This section contains articles of genealogical and historic
interest on Rhode Island in general, from old Rhode Island books and newspapers.
Roger Williams Park. -- The Cove Park. -- Blackstone Park. -- Tockwotten Park. -- Washington Park. -- Roger Williams Square. -- Hayward Park. -- Franklin Square. -- Prospect Terrace. -- Abbott Park. -- The Heater Piece. -- Dexter Training Ground. -- Field's Point Farm. -- Arnold Square. -- Elmwood Avenue Park. -- Cemeteries. - North Burial Ground. -- Grace Church Cemetery. -- Swan Point Cemetery. -- Locust Grove Cemetery. -- Hebrew Cemetery. -- St. Patrick's Cemetery. -- St. John's Churchyard. -- West Burial Ground. -- Historic Buildings. -- Old Business Houses. -- Antique Churches. -- Ancient Dwellings and Homesteads. -- Old Public Buildings. -- Old Buildings now Unknown. -- Old Inns and Taverns. -- Hotels of the Present Time.
The city of Providence, though not remarkable for the extent or liberal improvements of its public parks, yet has several breathing places that are worthy of notice. The largest of these is Roger Williams Park, situated in the southern part of the city, and containing 104 acres. This beautiful park was devised to the city by the will of Betsey Williams, who died in November, 1871. It is eminently adapted for park purposes, being beautifully diversified with hill, dale, woods, lawns and water. A mature forest covers a large portion, while an ample meadow remains for ornamentation, containing an artificial lake of some ten or twelve acres in area. The water adds greatly to the attractions of the park, furnishing excellent accommodations for sea fowl, and facilities for boating in summer and skating in winter. The park contains an ideal statue in bronze of Roger Williams, mounted upon an appropriate pedestal of granite, beside which stands another figure in bronze, representing History, in the act of writing upon one of the tablets of the pedestal. The monument was erected in 1877, being dedicated October 16th of that year. It stands on a plateau in front of the old Williams house. Its total height is 27 1/2 feet and its cost was $18,500. The park is situated nearly three miles from the business center of the city, yet is conveniently accessible both by steam and horse cars.
The Cove Park, once an attractive and much frequented promenade in the heart of the city, is now almost abandoned as a pleasure resort for the people. It contains something over 300,000 square feet of area, encircling the sheet of water formed by bridging the river below, and has a promenade about 80 feet wide, provided with trees for shade and seats for resting. The effluvia rising from the cove at low tide, however, together with its proximity to the railroads, are features of decided disadvantage, and the place is unpopular as a resort.
Blackstone Park is a wooded ravine of much natural beauty, extending from Butler avenue to the Seekonk river. A brook flows through the park, and in summer the place, though but little improved by art, is quite attractive. It contains about five acres, is wooded, picturesque and finely situated. It was presented to the city in 1866 by Messrs. William P. Vaughan and Moses P. Jenkins.
Tockwotten Park fronts on Tockwotten street, contains an area of about two acres, and is admirably adapted for park purposes. It has an elevated position and a fine outlook upon the bay, from which it receives cooling breezes in summer. The park for many years belonged to the city, being the site of a reform school. The buildings have recently been removed and the grounds tastefully laid off for pleasure purposes. The main building of the old reform school was built by the Hon. James B. Mason, as a residence, and so occupied by him for many years. When the Boston & Providence railroad was built the mansion was transformed into a hotel, and in 1849 was bought by the city for a reform school, several adjoining lots being thereafter added to the hotel estate.
Washington Park is bounded by Benefit, India, Traverse and Shamrock streets. It was given to the city in 1830, although it was thrown out for a public square by the Fox Point Association in 1816. It is a valuable little park of nearly an acre in extent.
Roger Williams Square is supposed to be the spot where Roger Williams landed near Slate Rock, and embraces a portion of the old shore of Seekonk river. It is 200 feet square, and is situated at the lower end of Power street, between that and Williams. It was given as a public park by the heirs of Governor James Fenner. Slate Rock is the rock upon which Williams stepped when he first landed from his canoe on these shores. The rock is protected from relic hunters by an iron fence. The surroundings are not inviting, and the sandy hillsides are still a conspicuous feature. The spot, however, is one of the richest in its historical importance.
Hayward Park is an area of nearly two acres, bounded by Beacon, Friendship and Plane streets. It was formerly known as the Sixth Avenue Park, or the Proprietors' burying ground, having been used for burial purposes. The graves have been removed to other grounds, and the spot has been improved as a public park, the city council giving it the present name in honor of William S. Hayward, a former mayor of the city. A formal opening of the park and dedication of a handsome fountain, 25 1/2 feet in height, took place on the evening of September 25th, 1889.
Franklin Square is an attractive breathing place on Federal Hill, fronting Atwell's avenue, and containing an area of about half an acre. it is of considerable sanitary and pecuniary value to the neighborhood. It was conveyed to the town in 1808, by Amos M. Atwell and others, for public uses. Its name was given to it in July, 1857.
Prospect Terrace is an invaluable little park on account of its elevated and sightly position. No better view of the city can anywhere be had than from this park, and no cooler spot can be found so near the center of the city on a summer's evening. The ground was presented to the city for a public park, by several citizens, in 1869. It fronts on Congdon street 120 feet, and extends back 100 feet.
Abbott Park is a small park, fronting on Broad street, near Chestnut, and contains a beautiful fountain. It was conveyed in 1746, by Daniel Abbott, to a committee of the Congregational society for public uses but never to be encumbered with any building.
The Heater Piece is a small triangular piece of ground containing, including old Governor street, 12,000 square feet of surface, and is located on the corner of Williams and Governor streets. It has been thrown open for public use more than 70 years.
Dexter Training round, situated in the Eighth ward, on Dexter street, is nearly oblong in shape and contains an area of about nine acres. It was given to the city by Ebenezer Knight Dexter. It is hardly a park, but a grassy common, originally intended for training of military companies, but being no longer used for that purpose, it is practically of but little use except as a place for youthful recreation.
Field's Point Farm contains an area of about 37 acres. It was purchased by the town, from George Field and John H. Clark, in 1825. It contains a promontory extending far out into the river. The view on the bay from this point is unrivalled.
Arnold Square is located on elevated ground on River avenue, in the Tenth ward. It was platted as a public square in 1854. Its area is a little less than an acre.
Elmwood Avenue Park is a small triangular piece of ground, measuring 200 feet on Elmwood avenue, 109 feet on Adelaide avenue, and 227 feet on Greenwich street. It was dedicated to the town of Cranston by Joseph J. Cook, for a park or pleasure ground, and became the property of the city when the Ninth ward was annexed.
The resting places of the dead are the conservators of history more emphatically than any other class of institutions of which this or any other city can boast, if perhaps we should except here and there an active historical society. But even those institutions must go to the cemeteries for much of their most valuable material.
