An Italianate Villa
| Original Builder:
||George Champlin Mason
| Construction Dates:
Newport-born architect and entrepreneur George Champlin Mason built Chepstow (1860-1861) for Edmund Schermerhorn, a descendant of one of the first settlers in New Netherland. Mr. Mason began his architectural career in 1858 after retiring as the editor and publisher of the Newport Mercury
. He did not receive any major architectural commissions until 1860 when no less than seven Mason-designed summer cottages were built in Newport for such important summer colonists as the Belmont, Ogden, Schermerhorn, and Tiffany families. A veritable cottage colony designed by Mason rose on the north side of Narragansett Avenue where Chepstow was soon joined by its neighbors, Gravel Court and Starboard House. The seven cottages constructed in 1860 were the nucleus of more than 150 Mason-designed buildings in the Newport area.
The Italianate style, like the Gothic Revival, began in England in the 1830s as part of the Picturesque movement in architecture and landscape design. Italianate houses are characterized by their tall, narrow windows, low-pitched roofs with overhanging eaves, and square towers. Reacting to the more formal, classical ideals that had influenced the architecture of earlier decades, the Italianate style looked to the informal, rambling architecture of Italian farmhouses. In the 1840s and 1850s, it was the plans of landscape designer Alexander Jackson Davis circulated in Andrew Jackson Downing's books that helped popularize the style.
Despite some modifications, Chepstow retains its original Italianate character with a low French-style mansard roof, bracketed trim, and first floor round arch window detail. The façade is dominated by a large second story Palladian window above a round arch entrance pavilion. Left of the entrance is a single-story bay window. Such windows, to one side of the entrance, would become a defining feature of Mason-designed cottages.