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Building Conservation Associates

Belmont Chapel

Location: Newport, Rhode Island
Year Built: 1886
Original Architect: George C. Mason & Son, William Gosling

Belmont Chapel, located in Island Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island, was designed in the gothic revival style by George Champlin Mason, Sr, and was constructed in 1886 as a memorial to Jane Pauline Belmont, who died in 1875 at the age of 19. In 1891 the Belmont family hired the prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt to redesign the interior and exterior, for comfort and aesthetic purposes. Hunt added additional Gothic-style structural and sculptural elements to the exterior of the chapel, and the polychromatic painted decorations to the interior.

Every decorative element remaining in the Belmont Chapel interior appears to have been selected directly from Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc’s “Designs & Ornaments from the Chapels of Notre Dame.” This was a high-profile publication for a high-profile building, and Hunt, being well-connected to the architectural scene in France, would certainly have had access to this publication from the United States.

BCA’s services were retained to investigate what remained of the severely deteriorated interior decorations of the chapel in order to determine the colors and patterns utilized when it was originally decorated. Field investigation documented what remained of the original decorative paint patterns, laboratory analysis determined the original paint colors used, elevations were drawn to reconstruct the original patterns, and a final report compiled all of the information. Combining research, laboratory analysis and field observations of fragments of remaining decorative paint patterns, a fuller picture of the interior decorative paint scheme emerged.