In the year 1700 the less than 1,500 inhabitants of the town voted to lay out grounds 'for the use of military affairs, for the use of training soldiers, etc.', and also 'a place to be for the use of receiving the dead.' It was provided in the resolution passed that the land should be taken out of the 'common lands at the north part of the town'. Forty-three acres was the area of the spot. The training field was the tract of about seven acres which now lies at the south entrance to the ground, laid out as a very pleasant park. This 'training ground', as it was called, was, until the appointment, in 1847, of the first superintendent of the grounds, Mr. Philip W. Martin, fenced off from the burial portion. It had not at this time been used as a training field in 50 years. Perhaps the burial of the French soldiers upon it shows its usage during the revolution, but it is certain that it was never of the importance its original surveyors expected it to be. At first the entire expanse laid out was unfenced and little cared for. The people of the town were only obliged to select a lot in the grounds when they wished to bury, and when it was staked out it was their claim. The rules and regulations were unwritten, if there were any at all. No one had any general management until Mayor Bridgham's time. The first burial was that of John Whipple, who died March 12th, 1710-11 and from that time until 1848 the interests of the burial ground were enwrapped in the lives of the families buried there. Probably about the commencement of this century a fence was built about it, separating it from the training ground and from the roadway upon the east. During Mayor Bridgham's administration, the lot owners were compelled to keep this fence in repairs. It was removed when the first commissioners of the North Burial Ground were appointed in 1848.
The physical history of the cemetery until this time was very matter
of fact. The number of acres increased to nearly 70. To-day
they have increased to 158. The new officers straightened out the
boundary lines, finding them very irregular, and laid out the interior,
which was also in confusion from the old manner of obtaining lots.
The new era was really commenced by Mayor Bridgham in 1833, it being one
of the ideas of his public life to have an overseer appointed. In
lieu of this officer, he himself was wont to see that the lots were properly
staked out. In 1845, commissioners to lay to roads and walks, and
price lots, and draw up regulations, were appointed. They surveyed
the grounds, and two years after the first superintendent was chosen.
The control of the estate is now in the hands of the commission, which
was created in 1848. It consists of three members, who are elected
annually. The commissioners have complete control of things, even
to the management of the grounds like a corporation. Up to their
appointment it is estimated that 60,000 bodies were buried, but no record
was kept. Since then fully 20,000 mounds have been raised.
Mr. Joseph Warren Baker is now superintendent.
|Left: Monument to Prescott Post, No. 1, G.
A. R., AD 1875
Below: Monument to French soldiers [Beth Hurd 2004]
The future of this cemetery is to be long. Perpetual cares for lots are now sold, and the sums, with donations of funds, are invested to yield a perpetual income. There is also a general improvement fund, and the North Burial Ground sinking fund affords the city an annual revenue from this estate.
Probably Grace Church Cemetery is as prominent a one as any in the city. Situated in a central spot, the arched gateway and the house of the superintendent, with the triangular burying place beyond, constitute a landmark. When first established it was imagined to be out of danger from any increase of the city's population, but it is now in a thickly inhabited center. It originally belonged to the corporation of Grace church, and was a sectarian ground. The land was purchased in 1834. Many bodies have been transferred to the more stable cemeteries within late years.
There is nothing but simplicity in the layout of this ground. It was made a burial place, presumably without a thought of landscape beauty. Still it is a neat tract of land, and in later years has been very greatly improved in appearance.
The ownership was in 1840 transferred from the church society to the corporation of Grace Church Cemetery, which, however, comprises the vestry of Grace Church. These gentlemen act as directors of the corporation and elect the superintendent. Mr. L. R. Stearns is now superintendent. Over 5,000 burials have taken place here, and since the formation of the Corporation of Grace Church Cemetery the burials have not been confined to the Episcopal sect.
The Swan Point Cemetery is the most beautiful and costly in the city. It was founded in 1846, with this idea, the late Thomas C. Hartshorn being its original projector. The land had been purchased (60 acres) in 1845, and the Swan Point Cemetery Company was incorporated in 1847. A board of management conducted the cemetery until 1858, when 'The Proprietors of Swan Point Cemetery' were incorporated, and they now manage the grounds through directors and a superintendent. Mr. Timothy McCarthy has held the latter office since 1876.
The area of Swan Point Cemetery is now about 200 acres, lying next the Seekonk river, and about equally on each side of the Swan Point road. Only the river side of the estate, however, is yet used for burials. The beauty of the place is in its landscape, and a great deal is the result of artistic landscape gardening. An old and new part of the grounds exist, as well as a miscellaneous portion. There are the most and finest memorials here of any ground in the city, among them that of Senator Anthony, that of the Barnaby family, and that of the Nightingale family. Hundreds of others are the equals of any work which could be produced. Some of those who slumber here are Senator Anthony, General Burnside, Colonel Slocum, Major Ballou, Commander Ames and Pierre Donville.
The preparations for the existence of this cemetery have from the beginning been on the noblest scale. President Wayland delivered the address at the dedication, and Mrs. Whitman contributed a poem. The wealthy modern people of the city have placed their loved ones here. Up to 1888 $130,000 was invested for the perpetual cares of the individual lots. About 11,000 graves are here, in 2,500 lots. Without including the investment funds mentioned above, the corporate property, after deducting all liabilities, amounts to $482,000.
Locust Grove Cemetery, when first opened, was situated in the town of Cranston. In 1848 Amos D. Smith, James Y. Smith, William V. Daboll, Benjamin B. Adams and Rollin Mathewson, all interested in real estate in Elmwood, in the midst of which suburb of Providence the ground was, obtained a charter under the name of the Locust Grove Cemetery Corporation, to conduct a public burial ground. They purchased the tract, shaped like a parallelogram, opening from Greenwich street, Elmwood. The cemetery has very little history. Its best days were lived before the population of Elmwood was swelled by the growth of the city. It has of late afforded interments at rare intervals.
The character of it is that of a rustic graveyard. It is laid out simply, is surrounded by a hedge now very high and rather gloomy in aspect, and within the shrubbery is generally of an unrestrained growth. But there are several lots in which quite costly memorials have been raised. There is no superintendent, but the corporation carried on the little work needed by means of one or more workmen. Ere long this ground will doubtless yield its contents for interment in more sacred ground. Perhaps 800 graves are here.
On Reservoir avenue, and formerly in the town of Cranston, is an enclosure, 15 by 150 feet, showing a few gravestones of a simple style. This is the holy ground of the Congregation of the Sons of Israel of this city. It is not so famous a spot as the Jewish Cemetery at Newport, but Longfellow's lines upon that, 'How strange it seems, these Hebrews in their graves', point out to the observer here the sweet faith the Hebrew race entertains. The while marble slabs are all so placed that the sleepers will behold their promised Immanuel when the glorious day comes and appears in the east.
About 60 bodies have been buried here. The grounds were presented to the Congregation of the Sons of Israel in 1856 by Solomon Prairie, who was at that time president of the congregation. They were opened the same year, shortly before the Day of Atonement. From this time until 1882 the burying went on as the deaths befel, without any event. September 10th, 1882, a ceremony of re-dedication took place. Mr. Henry Green was then president of the congregation, and Mr. Meyer Noot acting rabbi. More than $1,000 was spent in putting the ground in order, so that to-day it is in a very neat condition. It does not contain any graves of the distinction of those in Newport.
