7 Red Cross Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island

Built in 1883, for Samuel Colman (1832-1920), a well-known landscape artist, the first President of the American Water Color Society, a connoisseur of Oriental art and an interior designer in business with Louis Comfort Tiffany specializing in fabrics and wallpaper. In 1881, he purchased the land from the heirs of Mrs Harriet Crowninshield for $28,000 and the house itself cost $25,000 to build, designed by the great triumvirate of McKim, Mead & White. While far from being one of their grandest designs, the critic Mrs Mariana Van Rensselaer called the house, "dignified yet rural, simple yet refined, almost picturesque yet quiet". Colman later sold the house to William Henry Appleton (1814-1899) who gave it to his daughter, Mary. In 1925, it was purchased by J. Coleman Drayton whose divorce from Charlotte Astor in 1896 had been the, "most conspicuous society scandal of the generation". It still remains a private home....

This house is best associated with...

Samuel Colman

Samuel Colman Jr., Artist & Interior Designer, of New York City


Mary Appleton

Mary Appleton, died unmarried


James Coleman Drayton

J. Coleman Drayton of New York City, Philadelphia & Newport, Rhode Island


Colman was an old friend of Stanford White's family. The part of Newport in which he chose to build his home (his was not a seasonal home) was popular with writers, artists and intellectuals, but he was also probably hoping to find a patron or two among Newport's wealthier resorters. The house itself was ostensibly a regular Shingle-style resort cottage, but it incorporated both a spacious studio and a small "widow's walk" to enjoy the view. Like a Dutch Colonial house, much of it sits within the gambrel roof.

Interior Design

Colman's studio occupied a large, high-ceilinged space within a wide dormer between the second and third floors which provided a flood of natural light. It featured a complete set of Japanese armor above a mantel, framed by columns either side. The walls of his new house were enlivened with his collection of paintings, notably a Corot and several others purchased from the estate of the late John Taylor Johnston. The hallway, wainscoted in oak and papered in Japanese leather, was furnished with a Japanese chest and bronzes, and he successfully blended objects from different cultures throughout the house, eg., Japanese porcelains with Persian silks. The color scheme varied from a sombre blue-black in the panelled library to rose and buff in the Drawing Room onto which it opened.

Colman to Coleman

Colman lived here with his first wife, Ann Lawrence Dunham. She was the daughter of the first President of the Corn Exchange Bank of New York and her private funds most likely contributed towards the building costs. She died in 1902 and the following year Colman was married again to Lillian Margaret Gaffney, of Newport. It was after his second marriage that he sold Boxcroft to the well-known publisher William Henry Appleton who gifted the house to his unmarried daughter, Mary Appleton (1850-1934).

In 1925, Mary Appleton sold her cottage to J. Coleman Drayton. Having batted aside countless suitors to win the hand of Charlotte Astor (great-granddaughter of John Jacob Astor), it was their divorce - "the most conspicuous society scandal of the generation" - that made for bigger headlines in the 1890s. Charlotte's father had been so outraged by the whole affair that he disinherited her and left $850,000 to their three children instead.

Having lived there quietly for nine years, J. Coleman Drayton died at Boxcroft in 1934 and he left the house to his three children. His elder son, H. Coleman Drayton, "the darling of the Newport set," summered with his wife at Fair Oak and Boxcroft is assumed to have been shared by his brother (William Astor Drayton) and sister (Mrs Caroline Phillips). Since then, its ownership has become somewhat opaque. If you have anything to add about its more recent history, please log in and leave a comment below.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 18/02/2020 and last updated on 03/05/2021.
Images Courtesy of Wikimapia; Triumvirate: McKim, Mead & White: Art, Architecture, Scandal, and Class in America's Gilded Age (2010) by Mosette Broderick; American Country Houses of the Gilded Age: (Sheldon's "Artistic Country-Seats"), by A. Lewis; Rhode Island Resort Architecture by McKim, Mead & White (1964), by Eugenia (Brandenburger) Smith


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