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47 John Street
The Constant Tabor House is a four-bay, two-story building with a gambrel roof, a large interior chimney, and a well-proportioned pediment doorway in the Georgian style. The original site of the house remains speculative until more conclusive evidence is found. The house was purchased by the Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) in 1969 and restored in 1970 -71.
The building reflects a construction date of 1740 to 1750, yet the first records for this land occur when Richard Hazard sold the lot (without a building) to Constant Tabor in 1803. One theory put forth is that the house was moved to the site by Tabor after he purchased the land. Further speculation places the house originally in the area of Thames Street and suggests that it was moved owing to commercial expansions in that area. This theory is also supported by the fact that the foundation is more appropriate to 1803 than 1750. The house itself is 1750 in construction and design.
In the late-19th century, the house became the property of Reverend Mahlon Van Horne (1840 – 1910)— a prominent spiritual and political leader in the Newport community. He was the pastor of the Union Colored Congregational Church in Newport from 1869 to 1898, and in 1873 became the first African American to be elected to the Newport School Committee. Later in 1885, Rev. Van Horne became the first African American elected as a state representative to the Rhode Island General Assembly, where he advocated for Black participation in the economy and increased civic engagement. He then went on to become General Counsel to Danish West Indies under President McKinley during the Spanish American War. Through him, the house served many functions in support of the community during the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
There are a few unusual parts to the house, particularly since it appears so straightforwardly Georgian from the exterior. The framing has some odd placements of posts as compared to most houses of this period. Also, the stairway takes up the northeast corner on the first, second, and even the third floor. On the exterior, there is a window to the left of the door on the first floor and one above it on the second floor, keeping the façade properly balanced. However, the second floor window is a false element, which appears as a window on the exterior, but on the interior is a blank wall where the stairway cuts diagonally across the window's position.
Photo of the house before restoration.