For the last post in this series on Bristol, Rhode Island, I am leaving you with a house that is architecturally stunning, but holds a dark history. Linden Place was built in 1810 by slave trader, merchant, privateer and ship owner George DeWolf and was designed by architect, Russell Warren. The DeWolfs of Bristol, who became the biggest slave-trading family in U.S. history, transported well over 11,000 Africans to the Americas between 1769 and 1820. The U.S. banned the slave trade in 1808, but the DeWolfs continued dealing in the slave trade until the 1840s by going through Cuba, where they had numerous plantations. They also got help from a DeWolf brother-in-law, who served as a customs inspector in Bristol — thus ensuring family slave ships continued to come and go. In 1825, George DeWolf suffered major financial hits and he and his family fled to his plantation in Cuba, where they’d be beyond reach of his creditors. Stories explain that with the possibility of legitimate payment out of the question, the townspeople sought compensation for George’s debts where they could, and they broke down the front door of Linden Place, and took everything, even peeling the silk wallpaper off the walls.
While I love the quintessential white, wood-frame New England churches that proliferate the region, the stone, Gothic churches always make me stop in my tracks; and this example in Bristol is no exception! St. Michael’s parish was founded in 1718 as one of the Rhode Island’s four colonial churches, funded and overseen from London. The first church, built in 1720, was ironically later burned during a British raid in 1778. It was replaced in 1785 by a plain wooden meetinghouse with funds from local residents and partitioners. In 1833, it was replaced by a wood-frame Gothic church which burned in 1858. Undeterred, the church hired New York City architects Alexander Saeltzer and Lawrence B. Valk, who designed the present brownstone Gothic Revival church. Just over a decade later, the church hired Worcester architect Stephen C. Earle, to design a chapel and parish house, across the street. The chapel building follows the Gothic Revival style, but with more Victorian flair, and is also constructed of brownstone to compliment the church. Together, the two structures transport you to the English countryside with their design and presence on the main street in town. What do you think of them?
This incredibly unique and flawless home in Bristol was apparently built by the infamous James DeWolf. Historic records state that the slave trader built the home for his son William Henry, but that is unlikely as he was the owner of the family mansion, Linden Place at that time. Therefore it is likely that another of James’ sons William Bradford DeWolf was gifted the home, roughly at the time of his marriage in 1835. The home was a 2 1/2-story Greek Revival home. By the 1880s, the property was sold to Dr. Ramon Guiteras, a urologist, who had the house stuccoed, fashionable Stick style trim applied across the facade, a full-width bracketed porch, and two-story octagonal tower on the side. The home is now owned by the neighboring church who restored it in the 1970s and maintain it beautifully to this day.
In 1899, the Bristol Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) selected architect Wallis E. Howe to design this five-bay, gable-roof, Tudor Revival building as its headquarters. Architect Howe created a rich effect with red brick and white mortar in combination with Tudor half-timbers in green, and buff-colored stucco. The building is a rare example of the Tudor style in Bristol, but is one of the most successful in the state (in my opinion), due to its strong presence and massing working with the use of materials and colors. The large central archway led upstairs to a library and gymnasium for use by YMCA members, while the ground floor featured four small businesses. In 1967, a new entrance and lobby, was constructed, linking the original YMCA to the since abandoned Bristol Customs House and Post Office.
Architect Russell Warren (1783-1860), who I have featured on here numerous times, built this 2-story, 5-bay, hip-roof Federal house in Bristol, Rhode Island. This residence as interpreted by Warren as an example of the Federal style with stylistic features most notably being the angulated quoins (at the corners of the house). The house was designed for William Van Doom, a Bristol tailor of modest means. In 1814, Warren, a young and aspiring architect, saw the significant wealth in Bristol and decided to buy this home he designed. Siting himself in the vicinity of the extremely wealthy DeWolf family, he gained recognition and success by designing three expensive and elaborately crafted houses for them at this time, only Linden Place remaining. Warren lived in this house from 1814 until 1823.
Lemuel Clarke Richmond (1782-1876), a whaler, built this Octagon home in his seventies. This was the second home he built in Bristol Rhode Island, the first being the Richmond-Herreshoff House I featured previously. When Lemuel Richmond sold his 1803 Federal style home, his home was empty as his wife passed and all of his children married and moved out of the house. Octagon houses are fairly rare nationwide, and most were built in a small timeframe in the 1850s. The publication of Orson Squire Fowler’sA Home for All: or the Gravel Wall and Octagon Mode of Building in 1853 briefly brought popularity to octagonal structures. The octagon, according to its proponents, offered greater floor space, increased air and sunlight, and was a healthful natural form. Orson Squire Fowler was a phrenologist (a pseudoscience which involves the measurement of bumps on the skull to predict mental traits) and lecturer who had a huge impact on American architecture, though only for about a decade. The Richmond House in Bristol also features an octagonal cupola, bracketed porch, and a single-room addition over the porch over the front door. Could you live in an Octagon?
