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 late March to November.
Experience the only museum in the world specializing in 18th-century Newport furniture and related decorative arts. Open late May to October.
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 becoming a Restoration Partner today.
16 Dennison Street
The house at 16 Dennison is on the original site where it was built between 1831-1846. It is an early nineteenth-century cottage with little interior or exterior detail. The exception to this is the center chimney and the original simple stairway that serves all three levels. For most of its history, 12 Dennison and 16 Dennison were sold as one lot from the earliest recorded deed in 1793 until The Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) purchased this house in 1968 and restored it in 1973.
It is uncertain exactly when this building appeared on the property. In 1812, Robert Robinson purchased this land at auction which included "buildings hereon used as a Spermaceti Works and the apparatus therein." The house at 16 Dennison today may or may not be one of those buildings. However, it is likely that the "dwelling house" that was on the property when it was acquired by Robinson Potter in 1826 was either this house or the one at 12 Dennison.
This property represents two major aspects of the Newport history: the spermaceti candle making industry and Irish immigration. From 1803 to the 1820s, the 12 and 16 Dennison lot lists an "oil works" referring to the manufacturing of candles from spermaceti, the oily head matter of sperm whales. This was a booming industry for Newport - in the 18th century this city produced half of all of the spermaceti candles used in the 13 colonies.
The Ronayne family, immigrants from Ireland around the time of the great potato famine, began to buy property along Dennison Street in the 1870s, including this lot. John Ronayne is typical of the sort of Irish immigrant pride that characterizes this Fifth Ward neighborhood of the late-19th and 20th centuries. He "made good" as a teamster accumulating some wealth and several properties. In1893, John Ronayne split the 12 and 16 Dennison Street properties in his will to give one house to each of two nieces, Mary and Kate Ronayne. In 1899, these sisters sold the properties as a reunited single lot to Michael and Katrina Curran.
While the Dennison Street properties are not the most architecturally interesting, part of the NRF's plan was to control the land and buildings around the Samuel Whitehorne House, which was slated by Miss Duke to become a museum property. In the late 1960s, this area was run down and unstable, and was seen as an area ripe for potential demolition and development for commercial purposes. It was hoped that the purchases by NRF would stabilize the area immediately around the Samuel Whitehorne House, as well as preserving some interesting vernacular buildings.
Photo of the house before restoration.