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.
Land that Mount Hope Farm sits upon in Bristol, Rhode Island was formerly council lands of the Wampanoag Indians, where King Philip’s War of 1675 may be said to have begun and ended. For those of you who do not know about the war, it was an armed conflict running 1675–1678 between indigenous peoples of New England and New England colonists and their indigenous allies. Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag, had maintained a long-standing alliance with the colonists. Metacom (c. 1638–1676) was his younger son, and he became “sachem” (elected chief) in 1662 after Massasoit’s death. Metacom, however, forwent his father’s alliance between the Wampanoags and the colonists and they fought back. Metacom’s forces could not beat the growing numbers of the colonists, and he was eventually killed near Mount Hope, in Bristol. After his death, his wife and nine-year-old son were captured and sold as slaves in Bermuda. Philip’s head was mounted on a pike at the entrance to Plymouth, Massachusetts, where it remained for more than two decades. His body was cut into quarters and hung in trees. This story, shows how American history is built upon death and suffering and has often been whitewashed to portray early settlers treating native peoples with respect and as equals, which was rarely the case.
Mount Hope Farm as we know in colonial times, was originally 550 acres in size, owned in 1680 by Nathaniel Byfield. In 1744, the estate was acquired by Isaac Royall. Royall began construction of the house soon after. Isaac Royall Jr. was the son of Isaac Royall Sr. (1677–1739) a slave owner, slave trader, and Antiguan plantation owner who had a home and slave quarters (both extant) in Medford, MA. After his father’s death, Royall Jr. inherited his immense wealth, built upon the backs of others, and built this Georgian farmhouse. It is unknown to me if he ever resided there or had slaves maintain the property, but the home was rented for some time. In 1776, Mount Hope Farm was confiscated by the state, after Royall, a loyalist to England, fled to Nova Scotia. The property was added onto in the 19th and 20th centuries and now sits on 127-acres of land, and is run as a park, inn, and event space.
“Longfield”, aka the Abby DeWolf House was built in 1848 and is one of the finest homes in Bristol, Rhode Island. The home was completed from designs by Providence architect Russell Warren, who also designed other mansions in town (I’ll post those later on in this series), the Westminster Arcade in Providence, and “Hey Bonnie Hall” a since demolished Federal style home I featured a couple days ago. Longfield’s name derives from the 60-acre meadow, part of the 300-acre Henry DeWolf farm, given to Abby DeWolf when she married Charles Dana Gibson at just 21 years of age. The DeWolf Family paid for the home as a gift to Abby. The DeWolf Family is infamous for being highly active in the slave trade, and was believed to have transported over 11,000 enslaved people from Africa to the Americas before congress abolished the African Slave Trade in 1808, which “prohibited the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States…from any foreign kingdom, place, or country.” This policy did little as many owners of slaves just kept children born into slavery and also opened plantations in the Caribbean and South America. After Abby died in 1901, the home went to her granddaughter who maintained the home. By the 1970s, the home was sold out of the family and began a period of decades of deterioration to its current state. The interior is effectively gutted, but some original woodwork and fireplaces remain. Recent calls for a townhouse development with ample parking was proposed and approved by the town a couple years ago, but would greatly diminish its siting and architectural integrity. Nothing has happened on the site, but here’s to an appropriate restoration!
New England is lucky to have so many examples of pre-Revolution Georgian homes to gawk at, and this home in Bristol is one of them. The home was likely constructed by Benjamin Reynolds, a cobbler (shoemaker) for his family. The home was purchased by Benjamin and Abigail Bosworth sometime before the Revolutionary War, and Benjamin served with the Continental Army, at the rank of Major. In 1786, Mark Antony DeWolf the patriarch of the infamous DeWolf Family (who made their fortunes on the backs of the enslaved) returned to Bristol after it was burned by the British, and purchased this home where he lived until his death in 1793. At that time, one of Mark Antony DeWolf’s many children, Levi, moved into the home. Levi DeWolf (1766-1848) was a Quaker, who was an avid reader. While his involvement in the slave trade was a shadow of that of his siblings, he was complicit and travelled to Africa at least three times on behalf of his brother James. After the trips, James offered to outfit a vessel for him to continue the trade, but Levi’s conscience likely caused him to decline. In the late 1790s, Levi had the home updated, with a new, elaborate pedimented entrance with a modillion and dentil cornice.
Formerly located on the Poppasquash Peninsula in Bristol, Rhode Island, the William DeWolfe House, also known as Hey Bonnie Hall, was constructed in 1808 for William DeWolf (1762-1829) and his wife Charlotte Finney (1764-1829). William DeWolf was a member of the infamous DeWolf Family of Rhode Island, which is believed to have transported tens of thousands of enslaved people to the United States and Caribbean before the African slave trade was banned in Rhode Island. The Ocean State played a leading role in the transatlantic slave trade. Not only did Rhode Islanders have slaves—they had more per capita than any other New England state. The beauty of Hey Bonnie Hall, and its melodic name hid the dirty money with which it was built. With his extreme wealth, William hired Providence architect Russell Warren to construct the home in a high form of the Federal style. Eventually, the home was willed to Anna DeWolf, who married Nathaniel Russell Middleton, from a slave-owning family in Charleston, South Carolina (birds of a feather…). It was Anna Middleton who gave the house its curious name of “Hey Bonnie Hall”. When she was younger, she used to sing an old Scottish song called “Hey The Bonny Breast Knots” over and over again to delight her grandfather, William, the first owner of this home. After Anna’s death, the home was willed to her two unmarried daughters. The Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 proved fatal for the grand estate, when the front portico was ripped off the home and flew away. The damage was deemed too expensive to repair and the home was demolished that year.