Vernon House« View more Historic Houses
46 Clarke Street
Newport, Rhode Island
Vernon House, a national historic landmark, has a rich architectural and social history. In 1758, Metcalf Bowler, a wealthy merchant purchased a small but elegant house at the corner of Clarke, and Mary Streets. He quickly expanded the house to its current form around 1760. It has been long suspected that the expansion was designed by noted architect Peter Harrison who is responsible for the Redwood Library, Touro Synagogue and the Old Brick Market. In 1773 it was purchased by another wealthy Newport merchant, William Vernon. A lovely example of Georgian architecture, Vernon House is one of Newport's last grand merchant's houses, and played host to many notable guests during Vernon's ownership.
William Vernon, a well known supporter of the American rebellion and later the president of the Eastern Naval Board (precursor to the Department of the Navy), lived at Vernon House from 1773 to 1806. However, as an ardent patriot, he left Newport for an extended period during the British occupation in the Revolutionary War in order to take his family to safety. During his absence, the Comte de Rochambeau, leader of the French forces in America, used the house as his headquarters. During the week of March 6, 1781, George Washington came to stay at Vernon House and it is believed that important strategic plans were discussed in between a round of formal celebrations in honor of Washington's visit.
One of the most remarkable features of the house is a set of 18th century murals which were uncovered during a 1937 restoration. The murals feature scenes of Chinese life painted in such a way as to look like expensive wood paneling. The murals are remarkable for their careful detailing of Chinese life and are thought to be a unique survival from the time period. View photos of the murals.
Vernon House was added to the NRF's collection of historic homes in 2009. It was donated by the late Margaretta M. Clulow, an artist and a designer, whose family has owned the house from 1964 until her death in 2009. Throughout her ownership, Mrs. Clulow was an extraordinary steward of the property, preserving the house carefully and allowing access for scholars, preservationists, and enthusiasts. Under NRF ownership, and according to Mrs. Clulow's wishes, the house will remain a residence and be similarly accessible to scholars.