This villa, built about four years ago, at Newport, by Messrs.
McKim, Meade, and White, is of a modernized colonial style, the
principal feature on the east front being the double gables, in
one of which is an old treatment of triple windows. Each gable
is thirty-two feet wide and twenty feet high from the eaves, and
faced with cut shingles; and between them is a very elaborate
leader-box of galvanized iron. There is also an elliptic window
in the north gable. Three chimneys, the highest about twenty feet
above the roof, are plainly treated, though one of them has an
intricately-wrought iron brace, serving purposes both useful and
ornamental. A glimpse of a tower on the south side also appears
-- but more of this further on. The windows in the gables all
have small lights of glass, and above them are ornamental arches
of carved wood.
The second story is of shingles, and the first story of brick.
The piazza, extending across the whole width of the east front,
is, on the north side, octagonal and two stories high, with an
open balcony on the second floor and a shingled roof, and projecting
eleven feet from the main piazza line, being twenty-two feet wide
in all, with a total depth of twenty-five feet. At the south side,
a small square projection, eleven feet from the main piazza line,
and sixteen feet wide, runs around the south side of the house,
one story high, with a shingled gable, whose roof is supported
on turned posts, having small projecting brackets at the upper
portion. There is an entrance to the piazza on this east side,
but the main entrance is on the south.
The extreme length of this south side is one hundred feet, the
extreme length of the east side is eighty feet, and the extreme
height of the building, including the tower, fifty-two feet. By
far the principal feature of the south side is this tower -- round,
eighteen feet in diameter, of brick on the first floor, and shingled
above. The entire first story of the house is of brick, the angles
being finished with quoin-blocks of different-colored bricks.
All the second story is shingled. A two-story window, with a carved
wood panel between the upper and lower part, about on a line with
the eaves of the main roof, constitutes a feature of the tower.
All the courses of the roof have cut shingles, and there is a
wrought-iron finial on the tower.
At the extreme east of the south side of the house is a small
octagonal bay, with turned posts at each angle, and with small
lights in all the sashes. Between the bay and the tower is an
ornamental panel of diamond-shaped shingles. The piazza extends
along the sought side, from the tower to the east end, and one
also sees the upper story of a north piazza. Instead of a railing,
a brick wall receives the columns of the piazza, giving it a more
substantial appearance. In the roof are two "winkers,"
which admit of a single pane of glass each, being more for ventilation
than anything else, and accomplishing this object without introducing
any hard lines, since they consist simply of a slight raising
of the roof in two places. A noble chimney, twenty feet high and
five feet wide, has a surface treated as a series of perpendicular
ribs, projecting very slightlyjust enough to get a simple
The main entrance is on the same sidean old-fashioned split
door, heavily paneled. There is a landing-step for the convenience
of those about to leave their carriages. Directly over the entrance
the porch-roof projects in a circular shape, being supported from
the piazza-columns by ornamental brackets, in order to give protection
from the rain, thus answering in part the purpose of a porte-cochère.
To the west the kitchen wing is lower than the main building,
and very simple in treatment, the first story of brick and second
of shingles. The roof of the house is shingled throughout.
Certain aspects of the interior of Mr. Bell's house deserve special
mention. You enter a vestibule about nine feet by seven, containing
an elaborate seat, and opening into the hall, thirty feet by twenty-four.
At the right is a door into the reception-room, and beyond it
one into the drawing-room. Directly opposite the entrance is the
dining-room, and at the left of the entrance Mr. Bell's room,
and between Mr. Bell's room and the dining-room, the staircase-hall.
Considerable pains have been taken with the decoration of the
main hall, while at the same time the effort has been to preserve
simplicity. The finish is in oak, with a base eighteen inches
high. Immediately around the fireplace is an extensive space of
tiling, and a row of marble seats runs between the staircase and
Mr. Bell's room. The mantel is of carved wood, and on either side
of the fireplace is a small window of leaded glass, while in front
of it stretches a hearth five feet wide, of red tile.
Opposite the staircase, eight feet wide, appears an open transom,
supported on carved brackets. The cornice of the hall is very
richly carved and molded, and in the front of the staircase a
series of doors into the drawing-room can be rolled back, thus
making the entrance-opening sixteen feet wide and eight feet high.
