The capital city of Rhode Island is both a beautiful and interesting place to visti and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Here I choose my favorite historic attractions to visit in Providence, Rhode Island and each of the listed sites was the home of a significant individual in Providence history…
Stephen Hopkins House
Located at 15 Hopkins Street, this house was constructed in 1707. In 1742, Stephen Hopkins, who hailed from a prominent Rhode Island family and was born the year the house was built, purchased it and had it enlarged into its present size.
Hopkins made his mark as Chief Justice and Governor of the colony of Rhode Island, he was the first Chancellor of Brown University, and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. George Washington twice came as a guest to his domicile. Hopkins continued to live in this house until his death in 1785. Today, it is the property of the National Society of Colonial Dames; this organization maintains it as a museum. On the exterior grounds is an attractive Colonial Revival-style garden. The interior consists of eight rooms, furnished with period relics and Hopkins artifacts.
John Brown House Museum
At 52 Power Street, bordering the campus of Brown University, this mansion was originally built in 1788 as the home of merchant John Brown. Brown reaped a fortune from China trade, real estate, shipbuilding. privateering, and- notoriously- the slave trade. In fact, when the Slave Trade Act of 1794 was enacted to limit American involvement in this practice, Brown became the first U.S. citizen to be convicted for violating it.
Nevertheless, he was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1798 and served as Rhode Island’s representative until 1801. He also, with his brothers, founded Brown University. Brown’s family continued to live in this mansion until 1901 when Marsden J. Perry, a wealthy utilities and transportation magnate, purchased it. A descendant of John Brown bought the edifice in 1936 and sold it to the Rhode Island Historical Society in 1942. The Society turned the house into a museum and it remains so today.
Visitors can see the grandeur of John Brown’s domicile, with its majestic wraparound stairways, its meticulously crafted ornamental archways, and other elegant trappings. The museum is filled with historical materials; of special interest is a fully restored 18th-century carriage.
Lippitt House Museum
This three-story, thirty-room building at 199 Hope Street epitomizes a typical Victorian mansion. The man responsible for designing and supervising its construction in 1865 was Henry Lippitt, who belonged to one of Rhode Island’s leading textile manufacturing families and later served two terms as the state’s Governor. Over the span of 114 years, the mansion was home to four generations of his family.
It has been a museum for nearly thirty years and tourists can marvel at the place’s attractive Renaissance Revival structure, with such eye-pleasing elements as colorful stained glass windows and fancy woodwork details. Especially intriguing are the Lippitt House Museum’s mid-19th-century heating and plumbing systems.
Betsey Williams Cottage
This brick-red five-room house is located at 1000 Elmwood Avenue beneath an enormous sycamore tree in Roger Williams Park. The park itself is a popular place for recreation and relaxation. Roger Williams was a Puritan minister who established the settlement of Rhode Island in 1636. The house, originally inhabited by his descendants, was first erected in 1773. Sisters Betsey and Rhoda Williams were the last descendants to live there.
They supported themselves by weaving cloth. When Betsey passed away in 1871, the house, including its 102 acres of homeland, became the property of the city of Providence and formed the basis of Roger Williams Park. For many years, the cottage was closed to the public because of structural issues. Fortunately, the Rhode Island Historic Preservation & Heritage Commission and the Rhode Island Foundation’s Campaign raised money to restore the cottage and now tourists can visit it again.
These attractions provide only a glimpse into Providence’s rich history. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating look back into this history for visitors. They will not only enjoy seeing these sites, but they may also be inspired to find out more information about the individuals who lived at these sites.
Written by Rhode Island based blogger Sally Luff.