The J.N.A. Griswold house was constructed in 1862-1863 for John Noble Alsop Griswold, a China trade merchant. Started by his father and uncle, Griswold’s New York firm specialized in rum, sugar and tea. In 1847, Griswold traveled to the Far East and within a year, was United States consul at Shanghai, which he continued until 1857.
In addition, he helped develop several prominent railroads across the country and was a Vice President in the China of the Medical Missionary Society.
The house was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, who was the first American to study architecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, where, in 1846 at the age of 19, he first met the Griswolds.
Griswold’s decision to built a summer house in Newport designed by a major architect established a trend that continued in Newport throughout the 19th century. Located at the beginning of Bellevue Avenue, the house is a visible transition between older parts of town and the areas developed in the 19th century by the Summer Colony.
Hunt turned for the design of this house to the vernacular architecture of rural France and produced a building which helped articulate “stick style” of American architecture.
After the success of the Griswold House, Hunt became the architect for many of the growing Summer Colony in Newport. Hunt secured commissions across the country, but nowhere is his ability to work in a wide variety of styles more evident than in Newport.
In 1916, the Griswold House was purchased by the Art Association of Newport (now the Newport Art Museum) for their headquarters. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark.