How Glen Manor House became what it is today

In 1882 H.A.C. Taylor, who had homes in New York City and Newport, began to buy farmland in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. The Taylor family’s wealth came from banking, railroads, mining, steel and coal. The family began to summer in Newport in the 1880’s.  Henry A.C. Taylor had built a home in Newport, but he was drawn to the country life. His first purchase of 111 acres from Halsey P. Coon, included two dwelling houses, a grist mill, two barns, and two cribs. This area was already known locally as “The Glen.” Through 1909, Taylor and his son, Moses, continued to add additional farms for a total accumulation of over 700 acres (at times the acreage swelled to 1,500 with the addition of Sandy Point Farm) of excellent grazing and farm land. Around 1889 they had begun breeding Guernsey cows at Glen Farm. These cows comprised an outstanding herd, winning many prizes when they were shown at competitive contests.

By 1906, H.A.C. Taylor moved out of Newport and took up residence on Glen Farm. He used one of the farm houses as his home, and by the 1920’s had plans to build a proper Taylor family home on a secluded part of the the farm. He hired the famous architect, John Russel Pope, to design the home. Pope was an architect of world-wide fame, having designed the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC, among other significant achievements. His design of the Glen Manor House was based on the French Petit Trianon at Versailles, and was quite unique to the area.  The French chateau style home may have been inspired by the chateau in Vigneulles, France, where the son of Edith and Moses Taylor (another Moses Taylor) was killed during World War I.

The architectural plans were completed in September of 1921 and construction began soon afterward. H.A.C. Taylor had died in May of 1921 and so the work was continued by his son, Moses, who took great interest in the house plans and the gardens. The house was completed in 1923, and the Taylors moved in, where they lived for part of the year. The Glen Manor House had extraordinary gardens, somewhat Italian in their design, and the landscaping was magnificent. The landscaping was designed by the Olmsted Brothers — sons of Frederick Law Olmsted. The farm was well-known and highly regarded on the show circuit for its cows, sheep and horses. Moses Taylor died in 1928, and his widow, later Mrs. Edith Taylor Nicholson, lived in the house until her death in 1959.

In January 1959, Reginald Taylor, son of Moses, sold the estate and 43 acres to the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, who moved their Elmhurst school here from Providence in September, 1961. The school closed in 1972 and the property was purchased by the Town of Portsmouth on a bond issue. The Portsmouth Historical Society was asked to create a plan for the use of the Glen Manor House, and from that organization was created the Glen Manor House Authority: a group of volunteers from the town. This group, along with the resident manager, now makes the house available for special functions including weddings, receptions, corporate meetings, events and private gatherings.