One of the largest cemeteries in the city is the St. Patrick's, on Douglas avenue, formerly in the Tenth ward in the town of North Providence. It includes ten or more acres of ground, and was for years the one consecrated burying place for Roman Catholics in this vicinity. In 1847 St. Peter's and St. Paul's church opened the ground, and from that time until 1871, when the St. Francis Cemetery, in Pawtucket, was consecrated, the burials were very numerous. It is now estimated that 40,000 Catholics have found a resting place here. The first management is by the bishop of the diocese, but details are carried out by workmen without a superintendent's mediation. The burials are neatly done, but there is no advance of arrangement. A few good monuments are standing. At present no new lots are sold, the great majority of the dead being interred in St. Francis Cemetery, which is fast becoming a beautiful spot.
The conception of churchyards as they exist in England had one adoption in this city in St. John's Churchyard on North Main street. This was founded for the 'elect' of the Episcopal persuasion when King's church, as St. John's was first named, was planned. This was in 1722, and it can be understood that a deal of historical fact clusters here. Nathaniel Brown of Rehoboth, Mass., presented to the Episcopal communion of the city the original tract of land to be used for a church, on the 18th of September, 1722. The land measured 40 feet on 'the Town Street', and extended east 71 feet. Afterward additions were made to it, until to-day the entire area is fully an acre. When the first grave was filled in cannot be said. The church was built the same year as the donation of the land. Not till 1772 was the society incorporated. In 1794 the name of the church became St. John's. The first structure for worship has been rebuilt, and the later edifice altered and enlarged.
The shape of this old cemetery is a parallelogram, and its location is hardly visible from the street. It was never labored upon for artistic landscape effects, and to-day it is deeply grown with shrubs and grass. It is upon the slope of the hill, and a few tombs are built against the rising eastern boundary line. The remaining space is interrupted by the old-fashioned toppling, moss-grown stones. The building of the transept and chapel of the church, in late years, has brought several graves under the nave. Amongst these is the grave of the famous French Huguenot, Gabriel Bernon. His body was re-entombed by Hon. Zachariah Allen in 1875. The presence of his grave suggests the distinguished historical character of the church. The first steeple and church bell in Providence were beside these graves. And Doctor McSparran has preached there, and, perhaps, Bishop Berkeley. Until 1755 no record of the burials was kept, but from that year until 1807 the city registrar copied every record kept by the church society. Thenceforth the church books contain the names. It is estimated that over 1,000 bodies rest here. The management has always been with the society, the grave-digger being the only workman on the grounds.
The families which have committed their dead to the dust here are among the best known in the history of the town and city. But the more prosperous to-day have transferred the remains of their loved ones to other grounds. No one has been buried in the grounds in the last decade, and there may never be another.
Thirty years ago there was a great cemetery in the southwestern part of this city known as the West Burial Ground. Its greatness was the result of conglomeration rather than the intention of any founders, and it has a long, if not a fruitful history. Its origin is related to another quite important cemetery which was forgotten long ago by the people. 'July 2d, 1822, John Hoyle, for twenty-four pounds of current money', gave to Samuel Danforth, of Taunton; David Smith, John Greenwood and Deacon Samuel Newman, of Rehoboth; Reverent Timothy Woodbury and Reverend Samuel Whiting of Windham church, and both of Connecticut, a quit-claim deed to a tract of land near where 'the two great country roads' meet, that is, lying some distance west of what is known as the new market; this land to be utilized for the erection of a Presbyterian church and parsonage and for burying purposes. Winslow place now divides the High street end into an east and west half. The land measured 170 feet on High street, 300 feet on the east side, 127 feet on Broad street and 384 feet on the west side. It is now about midway between Fenner street and the junction of High and Broad streets. But a church was not to be built here. One which had been begun was torn down by dissatisfied churchmen. The Presbyterians in the city continued without organization until the Benevolent Congregational church was organized, in 1728. In 1743 the Beneficent Congregational church was organized. Meantime the Presbyterians or Congregationalists buried their dead in the old churchyard, but how numerously cannot be said. If the facts are as history offers them, it appears extraordinary that there should have been any burying there at all. One theory of the facts is that the church, for which the land was sold, and to build which money was collected all over Massachusetts Bay colony, was in fact built; that it was used for some years, and that then a secession of the faithful took place and the Beneficent Congregational church was founded; that soon after both societies built new churches, while they retained their interests in the old property. This theory is supported by the fact that in 1785 the Benevolent, or what is now the First Congregational church and the Beneficent each owned a common half of the burying ground land.
It was in this year that each society purchased of John Field two and one-half acres of land, each portion in an exact square, and commenced the formation of the West Burial Ground. The two squares made a parallelogram, the Beneficent Society's lying directly east of the Benevolent's. The ground was bounded by Plane street on the east, Point street on the south, Prince street on the west, and the north side as will be shown farther on.
The price paid was for each portion 'one hundred Spanish milled dollars'. It can only be surmised whether the two societies removed any dead from the old ground. July 13th, 1791, John Field sold to an association of about 40 citizens the tract of land bounded by Beacon, Friendship and Plane streets, and also by the land which comprised the Beneficent society's cemetery. It cost the buyers 120 Spanish milled dollars, and was known as the Proprietors' Ground for Burial. They were never incorporated into a proper body for holding an estate. In 1809 Isaac Manchester laid out the large tract of land, of a generally square shape, lying on Plane street and approaching Lockwood, and this became the Manchester Burying Ground. In 1818 Thomas Sprague laid out for a burial ground a tract of land just north of the Manchester estate, at the corner of Plane and Point streets. It was known as the Sprague or Hope Cemetery. In 1842 Governor Seth Padelford and twelve associates were incorporated to conduct a cemetery immediately west of the Hope Cemetery on Point street. Its shape was generally of a parallelogram. In 1818 Daniel Field laid out for burial purposes a triangular lot of land at the corner of Friendship and Beacon streets. The apex of the triangle was at the corner of Prince and Friendship streets, and the third side was bounded by the Benevolent Congregational Cemetery. The area of land, comprising the Benevolent Congregational Cemetery, the Beneficent Congregational Cemetery, the Proprietors' Ground for Burial, the Manchester Burial Ground, the Sprague Burial Ground or Hope Cemetery, the Field Burial Ground, and Union Cemetery, about 17 acres, was in it entire extent known as the West Burial Ground.
It was in its prime about the year 1825. Even as late as 1868 it was for the most part in a good condition. But there were no interments after 1870. The Beneficent Congregational Cemetery estate was sold to Mr. Beriah Wall in 1877 for the sum of $50,000. The bodies had been in process of removal by friends for several years, and the last remaining were transferred to Swan Point at the expense of the society. About 1,000 dead were interred upon this ground in all. No records were kept, the conduct of the cemetery being left to the lot-owners who bought under the fee simple of the society, the lots being sub-sold for burying only.