Located on Hope Street, just south of the downtown area of Bristol, Rhode Island, this beautiful Federal-style home overlooks the water, and once oversaw a large ship-building empire. The home was built by Lemuel Clarke Richmond (1782-1876), possibly in response to his marriage to Hannah Gorham in 1803. Richmond was a wealthy whaler who owned nearly twenty ships, including the Empress, a Bristol-built bark. The Federal style home features a five-bay facade with central entry. A modest portico surrounds the door which has a fan light transom above. Oh, and there are some gorgeous 12-over-12 windows on the home, at the ground floor the windows have flared lintels above. The home was sold by Richmond in the early 1850s and rented out to Charles and Julia Ann Herreshoff, who resided there with their eight children! It was here where sons John and Nathanael overlooked the water as young boys and became consumed by the beauty of the ships that sailed by their front yard. The brothers later ran the internationally renowned Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, which occupied land all around the home (and was featured previously). The home was acquired by the family in the 1860s, and often changed hands within the family over the next decades until it was inherited by Norman F. Herreshoff. A collector of Americana, Norman Hcrreshoff completed a series of renovations to the family home, including remodeling of the kitchen to be “old-fashioned” and replacement of the front porch with the small Ionic portico which we see today. The home is owned by the Herreshoff Marine Museum, but has seen better days.
In 1859, 18 year old John Brown Herreshoff (1841-1915) of Bristol, accepted his first commission to design and build a yacht. The fact that he was blind, having completely lost his sight at 15, didn’t seem to slow him down. He became known as the “blind boat builder.” In his early years, John Herreshoff had acquired such a keen knowledge and “feel” of boats that his blindness was no obstacle. The handwork however, was done by his brother, Nathanael Greene Herreshoff, later known as “the Wizard of Bristol.” His skill in shipbuilding became well-known; so in 1863, John took on space in an old rifleworks, hired a crew of shipwrights and established what would become the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company. From 1864 to 1869, the boatworks built forty-three steam yachts, including Seven Brothers, the first steam-powered fishing boat in America. In 1876, Lightning, the first United States Navy torpedo boat, was completed. Construction of larger craft soon followed, including the 94-footStiletto, considered the fastest boat in the world, and was later purchased by the Navy, and was its first torpedo boat capable of launching self-propelled torpedoes. J.B. Herreshoff died in 1915 and the company continued under his brother Nathanael, until it was taken over by a syndicate of New York and Boston yachtsmen. Business stagnated after WWI and the business closed after WWII. Today, Burnside Street in Bristol showcases the lasting legacy of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company and their impact. Also, the Herreshoff Marine Museum sits at the end of the street, continuing that legacy.
Bristol, Rhode Island is dominated by Federal and Greek Revival homes, but there are some absolutely gorgeous gems built after (I can’t wait to show you a sampling). This Bracketed/Italianate home is a well-preserved example of the style with a side-hall entry, two-story bay window, and hoods over windows and the main entry with brackets. The home was built for Charles Greene, a very active citizen of Bristol. Greene (1822-1899) purchased the Bristol Phoenix in 1862 and remained its editor and publisher for thirty-one years. Active in public and civic affairs, he was first president of the Rhode Island Press Association, clerk of the Supreme and common Pleas Courts of Bristol County from 1865 to 1868, a member of the General Assembly in 1873 and 1874, Sheriff of Bristol County from 1875 to 1877, and a town council member from 1879 to 1881.
Built in 1838, just three years after the Talbot House in Bristol, Rhode Island, (just two houses away), the Dimond House remains as the other of the two remaining Greek, temple-front homes in town. Like the Talbot House, this home was also designed by Russell Warren, but is unique as it is in the tetrastyle (with four columns) and utilizes the Ionic order with the capitals featuring volutes (scrolls). Additionally, a polygonal bay can be seen on the right side of the home. Images show that the bay features stunning lancet windows! The home was designed for Francis Moore Dimond (1796-1859), who was born in Bristol, and later traveled to the Caribbean and served for several years (1832-1835) as the United States consul at Port-au-Prince. It is entirely possible that Dimond was involved in the slave trade, but I wasn’t able to find more than a couple articles referencing his connections to the infamous DeWolf Family. From 1842 to 1849, Dimond was United States Consul to the Mexican port city of Veracruz. When he returned to Rhode Island, he promoted the Southern Pacific Railway and presided over its construction. He was elected lieutenant governor of Rhode Island in 1853. He became the governor of Rhode Island when Philip Allen, then Governor, resigned to become a Senator. He held the governor’s office just one year. He moved back to Bristol and lived out his final days at his home.