2014-08-14 / Around Town


Richard Morris Hunt’s Griswold House was originally built for John Griswold, heir to a China trade fortune. Through his well-born wife Catherine Howland, Hunt met the Griswolds while traveling in Europe. The sketches for the house were begun before all of the parties had returned to the United States. The original hand-drawn plans and elevation sketches for the house show a larger and more elaborately-styled structure than the one that was eventually built.

The house is a model of what architectural historian Vincent Scully coined the “Stick Style” to describe the decorative half-timbering on the exterior of the building. This expressed skeleton references the medieval French structures that Hunt knew from his travels in Europe, but also became the vehicle for new and novel designs that were much more than pure emulation or derivation.

The Griswold House has been fortunate in that it has only had two owners in its long life: the Griswolds from 1864 to 1916 and the Art Association of Newport, now the Newport Art Museum, from 1916 until the present. In 2000, the edifice became a National Historic Landmark, the highest designation available for a built structure.

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