There are not as many old buildings in Providence as one might naturally look for in a city of the age and area of this. A quarter of a century ago one might find many old structures even on the principal business streets, but the ruthless hand of progress, which recognizes not the claims of the moss-covered roofs and leaning walls to an extended existence for the sake of 'Auld Lang Syne', has swept them aside, and on their sites have been erected handsome and substantial business blocks. A few of the old-time wooden buildings still remain, particularly on Westminster street, but they are insignificant from an historical standpoint and a constant reminder that valuable building sites are being neglected. There are some buildings, too, which no doubt have very interesting histories, which would be read with great pleasure, but as the only tongues which could relate the facts have long since returned to dust, those histories will remain as sealed books, to be opened only when the secrets of all hearts and things are unfolded.
The younger business men of to-day have no difficulty in recalling Westminster street when it was lined almost entirely with wooden structures from one end to the other; when brick buildings were rarities on that thoroughfare, and when the business done on that street was almost wholly confined between Washington row and Mathewson street, with a few small stores straggling as far as the Lyman estate, on the corner of Walker street. To these men come pleasant memories of the old First Universalist church, at the corner of Union street, the present site of the Boston store, where the two tall trees cast a cooling shade over the recessed sidewalk in the burning summer days; of the old gambrel-roofed yellow building which stood on the next lot below, where Paul Wright, the grey-haired caterer, and his amiable wife, with her gold-bowed spectacles that awed the little ones, carried on business with much success for many years; of the low white building which was torn away when the Eddy street continuation from Westminster to Washington street was ordered, in which O. W. Prince kept a toy shop that would have delighted Dickens, Remington & Sessions ran a grocery store and Perrin's circulating library was kept. Prince afterward bloomed out as an aeronaut, Remington & Sessions took the store opposite Grace church, and Perrin dropped down a few doors to his present location.
Where the Curry and Richards building now stands there was at that time a low, one-story brown building, occupied in its last days by Corey Brothers. On the corner above, and on the same side of the street, was a row of rickety structures, occupied by Read, the paper-hanger, a tailor, and other kinds of business. On the Dorrance street side of the same building was Bennett's gun shop, where the patriotic youths loaded up for Fourth of July, and the surgeon's office at one and the same time. There was also started in the Middle street corner of the building the first liquor saloon with stalls and women waiters that Providence had seen, and it was copied from the since notorious New York saloons of the 'Billy McGlory' type. The place was called the 'Green Mountain', and lives in the police history of the city as the place where the cowardly murder of a woman was attempted by shooting. David Heaton had a jewelry store at the same time, situated at the corner of Westminster and Exchange streets, in the building which was demolished to give place to the Atlantic Block. On festive occasions the interest of the younger people was evenly divided between Paul Wright's molasses candy and an automaton in Mr. Heaton's window, which consisted of a monkey figuring as a portrait painter. The Howard and Phoenix buildings had been reared from the ashes of the great fire, a few years before the time covered by these few reminiscences, and in the one the 'swell' dances were held, and in the other was the Academy of Music, the only respectable theater Providence could then boast of. In the same building with the theater was quite a large-sized hall, in which Peck held his dancing school.
At the corner of Union and Westminster streets, where the Barnaby Block now stands, was a peaked-roof building, when Patrick Power carried on the tailoring business for many years and made nearly all the first jackets and pairs of pantaloons which the present business men of the city wore. The other store was a Catholic repository and the headquarters for emigration tickets and drafts to be used in Ireland. Opposite the Arcade was a large building in which Perry & Barnard had a dry goods store, Taber a watch and jewelry store, and Barstow drove a thriving carpet trade. Overhead, Manchester carried on a furniture business. Further down, on the same side, where the Wheaton Building now stands, was the low structure in which Martin & Symonds conducted the dry goods business and Mead had his dental parlors.
The Hoppin homestead with its high brick wall surroundings and its stately columns, then recalled the colonial epoch, for every inch of the palatial residence spoke of the old-time grandeur. Like its occupant, the late Lord Hoppin, as he was then called, the structure had an air of refinement pleasant to contemplate. It was but a few years ago that the familiar residence was torn down to make way for the present Hoppin Homestead Building. Contemporaneous with the Hoppin was the Lyman homestead, on the next corner above, which has since been remodeled and given over to business pursuits, but which still retains some of its old features. Another old residence, and one that used to attract much attention, was the Waterman house, at the corner of Broad and Union streets. One would hardly recognize in the present structure, which is used partly for business and partly for dancing purposes, any of the details of the old building. At the corner of Weybosset and Peck streets, stood the old Telegraph House, a noted resort for 'crooks', plug-uglies, burglars and all the noted law-breakers. 'Bristol Bill', one of the greatest criminals of his day, made that hotel his headquarters, and under its roof many bold pieces of lawlessness were concocted, in which he figured. The hotel building stood until about 1885, having been used for several years for legitimate business pursuits, and at last being demolished to make room for a large and handsome brick block.
The oldest dwelling in the city is the Whipple house on the north side of Abbott street, east of North Main street. It dates back more than two centuries, and its original owner, Samuel Whipple, was born in the year 1643. When the town was burned by the Indians, March 30th, 1676, this building was spared the incendiary torch, and it is believed that the reason it was not destroyed was that the Indians, knowing that Roger Williams and his followers had worshipped there, revered the structure. Keeping pace with the times the old house has assumed several changes, until now the original plans are materially lost sight of. Samuel Whipple was the first person buried in the North Burial Ground.
The Tillinghast house, on South Main street, north of Transit street, was erected by Philip Tillinghast about 1710. At that time there were but four dwelling houses in that part of Providence. The structure is of wood, two stories in height, with basements on the western end, a broad, hipped roof, dormer windows and a great chimney in its center which is five feet square at the top.
St. John's Episcopal church, the oldest structure in Providence belonging to that denomination, was erected in 1722, at the corner of North Main and Church streets, and was known as King's chapel. The first church bell hung in the town was in the steeple of this church. In 1794 the name of the church was changed to St. John's.
The Friends' meeting house at the corner of North Main and Meeting streets, was built about 1727. It is a wooden structure, devoid of any ornamentation. It was increased in size in 1784-5, and for several years the town meetings were held in the upper part of the building. The first meeting of the Friends in Providence of which there is record was held in a large barn, George Fox, the founder of the sect, being the leader. As early as 1704 the sect built a small meeting house, but it long ago went the way of all earthly things.
The old brick dwelling house, No. 537 North Main street, was built in 1752-3 by Elisha Brown. It is three stories in height, has a gambrel roof, and was formerly one-third longer on its north side, a portion of the house having been demolished to make way for a modern cottage house. It is believed that the central window of the three now remaining on the north side was the center of the original structure.
