The Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House is one of the oldest houses in Newport, Rhode Island. Records indicate that it was built around 1697 for a Newport merchant named Stephen Mumford. Besides its age, it is significant in that its architecture reflects the transition from the 17th to the 18th centuries. It is owned by the Newport Historical Society and is currently operated as a historic house museum. The Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House was among the first properties in Rhode Island to be designated a National Historic Landmark (1960). It has also been listed on the National Register of Historic Places (1966).
Backstory and Context
The home that is now known as the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard house was first built in approximately 1697 for a merchant named Stephen Mumford. Mumford was also a founding member of the Seventh Day Baptist congregation in Newport. The original home that he built was a two-story, large-frame structure with a steeply pitched roof. Typical of New England construction at the time, a central chimney was installed with a large room built on either side. The home was built in the colonial style with elements of Georgian decorative architecture. The combination of the two styles make the home unique in that it demonstrates the transition of seventeenth to eighteenth century architecture. Mumford eventually sold the property to his own son, who later sold it to Richard Ward. Ward became the Governor of Rhode Island in 1741 and served a single one-year term.
The house was purchased by a man named Martin Howard in 1757. In 1765, news of the Stamp Act reached the citizens of Newport. An angry mob attacked the house because Howard was a well-known English Loyalist. Howard had written a pamphlet entitled, “A Letter from a Gentleman at Halifax,” which pushed a strongly pro-British agenda. There is a link to a copy of the letter below. Howard must have been driven from the house by the angry residents. A month after the attack, the home was sold at public auction to John Wanton.
John Wanton had a daughter named Polly. Polly was beautiful, intelligent young woman and the love interest of many of the men in the area. At the age of nineteen, she married twenty-six-year-old Daniel Lyman. Lyman served as a Major in the Revolutionary War and later became a lawyer. Visitors to the home can still see the window in which Polly etched Daniel’s name (a photograph is posted above). Years later, the couple’s second daughter (Harriet) married Benjamin Hazard, another Newport attorney. Now, through the three generations, comes the historic name of the house – Wanton-Lyman-Hazard. Harriet and Benjamin’s daughter, Mary, lived in the house until her death in 1911.
In 1927, the home was purchased by the Newport Historical Society. The members of the Newport Historical Society restored the property and turned it into a historic house museum. Years later, from 1995-2001, additional restoration work was completed. It is currently open for tours. The guides teach visitors about recent discoveries from the ongoing archaeological investigations on the property. They also discuss the home’s architecture, life in the colonial era, and the family histories of the past owners.
Kelly, Grace. The Love Story Behind Newport's Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House. Rhode Island Monthly. February 14, 2018. Accessed March 03, 2018. http://www.rimonthly.com/love-story-behind-newports-wanton-lyman-hazard-house/.
Heintzelman, Patricia. Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House. National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form. January 10, 1975. Accessed March 03, 2018. https://npgallery.nps.gov/pdfhost/docs/nrhp/text/66000016.PDF.