Linden Place // 1810

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.

Following DeWolf’s bankruptcy, the house was bought by his uncle James DeWolf, who was alleged to have directed the murder of a female African slave in 1789 who was sick with smallpox on the slave ship Polly, which he commanded; she was bound to a chair and lowered overboard. James DeWolf was tried and effectively acquitted; which, sadly, should not surprise anyone based on historical precedent. In fact, James DeWolf financed another 25 slaving voyages, usually with other members of his family and was thought to be the second richest man in the United States upon his death in 1837. In later years the house passed to Samuel Pomeroy Colt, a grandson of George DeWolf (as well as the nephew of the inventor of the Colt revolver). His son Russell married actress Ethel Barrymore, who was the great-aunt of current actress Drew Barrymore, and lived in the home. Today, the grand estate is a house museum and event space.

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church // 1860

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?

DeWolf-Guiteras House // c.1835

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.

Burnside Memorial Hall // 1883

Located on Hope Street in Bristol, the Burnside Memorial Hall stands out as an elaborate, poly-chromed, two-story Richardsonian Romanesque public building. The Town of Bristol required a new town hall, and hired Worcester-based architect Stephen C. Earle to design the new structure. Earle’s program was to combine a town hall with a memorial to Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, Civil War hero, thrice governor of Rhode Island, and later United States senator, who died in 1881. The centerpiece of Burnside Memorial Hall was to be a statue of the general on its porch, long since removed from the building. Bristol town offices were removed from the building in 1969, and shifted to a bland building attached at the rear, Burnside Hall now serves purely as a memorial. Fun Fact: Burnside was noted for his unusual beard, joining strips of hair in front of his ears to his mustache but with the chin clean-shaven; the word burnsides was coined to describe this style. The syllables were later reversed to give the name we know today as “sideburns”!

Bristol YMCA Building // 1899

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.

Luther-Babbitt House // 1809

In 1809, Giles Luther built this two-story, 5-bay, hip-roof Federal house, which has been substantially enlarged and altered over the years in succeeding styles. Original detailing on the facade includes the Palladian window, modillion cornice, quoins, and wide-beaded window casings with splayed lintels. Giles Luther (1775-1841), a shipmaster, merchant, and farmer, was more importantly the first Grand Marshall of the Bristol Fourth ofJuly Parade, which is believed to be part of the oldest Fourth of July celebration in the country. In 1825 Luther’s business failed; the Commercial Bank took this house and sold it in 1828 to Jacob Babbitt. Babbitt owned part of a wharf in town and in his will of 1849, he left the “use and improvement” of this house to
his son Jacob, Jr. (1809-1862). The younger Babbitt was wealthy and likely made the mid-19th century modifications to the home, including the Italianate triple-arched door and full-width porch with delicate cut-out posts and railings. The home was occupied for much of the 20th century by the Bristol Nursing Association, and sold in the 1970s to a private owner. The home was for a period ran as a bed & breakfast but appears to be back to a private residence today.

Lemuel Richmond House // 1856

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’s A 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?

Richmond-Herreshoff House // c.1803

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.

Herreshoff Manufacturing Complex // 1853+

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-foot Stiletto, 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.

Codman Place // 1870

In 1870, unmarried sisters of the esteemed and respected Codman Family of Boston, Catherine Elizabeth and Maria Potter, commissioned this house from the Newport Rhode Island architect George Champlin Mason. Like many who built in Bristol after the Civil War, the sisters seemed to view the location as a kind of suburb of fashionable Newport. In 1875 they were joined by their brother Henry Codman, who was given a large tower addition to dwell in, preserving the architectural significance to the Second Empire style home. Henry died in 1879, only four years after his tower was constructed, Catherine died in 1898, and Maria died in 1902 and the house was sold soon after her death. The home was converted to seven condominium units in the 1980s, yet retains its architectural grandeur from the delicate iron cresting at the roofs, down to the historic 2-over-2 windows.