The College Hill neighborhood of Providence has some of the finest residential architecture in New England, and some really fun stories of those who built these grand homes. In 1859, the house was built with a concave mansard roof punctuated with dormers and a bold bracketed cornice below. The use of round headed windows on the second floor is a really great design detail. The residence was first owned by Eliza Talbot Almy (1808-1886), who held the title to the property. Wives holding the title of properties in this period was fairly common as it would protect their personal property and residence from financial risk if the husband was met with lawsuits or financial hardship. Eliza’s husband was cotton broker and manufacturer Samson Almy (1795-1876), who had already been sued in a case heard before the United States Supreme Court in 1851. After Eliza’s death in 1886, her daughter, Susan Smith (1837-1917) and husband, Amos Denison Smith (1835-1912), a Civil War veteran, occupied the house into the early 20th century.
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Welcome Congdon House // c.1820
In 1820, Joseph Dorr, a trader, purchased this house lot in Providence’s East Side overlooking present-day Downtown. He had this Federal style house built with a symmetrical five-bay facade with fanlight transom over the door. He occupied the house until 1827 when he sold the property to a Charles Hadwin. In 1832, the property was acquired and soon after purchased by Welcome Congdon (1794-1874) who lived there until his death. The house was more recently added onto with a Modern addition on the side, to provide additional, private space for the owners who live directly next to a public park.
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!
Watson-Knight Mansion // 1854
No town does Italianate architecture quite like Providence! Case in point, the Watson-Knight Mansion, a relatively overlooked example of the style found on Angell Street in College Hill. In 1854, a house lot here was purchased by an elderly Matthew Watson (1786-1857), who possibly lived in half of the house for a few years until his death. Directories also list his son Robert as living in the home in 1854. The three-story brick mansion has a boxy form with symmetrical facade. Brownstone hoods and sills are located at the windows and add depth to the otherwise blank facade. A projecting wooden door hood with hanging pendants covers the large entry. The home remained in the Watson Family until it came under the possession of Robert Brayton Knight (1826-1912) a businessman and mill owner who became the largest individual owner of cotton mills in the world, with upwards of twenty distinct establishments under his personal control. He co-founded what became the Fruit-of-the-Loom brand with his brother in the 1850s. The building has since been divided into apartment/condominiums.
“Snug Harbor” – Charles H. Baldwin Cottage // 1877
One of the finest Queen Anne style residences New England is this 1877 summer cottage, named “Snug Harbor”. The mansion was designed by architects William Appleton Potter and Robert Henderson Robertson for Charles H. Baldwin, a prominent admiral in the United States Navy. The design utilizes a brick first floor with shingle siding above, a high cross-gabled roof, panels and half-timbering, asymmetrical form, and a porte cochere at the entry. Later owner Arakel Bozyan, painted the entire exterior a deep red color and renamed the house “Gamir Doon”, Armenian for “Red House”. The house was restored back to a traditional color scheme and sold in 2020. The interiors are STUNNING!
Berkeley House // 1885
In 1885, a 28-year-old Leroy King (1857-1895) and his wife Ethel Rhinelander King (1857-1925) hired one of the country’s most prominent architects, Stanford White, to design a Newport home for their family. Leroy was the son of Edward King, a prominent local merchant, and upon his fathers death in 1875, inherited some of the $100+million dollar fortune he had amassed in today’s dollars. The corner lot at Bellevue and Berkeley avenues was purchased and work was underway on the new mansion. The house is a really interesting take on the Shingle style, but instead of cedar shingle siding, employs fireproof construction. A central hall, large gabled masses, picturesque window arrangements, and a spectrum of surface textures (here conveyed largely in natural stone and brick with flourishes of shingle and pebble dash work), align this house with McKim, Mead & White’s earlier efforts in this style. The interior has been meticulously preserved and maintained by the owners.
The Elms – Sitting Room // 1899
The formal Sitting Room at the Elms in Newport, Rhode Island is one of the many statement-rooms found in the Gilded Age mansion. This room is located directly above the Ballroom and is the first space seen when ascending the main staircase onto the second floor. The sitting room was used by the Berwind Family and their guests as a gathering and socializing space, a little less formal than the ballroom downstairs for more elegant events. The Preservation Society of Newport County has done an amazing job at restoring the building and purchasing furniture and fixtures that were sold off when much of the inside of the property was sold off at auction in the 1960s. The Preservation Society restored the red silk walls fabric in the 1980s, bringing the space back to its original grandeur. I cannot think of a better place to just “sit”.
The Elms – Dining Room // 1899
The Dining Room of the Elms Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, is represents the Gilded Age in all the best ways. The room sits just off the ballroom and like all of the other rooms in the summer residence of the Berwinds, it was designed by famed interior designer Jules Allard. The dining room was specifically to display a collection of early18th-century Venetian paintings purchased by Mr. Berwind from the Ca’ Corner estate in Venice (the Berwinds were avid collectors of 18th century French and Venetian paintings). The iconic coffered ceiling is not of wood, but of molded plaster, grained and painted to imitate oak. Each coffer is decorated with the winged lion of Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice. Pour custom-made crystal chandeliers hang in the four corners of the room. At the end of the room is a stunning green marble, agate and onyx fireplace that is framed by a ceiling-high pediment supported by carved Ionic columns. Could you see yourself entertaining in this dining room?
The Elms – Stair and Gallery Hall // 1899
Immediately upon entering the main entrance of The Elms, one of the finest Gilded Age mansions in Newport, you are enveloped in the Stair Hall or foyer. The space is stunning, with walls lined in limestone and purple Breccia marble pilasters and columns with bronze capitals and bases. The floors are of white marble bordered in green with stairs in white Italian marble. At the beginning of the stairs, there are two large urns of green marble and pink granite, each with four bronze female figures. The urns bear the name of the decorator, Allard et Fils of Paris, who was responsible for crafting the details of the period rooms for the mansion. At the top of the first set of stairs is the Gallery Hall, a long hall connecting many rooms on the first floor and also serving as a gallery of irreplaceable art including two early 18th-century oil paintings depicting episodes in the history Scipio Africanus, the ancient Roman general who conquered Carthage by Venetian artists Paolo Pagani and Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini. The space is grand, yet cozy and feels more like a home than the larger Breakers mansion.
Belair Stable // c.1875
Just past the Belair Gate Lodge (1870), you w5ll find one of the most eclectic and interesting buildings in Newport, Rhode Island. This structure was built around 1875 as the stable to the larger Belair estate, just a stone’s throw away. When it was built, local papers stated the building was “probably one of the most expensive stables in the city.” It was designed by Newport architect Dudley Newton at the same time he redesigned the main mansion and furnished plans for the new gate lodge for owner George H. Norman. Architecturally, there is A LOT going on here. The 1½-story, rough-face-granite-ashlar building is capped by a hexagonal-tile slate mansard roof. On the left is an octagonal tower with an out-of-scale roof pitch and at the other side of the carriage door is a circular-plan tower with battlemented parapet. At the center is a really unique trefoil gable with trefoil window centered within. So cool to stumble upon this!! Oh, and it’s now a single-family home. Swoon.