Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory - Rhode Island
Felling Dates: Summer 1722 and Winter 1722/3
From Downing’s research, the Simeon Potter house was built by Jacob Duhane before 1749. A building is shown at this location on the Stiles’ Map, 1758. It is also recorded as the first free school in Newport. The Proprietors of Long Wharf funded it in part by a lottery that was augmented with a donation of funds as well as the land and house. This donation was provided by Cap’t Simeon Potter, a privateer from Bristol. Further records indicate the school was established in 1795 and other sources say the school was opened with twenty-five students under the tutelage of a Joseph Finch in October of 1814.
The house itself is a large gambrel roof building on a scale of the Hunter house and other Washington Street houses of stature. It has great depth, but is only four bays across the façade as opposed to the more normal five that achieve the balance of the Georgian ideal. Today, there is one chimney on the east side that appears to have period age. There was a second chimney, probably the earliest, on the larger west side of the house that has been removed. This west or Washington Street end of the house appears to be the oldest construction. The exterior has plank walls fastened with large oak pegs through the sills and girts. The east side has stud construction in the exterior walls though it is difficult to know the exact period this dates from. The interior is also a mix of periods and details, the main staircase runs nearly straight to the second floor with just two risers turned at the top to complete the ascent. The balusters are simple turnings and appear to be fourth quarter 18th century first quarter 19th century in style.
Though a confused picture of periods is present in this house, it is very typical of a house begun at some level during the first quarter and successively enlarged and changed throughout the 18th and into the early 19th century, obscuring a clear vision of what existed structurally to support the dendro findings that put the earliest date of construction at 1722-23.
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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