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49 Mill Street
The Alexander Jack, Jr. House is a two-and-a-half-story structure, built c.1811, with a central interior chimney and a gable roof. The house is built on the four-bay plan that was so popular from 1750 until 1820, and was originally located on Levin Street (now Memorial Boulevard-West). The Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) purchased the house in 1969, moved it that same year to Mill Street, and then restored the house in 1970. The restoration of this house is one of the first completed by NRF.
The main exterior feature that indicates the build date of 1811 is the very detailed Federal style doorway that is original to the house. Houses of this plan were built over a couple of style periods and the doorways provide the most obvious date indicator.
On the interior, the four-bay plan shifts the chimney off-center. This allowed for two large rooms in opposite corners, front and rear, and with small rooms in the remaining corners. A fireplace, angled into a corner, heated one of the small rooms. The other small room was unheated owing to its placement removed from the chimney. In houses of this style, the large front room was generally the parlor, while the large room in the rear with a large cooking fireplace was the kitchen. This type of arrangement was particularly typical of earlier houses. In later houses, such as the Alexander Jack Jr. house, the fireplace is smaller and without an oven, indicating that a kitchen may have been elsewhere, perhaps in an ell or in the cellar.
Interior detailing in the house is simple as befits a small house, yet those details are clearly in the elegant Federal style and offer good evidence of the 1811 date. Mantles, both simple and fancy, are used in the house, whereas in the eighteenth century raised-panel chimneybreasts are commonly found. Moreover, the cornice moldings, chair rails, and door and window moldings are lighter and more detailed here than one would find in eighteenth-century examples.
The area of Levin Street, where the house was originally located, as well as Thomas, William, and Golden Hill Streets, attracted free blacks in the eighteenth century and became, in the early nineteenth century, the preferred neighborhood for them to build and live.
Alexander Jack Jr. was a free African whose trade was a cordwainer or shoemaker. He bought his land in 1811 and is thought to have begun construction almost immediately. Jack heirs remained on this property until 1881. It is interesting to note that Jack Jr.'s father had bought land at Thomas and Golden Hill Streets in 1810 and constructed a house just a few lots from where his son was to build the following year. Unfortunately, at this time, little is known about either father or son as to where they were from, how they came to Newport, or any other aspect of the family's history.
Photo of house before restoration.