Traditional Building Portfolio



Another Hundred Years

An 1889 Shingle-style cottage in Jamestown, RI, is restored and now lives up to its idyllic surroundings.

Project: Anoatock, Jamestown, RI

Architects: Ronald F. DiMauro Architects Inc., Jamestown, RI; Ronald F. DiMauro, AIA

General Contractor: Kirby Perkins Construction Company, Newport, RI

By Hadiya Strasberg

In 1889, a three-story, 5,500-sq.ft. Shingle-style summer cottage was built on a high ledge bluff in Jamestown, RI. One of the over 40 buildings designed by English architect Charles L. Bevins (1844-1925) on Conanicut Island, it was built for the first vice president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, John P. Green. After Green died, the house was sold to a different family, who, during the latter half of the 20th century, performed many unsympathetic renovations. They were recently corrected, however, when Jamestown-based Ronald F. DiMauro Architects Inc. restored the cottage for third owners, a family of four.

Green had called the house "Anoatock," a Native American translation of "windy bluff" and an appropriate description of the site. The 2½-acre property is mostly flat, with a sprinkling of trees, but the house sits on a rocky ledge outcropping overlooking the Narragansett Bay to the north and east. At the east, or rear, of the house, there is a steep hill that, though blocked by other residential properties below, leads to the water.

When DiMauro was approached regarding this project, the site was what the clients clung to. "They thought it was beautiful," says DiMauro. "They loved the siting of the house, the view, the area – everything but the house itself." But when the clients asked if it made sense to build new or to renovate the existing building, DiMauro told them that it would be a shame to take the house down. He told his clients that under the white stucco interior walls and ceilings, the faux-wood-paneling wallpaper in the kitchen and the bedroom carpeting there was likely to be original detailing. DiMauro set out to restore both the exterior and interior in 1999.

The previous owners hadn’t given any thought to the full composition of the home. At some point, the hipped roof was squared off and the windows were a jumble. "‘Faux-Palladian’ windows, bay windows and an elliptical front entry were added to the massing," DiMauro says, "which left no scale to the building any more." He says that one of the greatest challenges of this restoration project was figuring out how to bring the house to a human scale. "The house had an overwhelming feel to it," DiMauro says, "so we decided to emphasize the horizontal." He created a horizontal scale by redesigning the windows, adding a formal front-entry porch at the gable end and changing the chimney material.

The windows were reorganized and redesigned based on enlarged historic photographs obtained from the previous owners. The "faux-Palladian" and bay windows were restored to simple rectangles and a few windows were minimized. The new Cottage-style sash windows, custom designed and built in wood by Eagle Window & Door, Inc., of Dubuque, IA, replicated an authentic division pattern – a row or two of little lites around a large one.

The small lites complement the 4x4-in. latticework of the main porch, a new addition based on photographs. The house originally had a porch at the front entry, but it was removed and replaced with a wood wraparound deck by the second owners. "However, this made the building appear really tall," says DiMauro. He demolished the existing deck and created a new shed-roofed covered verandah at the front door that "complements the original porch in detail and proportion, with overscaled 14-in.-square columns and a thick curved beam above the steps." The new custom- fabricated front door, which replaced a standard door and elliptical transom, is extra wide at 42 in. Restored oversized lanterns were installed at either side of the front door to lend character and scale.

The third piece in transforming the scale of the house involved changing the stone chimney to dry-laid native fieldstone at the first-floor section and to brick at the second-floor section. "This visually separated the house into two halves," says DiMauro, "but, because the foundation is fieldstone, it also grounded the house to make it appear as if the house was growing out of the ground."

Other materials were chosen for their likeness to the originals. Alaskan yellow cedar shingles, though not the original North Atlantic white cedar shingles used on Shingle cottages in the 1880s, were found to be the closest match. "When we couldn’t afford the authentic material, we tried to pick materials that most closely resembled the original," says DiMauro.

As for the roof, DiMauro couldn’t identify the original material, because it had been replaced with asphalt several times and the historic photographs were taken from too far away. A good number of houses in the area had slate roofs, so he specified an asphalt roof that had the appearance of slate. "GAF Materials Corp. [of Wayne, NJ] supplied a tone that closely matches the color of slate," says DiMauro," and it worked with our clients’ budget." He adds that cedar shakes on the roof wouldn’t have looked authentic.

