GEORGE CHAMPLAIN MASON1820-1894
A prominent Newport, Rhode Island architect and also painter of landscapes, and illustrator and writer, George Champlin Mason was born and raised in Newport to a prominent family. As a young man, he traveled extensively in Europe, studying architecture and drawing. His first architectural commission was Starboard House, a large stone summer cottage on Narragansett Avenue in Newport.
As a young man, he did a painting, “Rocky Farm and Cherry Neck, Newport”, which is in the collection of the Redwood Library in Newport. Financial necessity required that he pursue many various careers, including newspaper publisher, real estate agent, editor, and architect. Among his jobs was editor, at age 29, of the Newport Advertiser from 1850 to 1858; and correspondent for the Providence Journal and the New York Evening Post.
He was president of the Mason architectural firm, in Newport, 1858 to 1894, during which he designed over 150 Newport buildings including the Jeremiah Stitts House (1879); the Fort Adams Commandant House (1873); and, his last commission, the United States Naval War College Administration Building in 1882. He designed his own home of 23 rooms on Historic Hill in Newport using Chalet style architecture. He named it Woodbine Cottage. “Externally the house has an over-hanging second story, broad projecting eaves, and gables filled with tracery of a Swiss chalet, pretty balconies, a beautiful piazza and terrace. It is now (2008) the George Champlin Mason House, a restored structure and Bed and Breakfast. At the time of its completion, the house garnered attention for its intricate exterior woodwork and beautiful interior. After Mason’s death in 1894 the house remained a single family home until 1996 when Sheila and Harlan Tyler acquired the property and transformed it into the Architect’s Inn. They lovingly restored many of the rooms and furnished it with period antiques. Just as Sheila and Harlan started to consider retirement, they were sought out by old friends and colleagues, Nick and Brian, who now help run the Inn for them and continue to share this elegant private home with guests from around the world. It has been described as being at “the finest location in Newport, sitting proudly in the heart of the island in a peaceful, residential district surrounded by other stately Victorian mansions. It stands just a three block westward stroll to the cobble stone of Thames Street, three blocks easterly passes you by the famous Cliff Walk and the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean, and three blocks south to the Tennis Hall of Fame and Mansion tours.” (Architectsinn.com)
He also served as Director of the Redwood Library & Athenaeum, Newport.
He was author and illustrator of 12 books, including Newport Illustrated (1854); The Application of Art to Manufactures (1858); and The Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart, 1879); The Old House Altered (1878); and Newport and its Cottages (1875).
He was a member of the Rhode Island Art Association, and was the Director and Founder of the Newport Historical Society.