with red brick and olive coloured granite featuring steep dormers, gables, an octagonal turret next to the main entrance, as well as a steeple on the north side of the house. The house has lofty ceilings on all three floors. The 10,578 sq. ft. house includes 9 bedrooms and 7.5 baths on 2.09 acres with entrances on both Red Cross and Rhode Island avenues. There are 6 units in the main house, which do not include any of the rooms on the first floor.
A 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath carriage house lies on the northeast corner of the property on Rhode Island Avenue. The master bedroom features a large semi-circular window which sits atop the stable doors.
While Peabody & Stearns built several famous houses in Newport, Rosevale was a departure from the other styles Peabody & Stearns were building in Newport and elsewhere in New England in the late 1800s.
High Victorian Gothic, a sub-style of Gothic Revival, evolved from the writings and drawings of John Ruskin, the author of “The Seven Lamps of Architecture” (1849). Ruskin was a professor of fine arts at the University of Oxford, where he established the Ruskin School of Drawing. Due to Ruskin’s influence, High Victorian Gothic is sometimes referred to as Ruskinian Gothic. Ruskin endorsed the variation of color via material as opposed to superficial coloration.
“In the 1870s, the style became popular for civic, commercial, and religious architecture in the United States, though was uncommon for residential structures.”
— Virginia McAlester
High Victorian Gothic is characterized by the use of polychrome decoration, varying textures, and Gothic details, such as pointed arches, steep dormers, gables, turrets and steeples. Rosevale is built with red brick separated by layers of olive granite. It features pointed arches, steep dormers, a slate roof, an octagonal turret next to the main entrance, as well as a steeple on the north side.
One of the most prominent examples of High Victorian Gothic architecture is St Pancras railway station in North London, which currently serves as the terminal for the Eurostar and is home to the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel. In the United States, Memorial Hall at Harvard University is a High Victorian Gothic building honoring the sacrifices of Harvard men in the Civil War.
Other notable houses built by Peabody & Stearns in Newport include:
The original Breakers (1871)
Honeysuckle Lodge (1885)
Easton’s Beach Pavilion (1887)
Ocean Lawn (1888)
Rough Point (1888)
Rosevale was enlarged in 1881 by architect George Champlin Mason Sr. Mason designed several mansions in Newport, including Cheptsow and the Eisenhower House.
The property Rosevale lies on was part of the original farmlands of Nicholas Easton, one of the seven founders of Newport, RI. Nicholas Easton was also a colonial president and Governor of Rhode Island. In 1844, Julia M. Easton sold 22 acres of the family farmland atop the hill overlooking Easton’s Beach, to David Sears, a philanthropist and landowner from Boston. He was the son of Ann Winthrop, a direct descendant of the first governor of Massachusetts, John Winthrop. The famous Rhode Island artist, Gilbert Stuart, painted David Sears portrait twice, one of which is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.
In 1845, David Sears built a marine villa on the property, to which he gave the name of ‘Red Cross Cottage’, due to the brick red cross decoration on the house’s chimney.
After David Sears death in 1871, Red Cross Avenue, named after David’s house, was created bisecting his property, which he bequeathed to his son and 2 daughters. Frederick Sears inherited the ‘Red Cross Cottage’, which he soon sold. Harriet (Sears) Crowninshield inherited the plot to the west of Red Cross Avenue, and Grace Winthrop Sears inherited the 6-acre plot on the east side of Red Cross Avenue. Red Cross Avenue was created as a boundary line for the three estates.
Grace Winthrop Sears was married to William Cabell Rives Jr. in 1849. William was the son of William Cabell Rives, who was the US Minister to France (1829–1833, 1849–1853), a US Senator from Virginia (1832-1834, 1836-1839, 1841-1845) and a US Congressman from Virginia (1823 – 1829).
In 1876, William Cabell Rives Jr. and Grace Winthrop (Sears) Rives enlisted Peabody & Stearns to build Rosevale on the 6 acres atop the hill above Easton’s Beach. William passed away in 1889, while his wife Grace continued to summer at the estate. The Rives estate can be seen in this map of Newport from 1893.
In 1912 Frederick Law Olmstead and John T. Spencer created the Newport Improvement Association to redesign parts of Newport. One of the principal projects was to convert the existing narrow Bath Road into a grand boulevard connecting Bellevue Avenue to Easton’s Beach. Grace Rives was one of the first owners to step forward and donate property to the project. Donating 70 feet of frontage along the southern border of her property, totaling 0.66 acres, to create what is now known as Memorial Boulevard. In 1914, the New York Herald wrote that her act of philanthropy may have contained a hint of self-interest.
“It would be surprising if Bath Road house owners would feel distressed at finding their houses on what would be a very handsome avenue instead of on the present narrow and almost impassable street, even though the size of their lands had been reduced by twenty-three percent.”
— New York Herald, January 4th, 1914
Bath Road was widened between 1916 and 1921, the new roads included street car tracks. In 1946 Bath Road was renamed Memorial Boulevard, and in the late 1960s the street car tracks were removed and the road extended to America’s Cup Boulevard. Since then the southern end of the Rosevale estate has been subdivided several times into 7 smaller lots, each with an individual residence.
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