Plaques on the side of Vernon House on Clarke Street feature images of Rochambeau and Lafayette. Why are these French military officers associated with the home?

Vintage postcard of Vernon House

The application for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places calls it one of Newport’s “most interesting buildings.” Peter Harrison, the designer of Redwood Library, is often mentioned as the architect of this colonial home. Re-modeling of the home in 1759 provided additions that give it an appearance of a Georgian mansion. Charles Bowler may have bought the property in 1753 when he became the Collector of Revenue. Bowler sold it to his son, Metcalf Bowler. Bowler was a noted merchant in the West Indies trade and he was active in local politics. He had a country home on Wapping Road in Portsmouth where Lafayette stayed during the Siege of Newport in 1778. Bowler fled to Providence and even held a state judgeship, but years later it was determined that he had acted as a British spy.

In 1773 Bowler sold the Newport home to William Vernon who was a successful merchant and ship builder. When the French arrived in Newport in 1780, Vernon offered the home as the quarters of Rochambeau. Rochambeau hosted both Lafayette and Washington while he resided at the home from 1780 to 1781.

The home is now in the hands of the Newport Restoration Foundation. The address is 46 Clarke Street.

Other homes associated with the French in Newport:

Hunter House: Headquarters of Charles Louis de Ternay before he died in December of 1780.

The Thomas Robinson House: Vicomte de Noailles of the Soissonain Regiment.

Buliod-Perry House occupied by Quartermaster Belville.

Sources: Application for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Place.