The state house, on Benefit street, was built in 1762, and occupies the site of the old colony house, which was destroyed by fire in 1758. The building is of brick, with stone facings, and capped by a belfry. The supreme court sat in the lower or representatives' hall as late as 1877, when the new court house was dedicated. In 1881 the general assembly caused the interior of the building to be remodeled, so that to-day very few traces are left of the quaint finishings which formerly interested the spectators during dull sessions of the court or prosy arguments of wearisome legislators. The greatest curiosities in the state house to-day are the Gilbert Stuart portrait of General Washington, the 'Gaspee' commission, the famous state charter issued in 1663, and in force until 1842, and the original deed of the state house lot.
The old city building on Market Square was built in 1773. It was erected for a public market by means of funds raised through a lottery. In 1797 St. John's Lodge of Masons built on the third story, and for many years used that floor for society purposes. Being centrally located the building came into favor for city offices, and in time it became the headquarters for nearly all the municipal business, taking and holding the name of city hall until 1878, when the present city hall was occupied.
The First Baptist church, on North Main street, between Waterman and Steeple streets, was erected in 1775, and has a steeple 196 feet high, that is considered to be as beautiful as any in this country. The society was founded in 1638 and was chartered in 1774, and is believed to be the oldest Baptist society in this country. The great crystal chandelier which is pendant from the center of the auditorium is remarkably handsome.
The Hopkins House, No. 9 Hopkins street, was owned by Stephen Hopkins, one of the signers of the declaration of independence, for nine years the governor of this state, a chief justice of the supreme court of the state, and elected to many other offices of public trust. The old house formerly stood at the foot of Hopkins street. The side originally facing South Main street is now turned toward Hopkins street. History says that in 1775 General Washington passed a night in this old house.
The Mansion House, at the corner of Benefit and South Court streets, is the oldest public house now standing in the city. In 1784 its front bore the sign of 'Golden Ball Inn'. Among the honored guests at the old inn in its palmy days were Presidents Washington and Monroe and General Lafayette. The interior of the old inn is dark and dingy with age, and from the busy hotel, where gay receptions were once held, it has drifted into an ordinary boarding house.
Brown University is really the center of historic interest in Providence. University Hall was built in 1770, and from December 7th, 1776, until May 27th, 1782, was occupied for barracks and a hospital by the American and French soldiers. It is of brick and 150 feet long. Hope College is also of brick, and is four stories in height. It was erected in 1822 by the Hon. Nicholas Brown, and was named for his sister, Hope Ives. Manning Hall was built in 1834: was also the gift of the Hon. Nicholas Brown. It is of stone, covered with cement, and is modelled after a Grecian temple of the Doric order. Rhode Island Hall was built in 1840 by subscription. The president's residence, at the corner of College and Prospect streets, was built in 1840. It is of wood, with an Ionic portico. All the other buildings are of recent construction.
The Richmond Street Congregational church was begun in 1795 and completed in 1807. Its roof gave it the title of the 'Tin Top'. The society later erected a brick edifice on the opposite corner of Pine street, and the old church became the abiding place for other religious societies, until it was purchased for a brewery. Later it was used as a junk shop, and now it has been turned into a livery stable.
The First Congregational church was built on Benefit street, corner of Benevolent street, in 1816, on the site of another edifice belonging to the society, which was burned down in 1814. The church is noted for its massive and elegant pulpit of mahogany.
The Chestnut Street Methodist Episcopal church, at the corner of Clifford street, was erected in 1822, and is the oldest of its denomination in Providence. The building originally occupied by the society was erected at the corner of Washington and Aborn streets, and was dedicated in 1816. During the gale of September, 1869, the steeple on the present building was blown down.
The new market, at the junction of High and Broad streets, was built in 1827. It was not the success that had been anticipated, and is now leased for various branches of business.
One of the most prominent of the old business buildings is the Arcade. It extends through from Weybosset street on the south to Westminster on the north, being 216 feet in length and 74 feet wide fronting on either street. The building is three stories high and is lighted from a glass roof. Each floor is divided into 26 stores, which are mainly occupied by retail dealers in fancy goods, millinery and kindred lines. The building is of granite, in the Ionic style, and the portico at either end is supported by six massive granite pillars. It was erected in 1828, at a cost of about $145,000, and was then pronounced the handsomest building in Providence, and the most elaborate one devoted to similar purposes in the United States. The proprietors were Cyrus Butler of the eastern half, and the Arcade Corporation of the western half. The architect was Russell Warren.
The Westminster Congregational Unitarian church, on Mathewson street, was erected in 1829. It is of stone and has a grand old portico of the Ionic type. The interior was remodeled about 1872.
The building now known as Amateur Dramatic Hall, at the corner of South Main and Power streets, was erected for church purposes in 1833, by the Power Street Methodist Episcopal Society. They retained it until about 1873, when it was altered into a riding school, and in 1876 it was leased and revamped as a theater by the Amateur Dramatic Club.
The Athenaeum, at the corner of Benefit and College streets, was completed in 1837. Nicholas Brown and the heirs of Thomas P. Ives gave the lot, $6,000 for the building and $4,000 for books. The charter for the Athenaeum was granted in 1831. The building is of granite and contains 40,000 volumes.
The old state prison, on Gaspee street and back of the Cove Basin, was built in 1838, at a cost of $51,500. It is of granite, and with the Providence county jail, which was built in 1839, was vacated in 1878, when the new state penal buildings at Cranston were ready for occupancy.
The old stone theater, on Dorrance street, east of Pine street, was built in 1839, but not proving a paying institution, it was soon given over to business pursuits.
The Arsenal, on Benefit street, near Meeting street, was erected in 1840. It is of plastered stone, with two castellated towers. It is now used by the Marine Corps of Artillery and the Battery attached to the Brigade of Rhode Island Militia.
The Bethel church on Benefit street, near the junction of Wickenden street, was erected in 1841. The deed of the property was made by Joseph A. Chedel to George Larned, William P. Bullock, Seth Padelford, Daniel Fish, John C. Lee, Joseph W. Davis, Josiah Simmons, Jonathan Pike, Nathan Mason, Resolved Waterman and Daniel T. Goodhue for $1 in trust, for the purpose of holding free religious services for the spiritual benefit of mariners. The building was used for the purposes named in the deed until October 22d, 1884, when the property was formally transferred to the Christian Mission, and by that association opened on the evening of January 25th at the Bethel Coffee House.
The Butler Hospital was completed in 1847. The original bequest was made by the Hon. Nicholas Brown, who died in 1841 and left $30,000 for the hospital. Cyrus Butler gave $40,000 in 1841, and other citizens of Providence gave another $40,000. Since then there have been many bequests establishing permanent funds for the maintenance of special objects for the use and benefit of the patients. The building is of brick, and the grounds, which cover 140 acres, are beautifully laid out and rich with luxurious growths of shrubs, flowering plants and great shade trees.
The Rhode Island Historical Society building, on Waterman street, opposite Brown University, was erected in 1844. The building is of stone and contains, in addition to 9,000 volumes and 20,000 pamphlets, a large collection of articles of historical value. A transept in the rear was added in 1889.
