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.
William Jones King (1803-1885) was born in Providence, Rhode Island as the eldest son of Elijah and Nancy King. His father Elijah was a master-mariner and a wealthy ship-owner, engaging in trade with the West Indies, likely partaking in the transport and sale of humans like many Rhode Island “merchants” at the time. Elijah was travelling to Martinique in 1815, when the Great Gale of 1815, the largest hurricane on record at the time in New England, intercepted the ships and capsized them. Elijah and his crew died at sea. After his father’s untimely death, which left the family poor, William (as the eldest at just 12 years old) became the sole support of his mother and three younger siblings at the time. William eventually became a clerk at the Union Bank in town, moving up the ranks until he became a cotton merchant. He had this home built a few years after his marriage to Lydia Gilbert. The house is an excellent example of a traditional Greek Revival home in the College Hill section of Providence with corner pilasters and central Ionic portico all sited high on a landscaped terrace behind an iron fence. The house is now owned by Brown University and has been renamed MacFarlane House after Walter Kilgore MacFarlane, Jr., a Brown alumnus in the class of 1923. The house today houses the main office of the Classics Department at Brown University.
William Wanton Dunnell (1850-1933) was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and was educated in Rhode Island schools. He eventually helped run his family’s cotton goods business, which grew over the next decades. The Dunnell Finishing Works factory was a success in Apponaug (Warwick) Rhode Island, and he had over 500 employees turning out over 1,000,000 yards of printed cloth a week! Before all this, William had this amazing house built in College Hill, Providence for his family. The local architectural firm of Stone, Carpenter & Willson was hired and blended Shingle, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival styles elegantly under one roof. I am particularly fond of the sawtooth shingles, Palladian motif windows in the gable, and undulating facade. The house is owned today by RISD.
Jonathan Congdon (1763-1862) worked in the hardware and iron business, following his father’s footsteps, eventually taking over the family business. Jonathan married Elizabeth Arnold and had at least nine children together. Two of their sons, Arnold and Welcome, too followed in the family business, as ironworkers and salesmen, with the new firm name, Jonathan Congdon & Sons. The company did well, and Jonathan replaced his c.1787 home on the lot (built at the time of his marriage) with the present structure. He also laid out a street on the side of the property, which was named Congdon Street. The home remained in the Congdon Family until 1937, when it was acquired by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
Located next door to the William Holroyd House (last post) in Providence’s College Hill neighborhood, this Federal style home appears to have been constructed by the same builder just a year apart, but in brick! This house was constructed in 1797 for Samuel Eddy, an attorney, congressman, and later served as Chief Justice of the Rhode Island State Supreme Court. Similar to the Holroyd House, the property was later acquired by a member of the Brown Family, and has since become part of the Brown-RISD Hillel.
When visiting Downtown Providence, I couldn’t help myself but to cross the river into College Hill, a neighborhood of such architectural diversity I could run this entire page just featuring that area. This beautiful Federal style home was built onto the downward slope of the hill in 1798 for William Holroyd, a merchant and active Baptist in town. The home sits atop a raised basement with brick end walls and clapboard siding on the front and rear. The property exhibits a symmetrical facade, splayed lintels above the windows, and a perfect center entry with fluted pilasters and pediment containing a fanlight. The building today appears to be a part of the Brown-RISD Hillel.
Providence is full of amazing residential architecture from all periods, but one house that stands out to me for being such a high style and unique mansion is the Hamilton House on Angell Street. The mansion was constructed in 1896 for local businessman, Francis W. Carpenter. From 1892 until his death, he was the president of Congdon & Carpenter Company, an iron and steel company which was founded in 1792, and operated in Providence into the 1980s. Carpenter was very influential as chairman of the committee on the construction of a new building for the Central Congregational Church (a previous post) in 1893. So pleased with how the church turned out, he hired the same architects, Carrère and Hastings of New York to design his own mansion which would sit next door to the church! Many in New England may not know how significant it was to have Carrere and Hastings design your house. To put it into perspective, while the firm was designing this house, they were designing the New York Public Library’s Main Branch building! The Carpenter Mansion was designed in the French Renaissance Revival style which was not too common in America, but always turns heads! The large hipped roof emulates the earlier French mansard roof forms, and the bold massing and use of limestone and brick makes the house look like a chateau or castle plucked from the French countryside. The house apparently was not finished until 1915, likely when the porte-cochere was added for the owner’s vehicles. The building is now occupied by The Hamilton House, a non-profit organization that serves as an adult learning exchange with programs from history classes to group fitness courses.