Grey Craig

Grey Craig (also known as Grey Crag and Gray Crag)

The House of J. Mitchell Clark, Esq.

Newport, Rhode Island

by Barr Ferree, 1904

Lake at Grey Craig

Grey Craig, the house of J. Mitchell Clark, Esq., has the advantage of a very distinct character among the Renaissance palaces which abound in Newport [Rhode Island]. It is a genuinely castellated building, quite unusual in style, and, quite unusual for Newport, placed on an estate of about one hundred and twenty-five acres. The house stand alone, with no near-by edifice with which it may come in immediate contrast. It is built of stone taken from the land on which it stands, a pudding-stone having the quality of a natural concrete. Much of it is covered with natural moss, and hardly an individual stone shows; but there is a superb massiveness in the walls, which are dark gray, with a genuinely antique character.

The house is entered under the great massive tower. A vaulted corridor or entrance hall leads to the great central hall, a superb apartment, two stories in height. It is not only the central room of the house, but the most important. To the left is a platform, with a fine pipe organ, flanked on either side by a cathedral-like window; below them are Spanish church stalls, with high, heavily carved backs, having oval panels with heads in the center; fine black oak stalls of unusual beauty, admirably placed. On the opposite side is a row of columns and pointed arches, a certain irregularity being given to the space by cutting off a part with curtains. The walls are of rough gray plaster with sand finish, and save the carved capitals of the columns, there are no mouldings or decorations beloved of the architects. The coffered ceiling is of California redwood, with beams supported by old Florentine shields; in the center is a large skylight, with a brilliant sunburst in the middle. At night this is lighted above. The walls are hung with superb old tapestries and rare paintings. The parquet floor is covered with rich rugs. The furniture is old and chiefly Italian.

The general shape of the building is rectangular, with the entrance at one end. A small corridor to the left of the entrance leads to Mr. Clark's den; an elevator, also recessed, is just before his door. Immediately opposite, on the right, is a staircase to the second floor.

Passing into the hall, one is at once attracted by the great window at the end of a corridor exactly opposite the entrance hall. To its left is the dining-room, to the right the drawing-room, the two rooms and the separating corridor being so arranged that, from the dinner table, one may look out through the drawing-room windows upon the view beyond.

The dining-room is three steps above the level of the entrance corridor. Like all the interior, except the drawing-room, it has sand-finished walls. The furniture is gilt and red, and over the vast marble sideboard is a mirror which reflects the view from the great bay window opposite. The drawing-room has an elliptical vault, illuminated at night with lights placed in stars, about a hundred, a brilliant effect that needs to be seen to be appreciated. The walls are hung with cloth-of-gold material, against which are placed mirrors and pictures. The furniture is gilt and of Italian origin.

The second floor has a series of corridors and loggias surrounding the central hall. Here are guest rooms and the rooms of the owner. In the far corner, adjoining the owner's bedroom, is a morning room, decorated in Chinese materials and with Oriental effect. The corner windows afford a superb view.

A 1907 article added, "One of the features of the interior of Gray Crag is the music-room, in which Mrs. Clark's musicales are given during the summer. It has a strangely medieval aspect, with its high, narrow windows and its Mission furniture, gathered in the nooks and corners of old Spain."

Notes by Sarah E. Mitchell:

J. Mitchell Clark was the President of the Berkshire Iron Works and the American Electric Furnace Company. He made his money primarily from his work with iron and steel. Mrs. J. Mitchell Clark was a composer and writer of musicales and operettas. She invented "a resounding curved piano lid" which was reportedly spoken highly of by Paderewski and Richard Strauss.

Mr. Clark died in March of 1913. According to reader Mike Taylor, the house at Grey Craig was replaced with another in the early 1920's.

The main body of this article was first published in Barr Ferree, American Estates and Gardens, Munn and Company, New York, 1904, pp. 84-89 and from Elizabeth Odgers Toombs, "Newport Cottages and Gardens," Munsey's Magazine, August, 1907, pp. 556-557. Further information came from "The Death Record," Industrial World, March 24, 1913, p. 361 and The Theatre Magazine, circa 1904.

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