“Less is more” is a phrase adopted in 1947 by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to describe his minimalist, Miesian glass box buildings. While he was referring to Modern architecture, the same phrase can be used in 19th century design, where massing, form, and materials are showcased in all their glory with little frills or additions. The Robert Lippitt House in Providence was constructed by 1854 for Robert Lincoln Lippitt (1823-1858), who worked with his brother Henry Lippitt in owning and managing textile mills. Henry would later build his own mansion nextdoor to his late brother’s house (see past post). Sadly, Robert died four years after this home was built, at the young age of 34. His widow, Louisa Gorden Hallet remained in the home and remarried within a year of her late husband’s death, to Charles Lippitt, possibly a cousin to Robert. Messy. The home was designed by architect Thomas A. Tefft, a promising and respected young architect who also died young, at the age of 33.
This Greek Revival home with a one-story full-length porch was built in 1839 for Peter Wanton Snow, one of the unluckiest men in Providence. Born the son of a leading China trader and the son of a granddaughter of a former governor of Rhode Island, Peter W. Snow (1788-1843) was born into privilege and like many of such stature, could enter the family business with ease and make a lot of money. Peter first sailed for Canton (Guangzhou, China) with his father in 1803. Doubtless because of his father’s position and trading connections, young Snow became the partner of Edward Carrington who, within fewer than a dozen years, was to become one of the richest and best merchants dealing in Chinese goods in Rhode Island, if not in the entire country. Carrington wanted to retire and have Peter Snow take over his agency in China, but Peter did not seem to like it there and always wanted to go back home to the United States. He got the chance for a few years beginning in 1814, but upon returning home, he learned that his only son, Charles, had died a year earlier at the age of five years, and to compound his personal tragedy, Snow lost two baby daughters in the next three years. By 1816, he returned to China but never seemed to be able to get out of debt, while trying to provide for his last two remaining children. Tragedy struck again when his last living daughter died, while he was in China. Peter’s business partner and friend R. B. Forbes before letting Peter know the bad news wrote this.
“Mr. Snow is now in as good health as he has been since his arrival in China, still he is weak in body, and a very little trouble or disappointment breaks him down and reduces him completely unable to do anything. Poor man, his countrymen here feel much sympathy for him, and fear the result of this news on him. This daughter has appeared to be the only thing which could induce Mr. Snow to make any exertion, and he often spoke of her with all the feelings of a Father who centered all his happiness, in this world, in making her comfortable and happy, and in the expectation of returning to America and of ending his days in her arms”
While in debt, he somehow had this home built in Providence, likely from assistance from family and colleagues. The land here was purchased by Peter’s wife Jeanette, and the home was likely built soon after. Peter died in 1843, virtually penniless.
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?
In 1687, William Throope 1637-1704, who migrated to Bristol from Barnstable, Massachusetts by way of England, purchased land in Bristol, Rhode Island. On it, he constructed a small, one-room deep, two-story house. Throope’s grandson, Thomas, Jr. (1710-1771), enlarged the house about 1760, when he constructed this four-bay Georgian home, adding the old 1687 Throope house to the rear. Interestingly, house moves were very common in America to the early 20th century, as materials such as glass, nails, and brick were more expensive while labor was much cheaper, making the reuse of original structures and materials common. The farm eventually passed to Isaiah Drown Simmons (1810-1882), a dairy farmer, in 1830, and remained in the Simmons family until 1922. Records show that the original 1687 house that was moved to the rear of the 1760 house was replaced in the 1830s by Simmons. The home remained in the Simmons Family until after the death of their only daughter Elizabeth, who died in 1914. It appears that the existing front portico was added after that time, which appears more Colonial Revival.
