There are always those houses that just stop you in your tracks… For my last post (for the time being) on Providence, I wanted to share this significant property, known as the Woods-Gerry House, perched atop College Hill. Owner Marshall Woods, who married into the Brown family and was active in the affairs of Brown University. Locally he was also involved on the building committee for St. Stephen’s Church where he was a factor in selecting renowned architect Richard Upjohn to design the church. He must have liked Upjohn so much (or got a good deal) that he hired Richard Upjohn to design his new home on Prospect Street. The exterior of the three-story brick building stands out amongst the other Italianate mansions built in the same decade nearby, but is elevated design-wise with a bowed centerpiece on its east elevation with the handsome new front entrance renovated in 1931 by then-owner, Senator Peter Gerry, who was a great-grandson of Elbridge Gerry, the fifth Vice President of the United States (who had given his name to the term gerrymandering). Today, this significant building is owned by the Rhode Island School of Design and houses the Woods Gerry Gallery. The grounds are also very well designed.
Rose and Howard K. Hilton House // 1900
Tudor Revivals may just be my favorite style of house. The interesting roof forms and gables, the use of stone, brick or stucco, and the presence of garrisoning and half-timbering in designs are always so charming. This enchanting Tudor Revival home in Providence, Rhode Island, was built in 1900 by local architect Howard K. Hilton (1867-1909) as his personal residence with wife Rose. He first worked in the office of H. W. Colwell and continued his training under Ellis Jackson joining him in partnership (Jackson & Hilton) and under the firm name was identified with the design of several churches, schools, hospitals and various other buildings in his native city before he retired in his final years. This home is very unique for its site on a narrow urban lot with the door at the side, brick first floor with jettying at the second floor of wood construction with half-timbering. While writing this, I noticed that there are also projecting gargoyles which serve as water spouts to send water away from the structure during rainfall events. Tudors are really the best!
First Church of Christ Scientist, Providence // 1906
One of the most stunning and monumental buildings in Providence is this building, a church which pretty closely resembles the Rhode Island State House! Christian Scientists in Providence began to hold informal services in 1889 and received a charter from the state legislature in 1895. Construction started on this church, the First Church of Christ, Scientist in 1906 from plans by local architect Howard Hoppin who roughly modeled the building after the congregation’s Mother Church in Boston. The Classical Revival building is capped by a copper hemispherical dome supported by a colonnade of Corinthian columns. The main block of the structure at the street is fairly modest, possibly due to the residential character of its surroundings.
Sayles Hall – Pembroke College – Brown University // 1907
Sayles Hall was the second purpose-built building erected for Pembroke College, a women’s college affiliated with Brown University in Providence. Sayles was originally built as a gymnasium facility for female students and was designed by the same architects as Pembroke Hall, Stone, Carpenter and Willson. Architecturally, the building compliments Pembroke Hall which was built the decade prior with the use of red brick, terracotta trim, and arched openings and gabled pediments at the roof. The funds for the construction of the building were a gift from Frank A. Sayles (whom the building was originally named after). Until 1990, Sayles Gym was used for sports and offices by the Physical Education Department. In 2001, Sayles Hall was completely renovated and converted into classroom space, receiving a new name (Smith-Buonanno Hall). A great example of adaptive reuse!
H. P. Lovecraft House // c.1823
In 1823, Samuel B. Mumford (1791-1849) purchased a lot on College Street in Providence and erected this modest Federal style home. The house’s marker reads “Samuel Mumford House”, but the most famous resident was actually Howard Phillips Lovecraft aka. H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and lived almost his entire life there besides a few years in New York. He resided in a few places in the city but eventually settled in this home which he rented a room in his final years. Sadly, Lovecraft died at just 46 years old from intestinal cancer, and was largely unrecognized during his short, impoverished life. Since his death, he’s grown in literary stature to become one of the great fantasy classic horror authors of all time. While Lovecraft only lived in this home from 1933-1937, it was the location where he wrote his most mature and final pieces. I bet he would never imagine how popular he would become (even with an HBO series based on his worlds). The house was moved in 1959 (due to Brown University’s ever-growing and expanding campus) and now sits not too far from Prospect Terrace a small square that Lovecraft visited frequently during his time in Providence.
