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Built c.1765, the Gideon Cornell House is a good example of a simple half house, also known as the three-bay plan. Located on the original site, it has two stories, a gable roof, and a central interior chimney. Parts of the house may date from earlier than 1765. The doorway is Federal in style and was probably a later addition for purposes of modernization. The Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) purchased the house in 1969 and restored it in 1970. It was the first house NRF leased to residential tenants.

These very simple early houses that were so prevalent in Newport often had their doorways changed. It was a relatively quick and effective way to keep up with the style of the day. Many of the simplest, early entry doors were changed to the Georgian style, and included carved pediments over the door. The Federal style that followed often included fanlights of glass over the door, something almost never seen in the Georgian period in Newport. (Some Georgian doorways did, however, include square lights at the top.) Greek Revival doorways with sidelights also found their way on to some eighteenth-century buildings, as did even later recessed Victorian-period doorways.

The addition of a fanlight door often created interesting problems for early houses not originally designed to accommodate that stylistic feature. The characteristic fanlight window over the door was certainly visible from the exterior, as was the intention. On the interior, however, lower framing girts partly or completely blocked the light since the interior room height had not been calculated for such doorways.

An addition to the south was removed during restoration, bringing the house back to its eighteenth-century footprint. A multi-family apartment house, in deteriorating condition, had been jammed into the corner at Division and Touro Streets, but was torn down to create parking and a yard for the house.

Preservation property detailimage

Photo of the house before restoration.

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