Grace church was consecrated in 1846. The parish was organized in 1829, and held its first services in the old Tin Top church. In 1832 the Providence Theater, at the corner of Westminster and Mathewson streets, was purchased and altered over into a church. It was moved away, and on its site the present structure was built.
The Union passenger station on Exchange Place was erected in 1848. It is of brick and 625 feet in length.
The 'Shelter', at No. 20 Olive street, was erected in 1849, upon land donated by Mrs. Maria Jenkins. It is of wood and is managed by the Providence Association for the Benefit of Colored Children, organized in 1838.
St. Francis Xavier Academy, at the corner of Broad and Claverick streets, was established in 1851, erected in part in 1854, and completed in 1865.
The Mathewson Street Methodist Episcopal church was organized in 1848, as the Third Methodist Society, by members who drew away from the Power and Chestnut Street societies. The present edifice was dedicated May 28th, 1851, and prior to the erection the society worshipped in a hall on Westminster street.
The Central Congregational church on Benefit street, near College street, was erected in 1852, and is of brick and freestone.
The Central Baptist church was organized in 1805. The first edifice was erected on Pine street, in 1807, and destroyed by fire, September 23d, 1815. A second building was erected at once, and used until the present brick structure on Broad street, near Burrill street, was built in 1857, at a cost of $65,000. In 1882 the interior was materially altered and beautified.
St. Aloysius Orphan Asylum, on Prairie avenue, in South Providence, was erected in 1858. It is of brick, presents an imposing appearance, is under the care of the Sisters of Mercy, and is supported by the Roman Catholic church in the diocese of Providence. Nearly 225 orphans find a home there.
In addition to the foregoing old buildings is the Tockwotten House, a description of which will be found further on, the long row of mercantile buildings on South Water street, the group of old buildings next and adjoining the old custom house on South Water street, and the rickety structure next below the post office, on Weybosset street, facetiously designated as the 'Grosvenor palace'. There are two or three old structures on Christian hill, which formerly belonged to the late Major Dean. It is not known when they were built, but one of them is said to have been drawn up the hill by men, from the neighborhood of Dorrance street. Some of the old mills in the suburbs date back about three-quarters of a century, but the date of their erection is a matter beyond the range of reasonable possibilities to find out at the present time.
History tells us that Roger Williams and his followers to these shores, first dwelt in the primitive tents of the Indians, then in log huts with clay between the logs, and that finally Providence began to grow to what it now is from a straggling village of about two score houses, which were made of oak, the frames of which were hewn from the solid trees with the axes of their owners, architects and builders. The early colonists evidently had no glass to put in their windows. The foundations of these houses, and the huge chimneys, which were built at one end of the houses, were rough and unhewn, just as they came from the hillsides. From the meagre descriptions of these houses, which may be culled from the public records of the town, it is learned that they were one and one-half stories in height, with a lower room and chamber. John Whipple's house, which was at the foot of Constitution hill, was one of the first to be built after Philip's war. Thomas Olney, Sr., could boast of better accommodations than his neighbors, for he had a parlor, kitchen and chamber. Late in the seventeenth century the houses are found to have had four apartments, with a chimney in the center of the structures. There was also a number of narrow houses, two stories in height, and with a garret. The 'Gaol house', on Constitution hill, was of the latter mentioned type, as was also Nathaniel Brown's house, which stood at the corner of Church street, and was removed in 1842. Nathaniel Brown was the earliest shipbuilder in town, was a man of wealth and one of the founders of St. John's church. His house had a large stone chimney at its north end. After these came the houses of two stories, with two chambers in the attic. All of these old houses have passed away, and not a vestige of them is standing.
Among the early houses in the eighteenth century, passing mention is made of that of Gabriel Bernon, erected in 1721, on the west side of 'Towne' street, opposite St. John's church. Where Chad Brown's homestead stood is now a portion of College street, and where Thomas street now cuts through was formerly the site of the Angell homestead. Next north of this last house was the dwelling of Thomas Olney, who succeeded Roger Williams after the disruption of the religious society which he founded. At Howland street were the houses of Roger Williams and John Throckmorton, and at that point now known as Church street Joshua Verin's house stood. A little to the north and next to St. John's church lived Richard Scot, the first convert made by George Fox. Beyond Scot's house and up Constitution hill there were then no houses to speak of. At the opening of the eighteenth century Gregory Dexter resided in a house near Dexter lane, now Olney street. In the field east of the North Burial Ground for many decades were the cellars and stone foundations of five of the old houses which formerly stood in a row and were destroyed in Philip's war.
As early as 1784, and in January of that year, it is recorded that Providence experienced a severe freshet, during which many of the houses which stood near the town' mill (Smith's grist mill) were swept away. In 1745 Daniel Rutenbridge erected a mill over the Woonasquatucket river, which was the precursor of all the great manufacturing enterprises and establishments of Rhode Island. He was a German, and died May 15th, 1754. The 'County House' was voted to be built in 1729, was completed in October, 1731, and burned December 24th, 1758. In 1720 Doctor Jabez Bowen's house was built on Bowen street. The first oyster house in the city was established by a colored slave named Emanuel Bernoon. It was located on Towne street, near the site of the first custom house, and proved so remunerative a venture that when he died Bernoon left his wife [Mary] a house and lot on Stampers street.
The history of no single institution is connected more intimately with that of the town than the history of its hostelries. It is familiar that the judgment of the world is passed on a community by the kind of a hotel that it maintains, as much as it is by its business aspect or its educational facilities. Yet while this intimate connection with the town's history can be claimed for the hostelry, the nature of that connection has radically altered. Thus, while the hostelry has followed the progress of this town, in a material sense, moving in the years from its original site far out on the Pawtucket pike to the present heart of the city, and while it has followed growth in business and commercial aspect, at periods perhaps being 'behind' or 'ahead' of the town, its relationship to the community has undergone a radical change. It is a change, however, that only emphasizes the fact of that relationship inasmuch as it marks the change wrought in the growing community itself, in its business and social aspects.
The old inns, ordinaries or taverns, as they were variously styled, were originally strictly for the town; they were an important element in the internal life of the town, in which town meetings, general assemblies, even the courts were conducted, and the social and business life as well was intimately connected with them. They were the vital centers, in a word, of the town. The hotel of to-day, on the contrary, has little in common with the private life of the community; it has become the place set apart by the community for the welcome to strangers, and thousands are ignorant of even the proprietor's name. This change in its relationship has been a natural one; though perhaps it would be difficult to strictly distinguish the cause from the effect -- whether the town, finding the need of larger accommodation for the gathering of its representatives, drifted away from the tavern room to other more formal quarters, and so the public house opened its doors to the outside world for its business; or the development of the connections with other places, and the increasing demand for public accommodations, had the effect of separating the freemen and their inns, it might be hard to decide.
