Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory - Rhode Island
Felling dates / ranges: Circa 1650, Summer 1714, and Winter 1759/60
Augustus Lucus was a French Huguenot who arrived in Newport early in the 18th century. A 1711 notice from the “Boston News Letter” told of slaves to be sold at the Newport Colony House and to be viewed at Lucus’ house. This may not have been the Division Street house. Downing’s research shows Lucus buying the land at Division Street in 1711, additional purchases followed until 1721 when buildings as well as land are mentioned. The house/building that stood from 1721 came to Augustus Johnston, Lucus’ grandson, before 1765. Johnston became the Stamp Master of Newport in 1765 which was not the best of times to be a Crown representative. Johnston fled Newport’s rebellious ruffians for Charleston in 1766. Very little has come to light concerning the period from 1766 to 1788 when Samuel Freebody purchased the house.
From the exterior the building appears a good and proper example of a 1740 to 1760 Newport interpretation of the Georgian style. Square form, five bay façade, hip roof and molded windows frames. On the interior the front rooms on each floor are very much of this period as well as the staircase. At the rear of the house is a wonderful stair with flat S-sawn balusters of the early period that corresponds with Lucus’ ownership during the 1711 – 1721 years. Oddities persist, the house has two interior chimneys, but they are placed front to back rather than side to side, as was the normal Georgian interpretation. The rear chimney, with its kitchen fireplace, is the one with more age. The foundation walls appear to be of one unified build rather that parts of an earlier building combined with a later construction. Exterior walls, particularly on the north and west walls are studded construction and also have brick nogging. Both of these techniques are quite uncommon for Newport. Was there a first period small house facing east? Did Johnston simply enlarge that small building into a Georgian mansion house facing west onto Division Street? Or was the house the result of a combination of events that rather completely transformed one structure to another with not much in the way of obvious structural or recorded clues? Questions remain and probably will for some time.
The dendro findings date a couple of sampling in 1759/60, which is in keeping with the house as seen today. There are a couple of strange datings ranging from 1618 to 1634 that would seem to make sense only as reused timbers, while nothing dating from the first quarter of the 18th century shows in the results, with the exception of a single felling of 1714.
Miles, D H, Worthington, M J, and Foley, R P, 2005 “Development of Standard Tree-Ring Chronologies for Dating Historic Structures in Newport, Rhode Island: Phase I – Pilot Study”, ODL unpubl rep 2005/3
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