Redwood History: Simon Pease

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 11:11am -- mfarias

Of the 46 Original Proprietors of the Redwood Library, whose names can be found here on our website, there are some that we know relatively little about beyond their signatures. For Simon Pease, one of the men on the list, we do not have a record of when he was born. We know that he died in 1769 and that he was married to Martha Willett, but his biography remains largely incomplete. Beyond his contributions to the Redwood Library, the most enduring record of his time in Newport is his home. Built c. 1700, the Simon Pease house is one of the earliest homes in Newport, residing under the protection of the Newport Restoration Foundation.


Photo Credit: NRF: Simon Pease House  


The building is on its original site on Clarke Street and was purchased by NRF in 1969 and restored in 1971. The first photo above shows some of the additions to the original structure that had been added over the centuries. They were present before the NRF restored it back to what it would have looked like in the eighteenth century, as shown in the second photo. Pease was able to afford such a home due to his status as one of the wealthier merchants in Newport prior to the Revolution. The building is on its original site on Clarke Street and was purchased by NRF in 1969 and restored in 1971. The first photo above shows some of the additions to the original structure that had been added over the centuries. They were present before the NRF restored it back to what it would have looked like in the eighteenth century, as shown in the second photo. Pease was able to afford such a home due to his status as one of the wealthier merchants in Newport prior to the Revolution. Newport had a booming merchant class due to the city's status as a successful trading port. The accompanying fledging merchant class and the wealth that accompanied them was used to fund several philanthropic endeavors, such as the Redwood and other cultural institutions.


Statue of General Rochambeau overlooking Newport Harbor

Photo Credit: Boston Globe


The Simon Pease House was one of many homes in town used to lodge French soldiers when they arrived in Newport as our allies towards the end of the Revolutionary War. Rochambeau's commissariat consisted of four officers, one of whom, Commissary Ethis de Corny, stayed at the Simon Pease House while in Newport. Pease had died in 1769 before the war started, but it is possible that his family still lived in the home and the soldier lodged with them, or that someone else had taken possession of the house at that time.


Redwood Library & Athenaeum Exterior


It is difficult to know what sort of person Simon Pease was during his life in colonial Newport, but with the knowledge that he was a wealthy merchant who used some of his money to help support the creation of the Redwood Library, we know that we can at least be thankful for the desire these men had to develop Newport because of the Library we can still enjoy today. Between his home on Clarke Street and the Redwood, he left a lasting mark on Newport.