Reminiscences of the inns and taverns of the town are retained by its veteran citizens, who not only have personal recollections of the famous hostelries of the early part of the present century, but possess also the traditions of still older and no less remarkable inns that were famous, and died out in the time of their fathers and grandfathers. Pleasant as are these reminiscences, the stories and traditions of the old tavern rooms, the gay balls and the sober town meetings, the swinging signs and rattling stage coaches, the histories of all but a few lack accurate data, and are neither recorded nor can be offered with desirable exactness by even the oldest inhabitants.
For two generations after the settlement of the town all strangers coming to Providence were received in private houses. But the Pidge Tavern is believed to have been built in 1641 near the spot where the horse car barn now is on the Pawtucket road, near the 'old Toll House'. This was a favorable location, as the town was then laid out. One John Foster was the possible owner, and after him came John Morey and Philip Esten (1769) and Jeremiah Sayles. From the latter the estate passed to his daughter, who was the wife of Ira Pidge, from whom the tavern seems to have derived its permanent name, although it is also known as the Jeremiah Sayles Tavern. James S. Pidge, a son, inherited it and conducted it. The tavern is particularly famed as having been the headquarters of Lafayette in Sayles' time, being situated hard by the 'French camping grounds'. The building still stands on its old site, and is in the possession of the Pidge family, of this city.
Benjamin Pidge kept a tavern on the north corner of Thurber's lane and Branch avenue, just this side of the North Burial Ground. This was known as the Benjamin Pidge Tavern, to distinguish it, and it flourished in the early part of this century.
The Bull's Head Tavern, or 'old tavern house', as a later generation came to call it, comes next in importance in date, and it had a long and honorable record. It was situated, of course, on the Pawtucket turnpike on the east side, about a mile north of the Amasa Gray Tavern, which stands to-day at the junction of the turnpike and North Main street. Its signboard bore a bull's head, that is remembered by not a few now living. It was built in 1672, and was used as a tavern down to 1837, after which, piece by piece, it was torn down and removed, and about 1875 the last of it disappeared. Major John Dexter, son of Gregory Dexter, owned it in the beginning of its career, and it remained in the Dexter family for more than a century. In the latter part of this period it was rented to parties outside by Joseph and Moses, great-grandsons of Major John, who were unmarried and boarded with their tenants. At one time the old tavern was used as a slaughter house. Benjamin Gould was the landlord after Moses died (1825), and Ezekiel Emerson succeeded him in 1828, when the property became involved in a lawsuit; the property passed out of the hands of the family, and soon after ceased to be a tavern and suffered a gradual decline.
Half way up Constitution hill stood Whipple's Tavern. It was licensed to John Whipple in 1680 and stood, one of the most conspicuous of the old taverns, to the middle of the eighteenth century -- not a long life, but a notable one. 'From its staid and sober character, as well as its central position, Whipple's was the favorite place of meeting of the Council and Probate Court for two generations.'
The Turpin House -- the 'Old Turpin House' -- was situated in the rear of the house now No. 626 North Main street, the 'town street', the site occupied by the late William G. Angell, directly opposite the Fourth Baptist church. William Turpin, who, it is recorded, was a schoolmaster, turned inn-keeper, and seems to have proved himself a most agreeable and successful host. The house which bore his name was built in 1695, and it soon became the state house of the colony, where, too, the probate court, as well as the general assembly, were wont to meet. Turpin's son, also William, succeed him at his death, July 18th, 1709, until his own death in 1744; and the house seems to have gained and maintained a constantly widening influence, and became the largest in the town, and of a political importance which only ended when the present state house was built in 1762. And it still retained its popularity until the town drifted away from it and its fellows in the North End.
Olney's Tavern, which shared with Whipple's and Turpin's a celebrity that endured well into the last century, stood at the corner of North Main and Olney streets, and was run by Epenetus Olney. Olney street was then known as Dexter's lane. The house enjoyed a longer life and greater celebrity than either of the other two. It was near the highway from Boston, and had the best traveling patronage, the town mill was hard by, and the site was eminently the commercial center of these Plantations. Its neighborhood, as the most public location, was made the scene of penal discipline, and the town stocks were set up there. The property passed to the descendants of Epenetus Olney through several generations, and saw its rivals die while it continued its successful career as a hostelry well into the last years of the last century, being still a popular resort at the time of the revolutionary war, when Joseph Olney dedicated his big elm on the green in front of it as a 'liberty tree'. But in 1803, when the city was drifting away from it and it had seen its best days, Colonel Jere Olney built a house on the green before it, and it was a matter of a few years only before it passed away.
About the middle of the last century the number of taverns began to increase with the growth of the town, while the establishment of the state house and the increase of travelers tended to change their character and to give them a different sort of popularity and celebrity. In 1757 the 'Sign of the White Horse' was kept by genial Captain Adams and his son, on North Main street, just opposite the First Baptist church, and it was a great resort for mariners and merchants. Here all the marine news was learned and discussed, and its popularity kept pace with the times. It remained a tavern until 1825 or 1830; then was used as a dwelling; a portion for a museum was later annexed to the Earl House, and finally was absorbed by the Gorham Manufacturing Company. In 1760, too, flourished the Widow Kelton's, a two-story house of wood, that was located just above the 'Sign of the White Horse', next north from the corner of Haymarket street, on North Main. The site of this, with that of the house that stood on the corner, are now occupied by the present brick block belonging to Mrs. Gammell; but the old tavern house was not taken down until 1879. The 'Widow Kelton's', as well as the 'White Horse', have an enduring fame as being the places of holding the first meetings of the venerable St. John's Lodge of Masons.
In the latter part of the last century a tavern, the 'Two Crowns', flourished. Its name seems to have been handed down, and something of its fame; also that Captain John Waterman was one of its early landlords -- at which time it took the name of its host -- and then Noah Mason. But the exact location of the 'Two Crowns' is involved in considerable obscurity. It was doubtless somewhere in the lower part of North Main street, where all the prominent inns of the period flourished; but the site of the old Providence Hotel, of the Whatcheer Building, or on Market Square itself, are variously claimed. Its name is left behind with but little of its history. The 'Bunch of Grapes' was another inn whose picturesque name survives all other reliable information of it or its location.
The Mongomery Hotel stood on the triangular lot at the head of Constitution hill, where the fire alarm tower now stands, and was built in 1781 by General Simeon Thayer. (The date of building is more generally also given as 1768 by Staples' annals, but the less ancient date is one more generally received and possibly on more reliable authority.) It was kept at one time by James Hidden, and was the headquarters of the Boston coach, which used to depart from its doors every Monday. The tavern was torn down about 1808.
