The Rotch-Jones-Duff (RJD) House occupies a full city block on County Street in New Bedford, Massachusetts (Bristol County), bordered by Madison, Cherry (now Joli Gonsalves), and Seventh Streets. The house is a Greek Revival mansion set back from the sidewalk on all sides with the house positioned about forty feet from the sidewalks to the north and west (Madison and County Streets) to allow for greater space for gardens and outbuildings on the south and east of the property. The property is approximately one acre in size and was acquired by William Rotch Jr. as part of the land owned by his father, William Rotch Sr. who passed the property to his children under the provisions of the will in force at his death in 1828. The property was deeded to William Jr. on 5 July 1831.
The house exists within a nineteenth-century residential area that is the County Street National Historic Registry District. County Street was the fashionable place to live, away from the wharves and bustle of the commercial waterfront district. New houses in this prestigious neighborhood were of a higher style and more ornate in their execution. William Rotch Jr., however, insisted on a house that was more restrained in its appearance and built of more modest materials than others in the area about the same time.
Since the construction of the house in 1834 some elements have been altered to suit the tastes and needs of the three families who lived there. Most modifications are typical for advancements in mechanical systems, such as additional bathrooms, new heating ducts, and electrical lighting. These periodic updates would be expected in a residence whose occupants had the means to afford the latest developments in technology for residential comfort. All three families, however, maintained a strong interest in the preservation of the exterior of the room arrangements and of character-defining details.
The current physical appearance and arrangement of the house is characteristic of its 1834 construction date. The house has large, well-proportioned rooms and large windows with paneled folding shutters; varnished mahogany doors have walnut veneered panels and are trimmed with painted casings. Cornerblocks and baseboards feature elliptical echinus profiles that are the hallmark of Greek Revival interiors. Window muntins have a beaded knife blade profile for the most part, and the ceiling cornices and medallions are well executed in plaster ornamentation. All of these interior features give the house its strong Greek Revival identity. The house is interpreted through historic furnishings and materials representative of three consecutive periods of the home’s occupancy—the Rotch family beginning in 1834, the Jones family beginning in 1851, and the Duff family beginning in 1935.
Excerpted from the RJD Landmark Nomination by Kathryn Grover