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Clingstone, A 115-Year Old House That Sits On a Rock




  • Clingstone was built in 1905 by J. S. Lovering Wharton of Philadelphia.
  • The cedar-shingled house sits on a rock about 20 feet above sea level in Narragansett, Rhode Island.
  • Despite other people’s skepticisms, Wharton loved the house and spent every summer there until his death.
  • A retired Boston architect named Henry Wood now owns this 10,000 sq. foot mansion with a communal, bohemian vibe.

Sitting on a rock 20 feet above sea level is a mansion over a century old. Those who sail by Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island wouldn’t miss this 10,000 sq. foot house. It even looks hauntingly beautiful in wintertime as it stands out in the icy gray seascape.

J. S. Lovering Wharton, a man from Philadelphia, built this mansion in 1905. He used to own a summer house in Fort Wetherill area in south Jamestown. However, when the government seized his property by the end of 1800s as a means to enlarge the fort, he decided to build a house where no one can bother him.

Mr. Wharton worked with an artist named William Trost Richards and designed a shingle-style house.
Photo: Mansion-homes. com
The three-story mansion consisted of 23 rooms and was built like a mill with wide planking, diagonal sheathing, and oak beams.
Photo: Eric Jacobs via The New York Times

According to the New York Times, the neighbors were skeptical that an article in the society section of The Philadelphia Press published in August 1904 read:

“Everyone is of the opinion here that Mr. Wharton will not stay in the house more than one season, and they say one nor’easter will settle it.”

However, Mr. Wharton proved them wrong; he loved his ‘house on the rock.’
The man spent his summers there until the day he died just before the hurricane of 1938.
Photo: Eric Jacobs via The New York Times

The hurricane wrecked havoc on the properties of Rhode Island. Fortunately, Clingstone suffered very little damage.

Mr. Wharton’s widow died in 1941. Clingstone then stood empty for two decades until Henry Wood, a retired Boston architect purchased it for $3,600. Mr. Wood is apparently a distant cousin, that’s why Mr. Wharton’s sons sold him the property.

He and his ex-wife, Joan bought Clingstone in 1961, but it was a disaster. All of its 65 picture windows were smashed and the roof was broken. Vandals likewise blasted marbles on the interior shingles of the second floor.

With the help of friends—over a decade or so later—Mr. Wood restored the house, which didn’t have electricity, running water, windows, roof, and floors.

Eventually, its maintenance turned into a ‘communal lifestyle’ with friends working on the house and camping there for weeks.
Photo: Eric Jacobs via The New York Times

Bartering also worked well for Mr. Wood. For instance, he’d get services for the house or the family’s boats in exchange for a week-long stay in Clingstone in summer.

‘The house on the rock’ is also available for renters, but he said they “must be able to swim, understand hurricanes, strong tides and outboards.”

Annually around Memorial Day, Mr. Wood and at least 70 friends and Clingstone lovers gather for the ‘Clingstone work weekend.’ Together, they clean and do maintenance works on the house.

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