Malbone Castle and Estate

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Malbone Castle from the East.jpg
Malbone Castle
Malbone Castle and Estate is located in Rhode Island
Malbone Castle and Estate
Malbone Castle and Estate is located in the US
Malbone Castle and Estate
LocationNewport, Rhode Island
Coordinates41°30′18.02″N 71°18′35.55″W / 41.5050056°N 71.3098750°W / 41.5050056; -71.3098750Coordinates: 41°30′18.02″N 71°18′35.55″W / 41.5050056°N 71.3098750°W / 41.5050056; -71.3098750
ArchitectA. J. Davis; Dudley Newton
Architectural styleGothic Revival
NRHP reference #76000039[1]
Added to NRHPOctober 22, 1976

Malbone is the oldest mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. Located on Malbone Road, the estate has a history dating to the mid-18th century, but the present main house was built in 1848-49. The estate once served as the country residence of Colonel Godfrey Malbone (1695–1768) of Virginia and Connecticut. Colonel Malbone made his fortune as a shipping merchant and slave trader, becoming one of the wealthiest men in Newport during the 1740s through privateering and the triangle trade. Malbone's mansion was designed by Richard Munday, a noted colonial architect who also designed Newport landmarks Trinity Church and the Old Colony House. The mansion was so grand that it was widely considered the finest house in all of the American colonies. [2]

Future President George Washington boarded and dined at Malbone in February 1756 when he visited Col. Malbone, who was Washington's friend dating back to Malbone's childhood in Virginia. In 1766, during the course of a gala dinner party, a kitchen fire[3] reduced the house to a pile of sandstone rubble. By several accounts, Colonel Malbone, seeing no reason why the party should be interrupted, ordered dinner to be served outside, proclaiming, "By God, if I must lose my house, I shall not lose my dinner!"

Malbone in 2013

From 1766, the year of the fire, until the 1840s, the ruins of Malbone's estate was a popular attraction among Newporters. In 1848 a new mansion was built directly on top of the old ivy-covered ruins by Mr. & Mrs. Jonathan Prescott Hall. Hall was an eminent New York lawyer and direct descendant of two signers of the Declaration of Independence. The Halls commissioned Alexander Jackson Davis, a notable 19th-century New York architect, to design a house of pink sandstone in the popular Gothic revival style of the time. In 1875, the house's interiors were remodeled under the supervision of noted local architect Dudley Newton.[4] The mansion remained in the same family for over 130 years, serving as the summer "cottage" of the Morris-Bedlow family, a prominent family from New York who held positions of social and political prominence in America and Newport in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Malbone Estate had some of the most prominent formal gardens in America during the 18th and 19th centuries. The gardens were originally established by Col. Malbone to the south of the house because it was from this direction that visitors and merchants from Newport town would approach the estate. Prescott Hall renovated these gardens from 1848-1850, expanding them to 17 acres and enlisting Andrew Jackson Downing, the leading landscape designer of the mid-18th century and an advocate of architectural philosophy. Downing partnered with Calvert Vaux to design the White House grounds and National Mall, collaborated with Frederick Law Olmsted to design Central Park, and is widely regarded as the "Father of American Landscape Architecture." The Malbone Gardens have been recently restored with an emphasis on the brick pathways lined by boxwoods, the central stone waterway, four prominent weeping willows, and the carriage path lined by beech trees, all remnants of Downing's original 1848 design.

The Morris family bequeathed Malbone to the Preservation Society of Newport County in 1978, though the mansion remains a private residence not open to tours or the public. Malbone is now owned by the Brede Family of Wellesley, Massachusetts. The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.[1]

Malbone in 1859

See also[edit]


  • Gardens of Colony and State: Gardens and Gardeners of the American Colonies and of the Republic Before 1840 by Alice G. B. Lockwood.
  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ "NRHP nomination for Malbone" (PDF). Rhode Island Preservation. Retrieved 2014-11-05.
  3. ^ "June 1766 fire, page 98" (PDF). Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  4. ^ Malbone NRHP Nomination. 1976.

External links[edit]