DiMauro studied the original gable-end fascia treatment and brought back the crown molding. The dormer, original to the house, was restored as well. The decks at the rear of the house, on the other hand, were removed. "There was no connection to the earth and they were very plain," DiMauro explains. "In their place, we designed curved decks to reflect the prow of a ship – the clients are sailors – and we pinned the stone piers into the existing ledge stone." Native fieldstone was used on the first-floor rear deck to create the appearance that the deck was growing out of the stone outcropping. To lighten the deck’s mass, DiMauro designed latticework between the piers.

The old decks were not the only boxy aspect of the house; in fact, DiMauro describes the entire house as boxy. "Our objective was to soften the lines of the house, to create fingers that extend into the land," he says. He curved all of the appendages – the first- and second-floor sun decks – and then created more – a breakfast room off the kitchen and, above that, a covered veranda, which is part of the master-bedroom suite.

Other than these changes, the floor plans didn’t change dramatically. On the first floor, the kitchen was reconfigured and updated and a family room replaced the sun porch at the southeast of the house. The use of curves continues on the interior, but with smaller details, such as a built-in bead-board bench in the stair hall and a television cabinet in the living room.

The second floor was more of a reshuffling than a drastic alteration. It still contains the master-bedroom suite, a guest bedroom and a bathroom. DiMauro made small changes to the guest bedroom, the hall and the stair closet. "In the guest bedroom," he says, "we stripped the ‘70s wallpaper and painted the walls, refinished the wood flooring that had been lost under several layers of carpet and repaired and repainted the fireplace."

DiMauro then reconfigured the master-bedroom suite. A door now cuts the hallway in half and allows the clients privacy. To one side is the bedroom – in the same location it was originally – and to the other side is the master bath, with a shower stall, a tub and double sinks. The smaller bathroom was moved against the staircase and the utility room was relocated to the first floor. Where the old master bathroom was once located, DiMauro designed a sitting room. It is accessible from the master bedroom, as is the veranda to the north. A covered porch and the attached sun deck provide additional outdoor spaces.

On the third floor, which is accessed by a central staircase, two bedrooms and a bathroom remain in place. "There used to be three bedrooms on this floor," says DiMauro, "but the clients requested storage space, so we converted the bedroom at the front of the house."

Like the exterior of the house, in the interior DiMauro attempted to restore as much of the original detailing as possible. He faced non-working fireplaces, nailed-up pocket doors and old hardware that did not work anymore, among other things. When there was little to work with, he replicated features. "Overall, the materials that were replacing the original damaged materials were painstakingly matched to their originals in composition, design, color, texture and other visual qualities," says DiMauro. He tried to use all of the existing hardware – which was restored by Cor-istine Locksmith of Newport – but three passage sets were replicated from those in other period homes in the neighborhood.

Doors, too, were restored. New England Woodworking Inc., of Middletown, RI, did all of the millwork. "Dutchmen were cut and installed into all of the casework, trim, interior doors and five of the six existing mantels," DiMauro explains. "The newel posts and balusters of the main staircase were reproduced in heart pine to match the detail of the existing ones. They were stained natural, so the detail and wood species had to be exact." New England Woodworking also made a custom-designed built-in bench in the stair hall and built-ins in the family room.

Other restorations throughout the house included the flooring and furniture. The first and second floors of the home feature long-leaf yellow pine and fir flooring, and spruce was installed on the third floor. In places too damaged to restore, recycled wood was used to match grain pattern and faded color. Some furniture original to the home was found in the attic. These pieces, including a dresser and a table, were restored by Rosasco Restorations of Newport.

The project was even extended to include the restoration of a guest cottage also sited on this property. It is of a similar style and design as the house. "For the cottage, we used the same details that we used on the main house so they would complement each other," says DiMauro. The roofing, gables, racks, soffits and crowns share the same profiles, but were made in a smaller scale. The restoration of the guest cottage and other site buildings was completed in 2002.

After about three years of research, design and construction, the re-storation of Anaotock was completed. "Our clients wanted to restore this home to its former glory," says DiMauro. "Now they can enjoy it for many summers to come. We feel that Anoatock will live on for another 100 years." 

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