This three-story wood-frame house is one of the oldest buildings in Bristol and the oldest known three-story building in Rhode Island. The home was built by Joseph Reynolds (1679-1759), a patriarch in the Reynolds Family, who later built the Reynolds-DeWolf House I featured previously. The house is five bays wide and three deep with the roof extending lower to the rear, giving the house a classic New England saltbox appearance. Joseph built this house, and also operated a tannery and gristmill on his land. The home is nationally significant as during the ownership of the house by his son Joseph II, Marquis de Lafayette occupied the north parlor chamber. Lafayette was a general in the Continental Army and was responsible for the defense of Bristol and Warren from September 7 to 23, 1778 during failed military operations to drive the British from occupied Newport. The home was added onto and altered in 1790 to give it the current design, with Federal detailing. The home remained in the Reynolds Family until 1930.
Samuel Pomeroy Colt (1855-1921), a Bristol industrialist, purchased three farms on Poppasquash Neck, in Bristol, Rhode Island in 1905. One of the farms he aquired, Coggeshall Farm, was featured in my last post. On the newly consolidated farmland, just outside the hustle-and-bustle of Bristol’s downtown core, Colt built a large summer dwelling called ‘The Casino’. He lived at his family estate in town a majority of the year, but used ‘The Casino’ as a gentleman’s farm and a space to raise his prize-winning Jersey cattle and Berkshire sows. Colt wished that the citizens of town share his enjoyment of the property and had an open invitation carved onto the marble piers at the estate entrance which reads, “Private Property, Public Welcome”; access was freely allowed at the farm and shoreline. The two marble piers at the entrance to the estate are topped with massive bronze bulls modeled after two of Colt’s bulls, and were cast in Paris by Val d’Onse Company. Colt died in 1921. His will specified that Colt Farm not be sold and that it remain accessible to the public. Though he left a sum to operate the farm, it ran a deficit. The Casino was demolished in the 1960s as it was consistently destroyed by vandals, and became a public safety concern. The lasting cow barn was built in 1917, from designs by architect Wallis E. Howe. The barn utilized field stone from existing stone walls on the property and is capped with a red tile roof. The barn is unlike anything I have ever seen, and now is park offices. In 1965, after approval by Bristol voters, the State of Rhode Island purchased 466 acres of the Colt estate and created the largest public park in the Bristol County, known as Colt State Park.
Located on the Poppasquash Peninsula, in my favorite Rhode Island town of Bristol, the Coggeshall Farmhouse showcases the historic rural farming character of the town, which saw much development by the 19th century. In 1723, Samuel Viall (1667-1749 purchased farmland from Nathaniel Byfield, who had acquired most of the north part of Poppasquash as one of the original “founders” of Bristol (though the Wampanoag people had been already living here for centuries). Viall or a descendent likely had this small Georgian farmhouse built on the land, along with outbuildings to farm the beautiful land here. In the early nineteenth-century Wilbour and Eliza Coggeshall were tenant farmers at the farm. The Coggeshall’s son, Chandler Coggeshall, later became a politician and helped to found the Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in 1888, which became known as the University of Rhode Island. The farm eventually was acquired by industrialist Samuel P. Colt, nephew of firearms manufacturer Samuel Colt, who created a massive estate on the land. In 1965 the State of Rhode Island purchased the Colt Estate for use as a state park, and the Bristol Historical Society petitioned the state for permission to preserve the old Coggeshall farm house on the property as a museum. Coggeshall Farm Museum was established in 1973 to educate modern Americans about eighteenth century New England farm life.
Located on Baker Street in Warren, RI, and next door to the similarly restored Federal Blues Building, the former Narragansett Engine Company Firehouse stands out as one of the most unique buildings in town. Constructed in 1846, the flushboarded two-story building features corner pilasters leading to a pedimented gable end roof. At the second floor tripartite rounded arch windows somewhat resembling a Palladian window are centered, providing an early victorian flair to the building. The structure was restored in the 1970s and now is home to the Warren Fire Museum which houses memorabilia and equipment from as early as 1802, when the Department was formed including helmets, leather fire buckets, uniforms, insignia, and photographs.. The museum even has two restored engines, “Little Button” and “Little Hero”.