Edward Aldrich House // 1902
Built next door and just a year after the Hidden Family House (last post), the Edmund Aldrich House in Providence’s College Hill neighborhood shows how stately a wood-frame Colonial Revival house can be! The property was purchased by U.S. Congressman and U.S. Senator, Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich (1841-1915) who quickly sold the lot to his son Edward Aldrich, who worked as president of the Times Publishing Company and was very engaged in Republican politics along with members of his family. The Colonial Revival style dwelling was designed by Providence architecture firm, Stone, Carpenter & Willson, who were pretty prolific in this part of the region by this time. It exhibits a gambrel roof punctuated with segmental pedimented dormers along with a segmental pedimented portico over the entrance. Swoon! In his will, Edward left the property to Brown University, who apparently saw no need for the property and eventually sold it to private owners. The owners today maintain the house very well.
Walter and Kate Hidden House // 1901
I love a good high-style Colonial Revival home with big proportions and warm red brick! This example on College Hill in Providence is a great example. The 2 1/2-story dwelling is five bays at the facade with a center entrance under a hollow pediment hood with an enframement which reads much in the Palladian-realm. Owners Walter and Kate Hidden hired local architect Wallis Eastburn Howe to design their elaborate Colonial-inspired home in 1901, they moved in within a year. Mr. Hidden worked at his father’s business, and in 1875 became a member of the firm of H. A. Hidden & Sons. He did well for himself and became a member in many social and outdoors groups including the Audubon Society, the Squantum Association, the Hope Club, and for five years was president of the Agawam Hunt Club.
Mumford-Brown House // 1847
Incredible triple-decker vibes with this beauty on Providence’s College Hill neighborhood. In 1847, this home was built as a single-family, Greek Revival style home for Henry G. Mumford, who worked as a City Marshal for the City of Providence at City Hall. The house was likely originally a one-story or two-story Greek Revival cottage which was upgraded in a BIG way after Mumford’s death! His heirs sold the family house in 1859 it was owned by John A. Brown and his wife, Ellen. It was likely Ellen who had the property converted to a triple-decker with three units in the home. It was modernized with Italianate detailing, including the elaborate window hoods, front portico and side porch, round arched windows, and extra floor for additional rental unit. The property was later owned by Governor and member of the Taft Political family Royal C. Taft as an income-producing property.
Benjamin Bliven House // 1849
Although Benjamin Bliven built this house, he never owned the property, but the name lives on! This house on Angell Street in Providence was originally constructed in 1849 in the Greek Revival style, popular at the time. Bliven, a musician, rented the property to tenants until the deed was transferred to Abby W. Watson, wife of Robert W. Watson (owner of the property next door and featured on this account previously). The first owner-occupants were Grace A. and Eugene H. Greene, who bought the property in 1898. The house was completely remodeled in the early decades of the 20th century with Regency/Colonial Revival detailing. Changes including the former roof with its gable-end facing the street boxed off, a new modillion cornice with parapet above; recessed attic story with balustrade; small wing to the east. The stucco siding and Federal entry is icing on the cake!
Beckwith House – Partridge Hall // 1882
Henry Truman Beckwith (1808-1893) was born in Providence and (of course) enrolled at Brown University. He left school after two years and wished to see the world. He began to work as a cargo clerk aboard ships for a cotton merchant of Macon, Georgia. He traveled between Boston and Calcutta at least twice, bringing aboard novels from American and British authors, spending much of his time reading. Being well-read and without a family of his own (he never married), he devoted much of his time to clubs and organizations including: the Providence Athenaeum, Rhode Island Historical Society, and the Rhode Island Horticultural Society. In the later years of his life, Henry had this Queen Anne style home built in College Hill, on the same block as the Historical Society where he was a member. The Beckwith House was eventually acquired by Brown University and has since been known as Partridge Hall. The building is now home to the Brown Center for Students of Color, an organization that was established after a series of student protests in 1968 and 1975. Amid the civil rights movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, a group of Black students walked out of Brown University in December 1968 in protest of fierce racism on campus. The mission of the Brown Center for Students of Color has evolved over the years, but its current mission statement reads “Visualize. Vocalize. Mobilize”, they remain an integral piece of the campus and provide much-needed space for students of color to build a sense of community on campus.