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51 Second Street
The Solomon Townsend House is a two-story structure, built on the half house or three-bay plan with a central interior chimney and a gambrel roof. The building is a fine example of the simple, small houses that were built with great frequency on the Point during the eighteenth century. The house stands on its original site and was purchased by the Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) in 1973 and restored in 1976-77.
The house has a one-story, lean-to addition at the rear. This addition was part of the restoration process and is conjectural. The lean-to was based on the finding of an early foundation footprint when the much later, two-story addition was removed during restoration.
The house stands on lot #146 of the Second Divisions of Quaker Lands. Solomon Townsend bought the land in either 1725 or 1728 and the structure was built shortly thereafter. The house appears on the Stiles Map of 1758.
The entry/stairway area is in the corner of the floor plan, allowing fireplaces in three rooms on each floor. The excellent and simply detailed stairway splits mid-level, with one rise going to the front of the house and the other to the rear. This is a plan seen with some frequency in Newport. It reduces space normally used for the hallway and gives direct access from the stairs to front and rear primary chambers. This arrangement also creates effective space for fireplaces in three chambers.
When NRF purchased the property there was a good amount of original fabric still in place, including two- and four-panel doors, simple chair rail, post casings, the chimney, and much of the stairway. The mantelpieces that remained with the house seemed to date from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Solomon Townsend was, more accurately, Solomon Jr., son of the first Townsend known to have settled in Newport. Solomon Townsend Sr. moved from Oyster Bay, Long Island to the Quaker settlement in Newport in 1709. Solomon Jr.'s two brothers, Christopher and Job, went into the cabinetmaking trade. They were described variously over the years as joiners, cabinetmakers, house carpenters, and ship's carpenters. Solomon Jr. went on to become a seafarer and ship owner, often in partnership with many well-established Newport merchants.
For a time, Solomon Townsend Jr. also had a shop that sold hardware and a variety of goods, including brasses and other items that a cabinetmaker would need. Account books support the fact that he did a continuous business in these lines with his brothers and other Townsend family members engaged in the furniture business.
Photo of the house before restoration.