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34 Pelham Street
The Langley-King House is a large, two-and-a-half-story, four-bay house with two interior chimneys, a gambrel roof, and a stunning split-pediment doorway that is original to the building. Built c. 1710 and 1750, the original house was most likely a small single-chimney structure built by Nathaniel Langley. Major remodeling to effect the Georgian style seen today was done by a subsequent owner of the property, Charles Handy, probably in the mid-eighteenth century. The house is on its original site and was purchased by the Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) in 1969 and restored in 1970-71.
Nathaniel Langley, referred to as a merchant and ship builder, is thought to have been the first owner of a house on this property. The early date of 1710 stems from the 1882 volume by Edwin Whitefield titled, Homes of Our Forefathers. Reasons for this date are obscure, but it is safe to say that a single-chimney, smaller building was built on this lot prior to 1740.
It appears that Langley sold the property to Charles Handy prior to 1758, perhaps in the late 1740s. Handy was a wealthy merchant and set about expanding the property, not only the house, but the land area as well. He bought land to the west and to the north through to Mill Street, and added several domestic and commercial buildings, including a well-developed spermaceti factory. He also held large parcels of land from Pelham Street south, between Spring Street and the current Bellevue Avenue. When he divided the property for development, certain streets were created and named after his sons, hence, John, William, Levin (now gone), and Thomas Streets.
How the house evolved is difficult to detail exactly, but it seems probable that Handy made at least two expansions, the first in the late 1740s or 1750s. The split-pediment doorway, a style that dates from the mid-eighteenth century, may have been added at this time. The second and most significant expansion of the house, making this a true Georgian architectural gem, took place after 1758 and certainly before 1793, the year of Charles Handy's death. (A building with only one chimney appears on this site as late as 1758 on the Stiles Map of that year.) Because of the severe economic downturn in Newport during and after the Revolution, it is most likely this important work was done to the house before the mid-1770s.
While there are only four bays on the façade rather than the more balanced, more typical five, this house embodies many key Georgian architectural elements. These include the pediment and arched roofed dormers, the elegant split-pediment doorway, and the way the scale of the façade accommodates the greater than normal depth of the building.
In 1810, heirs of Charles Handy signed over a mortgage deed on the house to David King, a local physician, and in 1815 the entire extent of the Handy property was deeded to King. King and his heirs kept the property in their ownership throughout the late 1800s. The building took a downturn in the twentieth century, becoming a rooming house that saw various additions and was run in the cheapest fashion until purchased by NRF in 1969. At that time, it had sixteen apartments ranging in rent from $32.00 to $76.00 per month, and others for lesser amounts by the week. Amazingly, much of the original woodwork, mantles, and trim remained in certain rooms.
The split-pediment doorway on this house was donated to NRF by a descendant of the King family during the restoration process. It had been removed by family members sometime in the late nineteenth century when the house began to deteriorate, and survived many years of storage in excellent condition. Moreover, it fit the tracings of nail holes revealed when the shingles on the house façade were stripped down to the original planking.