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.
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51 Bridge Street
The William Gardner House is a two-story house with two small interior chimneys and a gable roof. Built c.1795 and 1870, the house sits on the original site. The Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) purchased the house, along with two other nearby properties in 1968 and renovated the building as two apartments in 1973.
Records show that William Gardner owned a building on this site in 1795, although the building that stands there today is not that late-eighteenth-century building. The only eighteenth-century structural evidence in the house at the time of the NRF purchase consisted of some vertical posts and lengths of sill and girts.
The house underwent certain major changes that reflect a late-nineteenth-century style, both structurally and in details found on the interior and exterior. The walls were studded out and the roof was raised to accommodate a deeply bracketed cornice and gable end treatment. Window frames and sash reflect the nineteenth century, as does the recessed doorway with its flat, bracketed over-door treatment. If much of the original eighteenth-century building and floor plan existed prior to this major nineteenth-century makeover, evidence is virtually non-existent today.
The building had most likely been divided into four apartments prior to NRF's ownership, at which time it was remodeled, modernized, and set up as two apartments. The location of the house creates protection between three NRF eighteenth-century properties on Bridge and Third Streets to the west and a large tract of still undeveloped land to the east.
The property was purchased as part of a transaction that included the Thomas Townsend House at 53 Bridge and the land at 11 Third Street (now the site of the relocated Daniel Lyman House). Such package deals occurred frequently in the early days of NRF. Property owners would often lump properties together as a way to unload deteriorating buildings and escape the financial perils of a declining low-rent market. As a result, NRF would at times find it necessary to buy two or three buildings in order to obtain a desired eighteenth-century structure.