NRF promotes and invests in the architectural heritage of the Newport community, the traditional building trades, and Doris Duke’s fine and decorative arts collections, for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of all.
As a leader in the preservation of early American architecture, NRF supports research and education in areas directly related to its collections and issues of critical concern to the field of historic preservation.
Tour Doris Duke’s art-filled mansion and enjoy panoramic ocean views from the extensive grounds, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Open April to November.
Experience the only museum in the world specializing in 18th-century Newport furniture and related decorative arts.
Explore 40 acres of open space, a tribute to the agrarian heritage of Aquidneck Island. The site is open daily from dawn to dusk for public enjoyment.
Newport Restoration Foundation holds one of the largest collections of period architecture owned by a single organization anywhere in the United States.
Celebrate excellence in historic preservation efforts within the City of Newport, Rhode Island.
Live amidst history by renting one of our many historic properties.
Help us to continue a lived-in legacy by making a contribution to our Annual Fund today.
The only museum in the world specializing in 18th-century Newport furniture and related decorative arts, NRF’s Whitehorne House Museum has been open to the public since 1974.
The museum is currently closed while we plan for a renovation of the building, a new presentation of the collection, and a much improved visitor experience. Watch this space for updates and announcements of opportunities to visit while the revitalization work progresses. And, of course, we are always open online and invite you to explore the museum by using the links above.
One of the highlights of Whitehorne House Museum is its beautiful garden. This inviting space is filled with antique roses, blueberry bushes and fruit trees, and a dazzling array of perennials and annuals. The design is an interpretation of a Federal period garden for an affluent, urban family. Despite its refined geometry, it does not feel overly formal. From the precious balloon flower to the flamboyant castor plant, this is a garden full of delights.
Even though the museum is currently closed, the garden is open during daytime hours for the enjoyment of visitors.
For the 2018 season, Whitehorne House Museum is open to the public for occasional open house events (see above), private group tours, and individual appointments.
For groups larger than 10 visitors,
please visit our Group Tours page.
416 Thames Street
401–846–4152 ext. 123
Limited metered parking available.
Painted and embroidered mourning picture on silk
Benjamin Baker Highboy
Porringer by John Otis
Carver Chair with braided cornhusk seat
Dining table by John Townsend
Painting on silk of two women in black outside a church with embroidered details.
Benjamin Baker was active as a very prolific chair maker in Newport from 1760, and is also known to have made clock cases, tables and case furniture that was produced primarily for export to the coastal trade. Among the many Newport characteristics found on the highboy is the use of cabriole legs with pad feet on the rear in combination with open-talon claw and ball front legs -- a Newport practice for furniture intended to stand against the wall. Another Newport trait is the elongated ball and claw foot with webless talons having an extended grip over the ball, which in this case are undercut. Of special interest is the intaglio carved petal and leaf motif decorating the knees, a feature frequently found on Newport highboys and tea tables. A focal point is the beautifully carved shell motif, also a favorite decorative device of the high style Newport cabinetmakers. Here it is further decorated at the center with a fleur-de-lys. The most unusual feature of the Whitehorne House Museum’s high chest are the three drawers in the top row of the upper case.
This armchair is one of a group of three that demonstrates a strong Dutch influence on some of the earliest furniture made in Newport, RI. It also speaks to connections, perhaps less well known, with local Native American craft production. Unique to the Whitehorne example is the braided cornhusk seat, possibly woven by local Wampanoag or Narragansett weavers. This is an unusual feature found in other early chairs associated with Little Compton, which remained a fairly isolated agricultural outpost into the twentieth century but had early ties through families such as the Browns, who owned this chair, to nearby Aquidneck Island and the urban centers of Portsmouth and Newport, as well as to local Native American craftsmen.
The red paint with gold decoration dates to the Victorian period; it covers a layer of blue paint, date unknown, but also not likely original.
The Whitehorne House Museum’s oval dining table is one of only two known labeled dining tables made by John Townsend. This dining table is an example of the type of architectural furnishings considered to be necessary in 18th-century dining spaces. This graceful neo-classical oval table retains the functionality of its predecessors as it can separate into a table and two consoles for alternate uses or storage. The plinths above each leg are decorated with four undulating vertical blocks or “book inlay,” a feature associated with the workshop of John Townsend. On the legs is a string of five bellflowers centering a spine of black inlay, and, characteristic of John Townsend’s work, the bellflowers rest above two inlaid dots. Pasted on the center of one of the back rails of one of the consoles is a rectangular engraved label reading MADE BY / JOHN TOWNSEND, / NEWPORT. with the date 1796 written by hand.