House Lust: This Newport Home Offers Double The Historic Pleasure

The recently renovated residence — good as new, we think — is a gorgeous quilt of historic properties.

In the mid- to late-eighteenth century, two different men named John, who led two wildly different lives, set down roots in the same neighborhood in Newport. One lived in a gambrel-style cottage; the other in a more traditional Colonial. And long after they both met their makers, their homes were joined together to become one.

If walls could talk, these could have a great conversation amongst themselves.

The eye-catching gambrel portion of 70 Bridge Street in Newport, now on the market for $1.995 million, was built a block away in 1770 for Colonel John Topham, who marched off to Bunker Hill and fought in the Revolutionary War, then returned home to command a battalion, run a mercantile shop, represent his community in the General Assembly and succumb to an untimely death at the age of fifty-one.

His home was then sold and moved to Marsh Street, which was common for the time. Also common: historic homes reduced to rubble in the name of infrastructure — in this case, the Goat Island connector on Marsh Street, which was built in the mid-twentieth century. Were it not for Operation Clapboard, a Point Association program that matched preservation-minded residents with at-risk historic homes, the John Topham House might have been lost to the ages.

Operation Clapboard facilitated the sale of the home to Newporter Henrietta Dane, who moved it once again — my, these old houses are sturdy — to a property she already owned on Bridge Street. Dane then connected the Topman House to her even older Colonial-era home, the John Townsend House and Workshop (ca. 1750), which was built for the renowned cabinetmaker whose handicraft is held in museum collections today.

Thankfully, walls can’t talk; that’d be creepy. But they certainly can serve as conversation pieces. Here’s your House Lust: