Preserving Bristol bookThis two-and-a-half story, three bay, residence sits at the tip of Bristol Point at the confluence of Mount Hope Bay and Narragansett Bay. Its most striking asset is not its architecture but its angle of vision. Its prospect is eleven miles south to the Newport Bridge and beyond, offering the finest view of any home on Narragansett Bay. Six towns — Bristol, Tiverton, Portsmouth, Middletown, Newport, and Jamestown — are visible from its grounds.

Gale Winds

Judge Nathaniel Byfield was the first English owner of the property, holding it from 1680 until 1711. Originally the property consisted of about 224.5 acres; sell-offs of the land over the centuries has reduced the estate to about 1.53 acres.

Other long-tenured owners included Captain Samuel Little (1711–1741), the William Pearse family (1754-1859), and Captain William West and his heirs (1859-1893). After the death of West, a farmer and a deep-water sailor who operated the sailing sloop ferry and later the one-horse treadmill ferry from Bristol Point to Portsmouth until 1865, the so-called West Farm became a bone of contention among West’s heirs.

When the commissioners appointed to subdivide the West estate completed their work, a new era in the history of Bristol Point began. Prominent summer residents replaced the mariners, ferrymen, and farmers of the first two centuries of white ownership. The first and foremost of this new breed was the family of Dexter Thurber. Dexter was the fourth child of Gorham Thurber, two names synonymous with Providence’s rise to national leadership in the fields of jewelry and silverware.

The Thurber family bought the land from the West estate in 1893 and built the house now designated One Bristol road in 1899. Intended as merely a summer retreat, the original structure had no basement to house a heating system, and it was much smaller than at present. The original two-and-a-half story, shingled, wood frame building was designed similar to the Prairie Style houses of Frank Lloyd Wright with an inconspicuous front door facing east and two doors emptying into an open porch that faced due south down Narragansett Bay.

The first floor of the Thurber house consisted of an entrance living room, a dining room, a small pantry and kitchen, and a large open porch extending for forty-two feet along the entire south side of the building. The porch was fronted by an elevated stone patio. The second floor had four small bedrooms and two full baths. The third-story level consisted of two tiny, unfinished storage rooms divided by a hallway.

Little is known about the long Thurber tenancy. As summer residents, the family appears to have avoided involvement in town affairs. Gorham N. Thurber, the beneficiary of the trust in which title to the house was placed, died in 1919, at the age of thirty-three. The trustee under his will, Rhode Island Hospital Trust Company, conveyed the house to Charles C. Marshall.

Marshall, the house’s second summer resident, lived at 105 Prospect Street in Providence. He was the treasurer of the Hope Webbing Company and later president of People’s Savings Bank. Marshall’s tenure was brief; in March 1925, he conveyed the property to Donald S. and Mary T. G. Babcock of Providence. Donald was the financial secretary and consultant to Stephen O. Metcalf, treasurer of the Wanskuck Textile Mills and president of the Providence Journal Company. During the Babcocks’ twenty-one year ownership, the house acquired a rear one-story addition that added a bedroom, a lavette, and a laundry room, while doubling the size of the kitchen. The Babcocks also built a large east-facing three-bay garage to the north of the house containing a workroom on its southern end.

On December 9, 1946, the Babcocks conveyed the house to Leonard C. Tingley of Providence who was president of Federal Products Corporation, a large Providence manufacturer of precision measuring devices. When Tingley died in 1953, he left his Bristol summer home to his only child, Virginia Tingley Johnson. She soon conveyed the property to William A. and Virginia P. Bowen in January 1956.

At the time he purchased the Bristol property, William Bowen was an officer with Rhode Island Hospital Trust Bank and rang the Apponaug Branch of that bank. The Bowens became the house’s first year-round residents. Mr. Bowen became involved in local town affairs, serving as treasurer of the Bristol County Visiting Nurses Association. He later became president of Plantations Bank of Rhode Island.

On August 26, 1969, the Bowens conveyed the house to Frank Pardee III, grandnephew of the mistress of Bristol’s Blithewold estate, and his wife Gertrude G. Pardee.

Seventeen years later, the Pardees transferred title to Harold I. Schein, a Providence businessman, by deed recorded or July 17, 1986.

On September 1, 1986, without ever occupying the house, Schein entered into a five-month lease-option with Patrick T. Conley of Providence, giving Conley possession of the property, and then conveying the house to Conley on February 9, 1987. Conley promptly transferred title to himself and Gail C. Cahalan as joint tenants and named the property “Gale Winds” in her honor.

During the period of their occupancy, from 1986 to present, the Conleys have transformed the property from a crudely winterized summer house into an elegant, year round mini-estate and secured for it the address of One Bristol Point Road. They began by thoroughly refurbishing every room, integrating the porch into the house by making it an all-year sunroom; digging a partial basement for the heating system, which had been located in the garage; finishing the two attic storage rooms; restoring the stairway to the beach; consolidating the two east bedrooms on the second floor into a master bedroom with a full bath; and building a 39-foot ocean-facing, balustrade deck over the old porch, with access from the master bedroom and the den, from the design of architect Donald Conlon.

Throughout the occupancy the Conleys continue to expand and upgrade the house and grounds by adding such amenities as a second-floor recreation center, a studio in the garage consisting of four rooms and a bath, a mahogany fireplace wall in the living room sculpted by Korean master carver Sang in Kim, decorative painting on most interior walls and ceilings by artist Michael Borbone, a 13 foot by 23 foot glass conservatory build by Bristol contractor Arthur Hanoian on the west side of the main house off the dining room, patios and a system of brick walkways crafted by Bristolians Charles Coehlo and Joseph Rego, a large ornate fountain, and a fish pond.

They Conleys’ most notable addition is the Jeffersonian-style library, designed by Dr. Conley and built under the direction of contractor Harold Brown. The octagon-shaped structure is twenty-two feet in diameter with a full basement and a main level with a fireplace and a twelve-foot ceiling. The intricate moldings and shelving were crated by furniture-maker Joseph Voltas, carpenter Mark Giroux, and finished by artisan James Marshall. The two-level library is designed to house over 7,000 volumes.

In 2002, the Conleys built the final major addition to the Gale Winds estate — a 200 foot fixed pier with a ramp-float addition designed and constructed by Richard DeSalvo that extends approximately 133 feet past mean high water.