History of the Inn
Our historic inn was built in 1760 as a private residence for Colonel Francis Malbone (b. 1728 – d. 1785), who made his fortune as a shipping merchant at a time when Newport Harbor was one of the busiest Harbors in the New World.
Apparently, the Colonel was not above smuggling dutiable merchandise into the house to avoid the King’s customs taxes. Subterranean passages found in the cellar have been traced to a subway leading to the pier where Colonel Malbone moored his fleet. This was a practice common in the Free Port of Newport, and one upon which many Newport fortunes were founded.
At the start of the Revolutionary War, the British occupied Newport and seized the Malbone Estate. The mansion was used to store looted gold and treasures, leading to its nickname, “the Treasure House.” There is an old legend in Newport of the love affair of a young British officer and the colonel’s daughter, Peggy Malbone. According to history, the two fell in love just before the war, when the officer would dine at the Colonel’s estate. When the war began, and the mansion was seized by the British, the Malbones remained under British occupancy. Officers were not allowed to enter the house or socialize with the colonists, so the lovers were torn apart, forbidden to see one another. The young British officer was captured in an attempt to steal into Newport to see her and imprisoned in Massachusetts. According to legend, he finally escaped and for months risked life and limb as a fugitive to return to her. The two were married at the close of the war, and returned to England where he became Lord Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield.
At the end of the war, the mansion was returned to the Malbone family who retained ownership until the early 1830’s. After the death of Colonel Malbone in 1785, his son, Francis Malbone Jr., a future United States Senator, received ownership of the estate until his untimely death in 1809. In 1770, famed painter, Gilbert Stuart painted this portrait of the younger Francis Malbone and his brother Saunders. The original of this portrait hangs in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
In 1850, the house was owned by Dr. James R. Newton, who built a brick office on the estate for his doctor’s office. This building is now known as “The Counting House” and is our largest suite.
The Francis Malbone House has been lovingly maintained throughout the years, as evidenced by the painstaking restoration undertaken during the early 1970’s. The three story brick Georgian mansion retains its architectural heritage and original colonial character to this day.
The design of the house is attributed to Peter Harrison, America’s First Architect, whose works include the Touro Synagogue and the Redwood Library. The front door of the mansion features a fine Ionic doorway very similar to the Ionic portico of the Touro Synagogue. The floor plan is typical for the era — a broad central hall with a pair of flanking rooms on either side. The hall has a high dividing arch, the stairs are fitted with ramped rail and twisted balusters. The stair landing is lit by a Palladian window. The front parlors feature flush paneling, a sign of wealth in colonial times. Two-story pediment mantels adorn the fireplace walls and a broken scroll tops the one in the northwest parlor.
In 1989, the present owners opened the estate as an Historic Inn, offering nine guest rooms. In 1996, they embarked on building a sensitively designed addition, which has allowed the inn to expand to eighteen luxurious guestrooms.
We now invite you to enjoy this historic home and allow it to become a part of your history.