To the right, a smaller door leads into the reception-room before
mentioned. The dining-room doors are elaborately paneled, and
a sheathed wainscoting eight and half feet high gives height to
the hall. A beautiful and much-carved screen, with panels of wood,
separates the staircase from the fireplace, while over the fireplace
the ceiling is lowered somewhat, being eight feet four inches
instead of ten feet and a half, as in the main hall, in order
to give a comfortably cozy look to the recess.
Standing at the dining-room door, and looking toward the vestibule,
the entrance to the latter appears very wide---eight feet square,
with an open lattice-work transom. To the right appears the door
leading into Mr. Bell's room, and also the end of the fireplace
recess, which is all tiled, with a large marble panel in the center.
The dimensions of the dining-room are twenty feet by twenty-eight;
it is paneled six feet high in mahogany, and above this, between
the top molding of the wainscot and the cornice, are panels of
rattan in the wall-spaces, and in each panel of rattan is a small
square panel of perforated brass ornament -- old curiosities collected
by Mr. Bell. Very handsome is the mahogany cornice. The ceiling
is treated like the side-walls -- with mahogany border three feet
wide; separating this from the inner ceiling, which is divided
into square panels, is a richly carved molding; while the inner
ceiling itself is laid out in squares of rattan, two feet wide
by a very light molding. There are about sixty of these rattan
squares, the central one being arranged for gas-fixtures. To the
right of the room, as you enter, are three windows open to the
floor and out into the octagonal piazza on the east side. On the
opposite side the buffet is recessed in the wall, and divided
into compartments for drawers, cupboards, shelves, and so on;
the doors of the lower central part being elaborately carved,
and all the hardware on them and on the drawers in antique brass
of hammered and cut work. Directly above the buffet the space
is finished in the form of a cove, with a shelf, supported on
a small wooden bracket, running the whole width. Opposite the
entrance-door, the fireplace, easily the chief feature of the
room, has it lower part faced with marble, and the long low recess
with a marble shelf above, while higher still the mantel proper
is divided into three compartments which have glass doors, with
a pattern in cathedral and square beveled plate glasses, the plan
being a very flat octagonal, supported by two beautifully carved
and turned posts at either side of the marble facing. Two windows
at either side of the mantel open out into the yard at the north,
and the upper part of their trim has a small balustrade, used
for holding plates.
Mr. Bell's room shows a handsome mantel of painted pine, and
a tile hearth two feet wide extending as far as the windows. A
double window, opposite the entrance-door, has a seat, with drawers
and lockers underneath. The entire left side of the apartment
is filled with bookcases four and a half feet high, also of painted
pine, the lower part being fitted up with drawers and the upper
part with shelves. A simple sheathed wainscoting extends from
the fireplace to the window, four and a half feet high. There
is a wooden cornice, and about a foot below it a picture-strip.
In the drawing-room, the facing of the fire-opening is of tiles
in a brass frame; above them projects the mantel-shelf proper,
and higher still a beveled mirror in a handsome frame of carved
wood. Below the mirror is a small shelf, supported on a number
of carved brackets; and below the shelf an ornamental carved frieze
of festoon and ribbons. To the left of the fireplace swings the
heavily-paneled door of the dining-room; to the right a window
opens out into the octagonal piazza. There is a base about two
feet high, with its upper portion fluted; also a wooden cornice
and picture-strip, between which runs a painted frieze of garlands
and flowers, about a foot wide. Two windows, cut to the floor,
open upon the east piazza opposite the entrance from the hall,
and are five feet wide; while, opposite the fireplace, the trim
of the sliding doors into the reception-room consists of a projecting
cornice of about six inches, supported on light carved brackets,
there being also a small balustrade on the cornice itself. The
wall-spaces are in silk; the wood-work throughout is pine, painted
in white and gold. It may be added that painting is more common
now than three years ago, when the rage was for "wood-fillers"
and natural woods. Particularly in parlors and bedrooms, light
effects are desired, but the rich dark tones of mahogany and oak
are still considered suitable for dining-room and halls.
Mr Bell's reception-room has a tiled opening, with a brass rim
around its fireplace, and the mantel-shelf is handsomely carved,
while the mantel extends up the height of the picture-strip, and
is of wood. There is a base fifteen inches high, and the space
between the picture-strip and cornice is a painted frieze of leaf-work.
The cost of the house was about seventy-five thousand dollars.