The Hunter House, located in the Point District of Newport, is a great example of Georgian Colonial architecture from the mid-18th century. This house was built during a time when religious tolerance attracted Quakers, Congregationalists, Jews and Baptists to the area. The north half of the house was built between 1748 and 1754 by a prosperous merchant, Jonathan Nichols, Jr. After his death, another deputy governor, Colonel Joseph Wanton, Jr. bought the property. He added a south wing and second chimney to the house, which transformed it into a formal Georgian mansion, complete with a large central hall.
When Colonel Wanton fled Newport for his Loyalist sympathies during the American Revolution, his house was used as a headquarters for the French during their occupation of Newport is 1780. After the war, William Hunter, a U.S. Senator acquired the house. He sold the house in the mid 1860’s and it was passed through a variety of owners until the mid 1940’s, when a small group of concerned citizens purchased the house with the intention of preservation. This group, led by Mrs. George Henry Warren formed the Preservation Society of Newport County and restored the Hunter House to the era of Colonel Wanton.
Today, visitors to the Hunter House can enjoy exhibits that showcase 18th century achievements in arts and crafts. These exhibits include furniture by the Townsend-Goddard family, who were popular cabinetmakers during the colonial era. The house exhibits examples of the finest achievements in the arts and crafts of 18th century Newport. The house showcases Newport pewter and paintings by Gilbert Stuart, Cosmo Alexander and Samuel King. This house is also known for its woodwork, including a carved pineapple over the doorway, a sign of welcome.
The Hunter House became a National Historic Landmark on November 24th, 1968, and is open seasonally, June through October, for tours through the Preservation Society of Newport County.