Kingscote is one of the older summer cottages in Newport, Rhode Island and a landmark of Gothic Revival architecture. It was originally built by George Noble Jones in 1839. Jones made his fortune on the cotton plantations in the early American South. After the Civil War, Jones sold his property to the King family who owned it for several generations. The Kings remodeled the home and named it “Kingscote” in 1880. By the early 1970s, the last of the King family had left the home and it was gifted to the Preservation Society of Newport County. The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1996. Kingscote is now open to the public for tours several times throughout the year.
Backstory and Context
Kingscote is a stunning example of the Gothic Revival style architecture popular in the nineteenth century. It was one of the earliest homes built in the popular neighborhood, originally constructed before the Vanderbilts and other wealthy families arrived in Newport. George Noble Jones came to Newport from Savannah, Georgia and built the home in 1839. Jones had made his fortune as a planter and speculator in the South. He decided to build a summer cottage for his new family after he married his wife, Delia Tudor Gardiner. At the time, the path that would soon become the trendy Bellevue Avenue was just a dusty dirt road on the outskirts of the town. Jones met the architect that would design the house, Richard Upjohn, through his father-in-law’s connections. Upjohn designed an ornamental cottage in the Gothic Revival style for the Jones family. Its layout included towers, Gothic arches, and roofs over the dining rooms made to look like medieval tournament tents.
George Noble Jones and his family remained in their mansion until the American Civil War broke out in the early 1860s. He sold the cottage to William Henry King in 1864. King was a wealthy merchant who made his money trading goods from China. In 1876, King’s nephew, David, inherited the home and made some renovations, including the addition of a new elaborate dining room. The firm of McKim, Mead and White was hired to design the improvements to the mansion. According to the Preservation Society of Newport County, “The room combines Colonial American details with exotic ornament - reflecting the architects' interest in combining eastern and western motifs. The innovative use of materials was also important, such as cork tiles as a covering for the wall frieze and ceiling, and an early installation of opalescent glass bricks by Louis Comfort Tiffany.”
The house remained in the King family until 1972, when the last descendant left it to the Preservation Society. Today, Kingscote is considered a National Historic Landmark since the construction of Kingscote for the Jones family began the “cottage boom” that would embody Newport, Rhode Island in the latter part of the nineteenth century. It is also a rare example of a Gothic Revival house and landscape setting preserved intact with original family collections. The Preservation Society opens the home for tours several times throughout the year.
Bourgault, Bethany. Newport Mansions | Experiencing the Gilded Age. New England Today: Travel. August 16, 2017. Accessed February 04, 2018. https://newengland.com/today/travel/rhode-island/newport-mansions/.
Kingscote. National Historic Landmark Nomination. June 19, 1996. Accessed February 03, 2018. http://www.preservation.ri.gov/pdfs_zips_downloads/national_pdfs/newport/newp_bowery-street_kingscot...