1768 Drawing of the Redwood Library by Pierre Simitiere from a notebook in Collection of Philadelphia Library. Image from Historic American Buildings Survey Catalog 

One of my favorite buildings, The Redwood Library in Newport, Rhode Island.   Founded 1747, it is the oldest lending library in the United States.  An elegant small pavilion with wings flanking a Doric portico, the exterior surface is wood, scored to look like ashlar blocks, with sand mixed in the paint to further carry out the illusion of stone.  It is a perfect synthesis of sophisticated aspirations wedded to the realities of available materials and craftsmanship in colonial America. The original portion of the Redwood Library was designed by Peter Harrison, an English amateur architect, in 1750, based on a plate from Edward Hoppus’ Andrea Palladio’s Architecture, published in 1736. 

Early Photograph of Redwood Library,  Image from Historic American Buildings Survey

A Villa With Superimposed Portico, from Book IV  of the Hoppus edition of Palladio’s I Quattro Libri Dell’Architecttura,
  
Elevation of the Redwood Library from Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress

Early Bookplate of the Redwood Library, image from Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress 

  • To see a version of Palladio’s design executed in brick & stone, compare the Redwood Library to The Temple in the park at Holkham Hall in England.   For a photograph of the temple, click here
  • For more about the Redwood Library, and their fascinating collections, please visit their website
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