There are two inns now standing in the city and still adapted more or less strictly to their original function, which date back into the eighteenth century: The Hoyle Tavern, the familiar house at the junction of High and Cranston streets, which is believed to have been the established in 1782 (the legend on a picture of the house hanging in the sitting room claims its erection in 1724), and the Mansion House, opened in 1784 under the name of the Golden Ball Inn, and which stands at the corner of Benefit and South Court streets, nearly opposite the state house. Its sign in the old days was adorned by a golden globe in keeping with its name. Here in the Golden Ball Inn were entertained Washington, Monroe and Lafayette, and it seems to have been a famous and richly honored hotel in the old days. The Hoyle was named after its builder, who also ran a Hoyle Hotel out in Triptown. It was in its early days more of a dancing house and place of entertainment, that was in wide favor with the young people. Situated as it was far out in the country, with no bridge to cross the river from the east side, the jovial parties of young men and women had to go far around in the country in their excursions to wind up in a dance and a good time at the Hoyle. It was the earliest tavern on the west side.
Probably prior to 1800, perhaps in 1798 or 1799, the famous, later notorious, Bull Dog Tavern, was built. Its history is that of a house and locality of the highest repute that descended through the years to bear only a hard name and unenviable notoriety. Still it has left a good legacy as the fruit of its early staidness, virtue and piety in no less a form than the society and building of the Fourth Baptist church. Bull Dog square, the name by which its location, Randall square, is known, has now only a sinister meaning. The tavern stands on the west side of Charles street and was contemporaneous in its glory with two other famous hostelries, the Manufacturers' and Washington Hotels. Although there appears to be opportunity for discussion as to who built it, reliable authority credits Doctor Thomas Green with being its founder. The lot was originally owned by Job Smith, a landlord of later repute, and in 1797 was conveyed to Joseph Snow and then in 1800 lot and buildings were transferred to Fenner Angell, of the Fenner Angell Tavern at the corner of Orms and Davis streets. Calvin Dean, who was a mortgagee, took possession in 1808; Richard Smith came into possession in 1820; Joseph Tierney in 1840; Mary Ann Madden, 1842; John N. Smith was another proprietor; and a man by the name of Godfrey ran it about 1860. Doctor Green, its original owner, was a staid old gentleman described in Quaker garb, and the Bull Dog doubtless preserved the staidness and repute of its proprietor for some years. But its chief repute, perhaps, should be connected with the period of Richard Smith's landlordship. Smith, who afterward became the popular landlord of the Franklin House and Eagle House, appears to have earned the staid inn-keeper's traits of Doctor Green to the extreme. He was from Glocester, and a young man when he took possession of the Bull Dog, and in his time the hall of the tavern was devoted, on Sundays, to religious meetings. On alternate Sundays, the Reverend Henry Tatem and the Reverend Benjamin Porter held services there with constantly increasing congregations. Baptisms were conducted in the (then) pure and undefiled Moshassuck, whose waters flowed conveniently near. The meetings in the old Bull Dog gathered many into the Christian fold, and their efforts and results formed the nucleus of the Fourth Baptist Church Society.
The Fenner Angell Tavern was contemporaneous with the Bull Dog, and the old two-story gamble roofed building still stands at the corner of Orms and Davis streets. It was subsequently known as the Commodore Perry Tavern and later still as the Tinker Tavern, when Henry Tinker kept it. It has a notoriety in common with the Bull Dog for a hard character and dog fights, cock fights and prize fights are said to be among the memories of its Sunday pastimes. It was, however, chiefly famed as the headquarters for horse racing, a sport that had a splendid field for development in that vicinity in the days of its career.
To mention the Old Manufacturers' Hotel and the Washington Hotel is to call names familiar to those of even the present generation whose ancestry were resident Rhode Islanders, in the period when they flourished. These contemporaneous hostelries rival each other in their enduring fame and in the wealth of reminiscences which fire the heart and bring a glow to the cheek.
The Manufacturers' Hotel was originally the private residence of Deputy Governor Jabez Bowen. As a hotel it belonged to Governor Arthur Fenner, and at his death in 1805, it passed to his son James Fenner. From the platform erected in front of it were read the public proclamations of the time -- in 1776 of the declaration of independence, the announcement of peace, and the adoption of the constitution of Rhode Island. A great horse-chestnut tree stood before its entrance on the square. It was the headquarters of stage lines in all directions and was altogether a public house of eminent importance and preference, and reminiscences of its days are familiar, numerous and inspiring.
The Washington Hotel will be ever famous as the scene of the grand balls and festivities of the elite of the town and city half a century ago. It was built about the year 1800 by Esek Aldrich, who had many successors and the hotel as many proprietors. John Andrews and wife took possession about the year 1859 and held it for a period of 15 years, when it was sold to Christopher Johnson. During Andrews' proprietorship the hotel was the headquarters for George Scott's stage to Warwick and John Babcock's to South Kingstown; and during this time, although in the decade 1820-30, it reached the summit of its social glory. It was a great 'society' resort, the scene of the most fashionable of the fashionable balls and grand parties, and the name of Hannah Andrews, the hostess, will be treasured in memory in connection with the pleasant reminiscences associated with the famous old tavern. The annual Washington ball of the First Light Infantry, which continues a leading social event, may claim to be the existing descendant from the select old 'assemblies' of Mrs. Andrews' time.
About 1818 or 1820 Nicholas R. Gardiner, her father, kept a tavern in the homestead where stands the Jones building on Westminster street, and his tavern in its day was a great rendezvous of the notables of the state for ten or twelve years. This, the Gardiner Tavern, was kept after Mr. Gardiner died by the Messrs. Waite, who, after its removal, kept tavern in the building now occupied by the Rhode Island News Company. The Gardiner Tavern, when removed in 1837 to give place to the Jones Building, was taken to 105 Clifford street, where it now stands recuperated by a new roof and front.
At the other end of the city, out on High street, from the Olneyville district to the Hoyle Tavern, a number of inns and taverns of more or less repute flourished from the early part of the present century until recent years. Out by the old Tar bridge, now replaced by a neat iron structure, stood the Samuel Randall Tavern. The Pardon and John Angell and Fox taverns were located farther down, the latter down to Knight street. The Farmer's Home was kept by Doctor Gideon Spencer in 1822 and removed by Perry Davis, Esq., for the "Pain Killer' building. All of these were on the south side of the highway. On the north side were Field's, Round's and Hopkins's taverns, and at the corner of High and Battey streets stood that of Nehemiah Angell, built in 1830. Of these old inns and the Fox Tavern, which stood at the corner of Knight street, on the site of the Roger Williams Free Baptist church, was built about 1820, and kept by Captain Fox. It was notable as the headquarters of the farmers from the district about and from Connecticut; they came from Windham county and Killingly, as well as from Scituate and the Rhode Island farms with their droves of cattle and produce for Providence. The tavern was removed about 1855, when the new Roger Williams church was built. On the north side of Westminster street, just above Orange street, the tavern of Andrew Williams and the large boarding house of Captain Charles Stewart are memorable houses of the period. The Muddy Dock Tavern was situated in the locality of that name, near the foot of Peck street, and was quite a notable old French tavern of that period.
Of that striking edifice, the Tockwotten House, on East street, the hotel history is brief and uneventful, save as it is connected with the introduction of railroads into the town, which gives it an importance as the most eminent example of the change in the character of the demands made upon the town's hostelries by its fuller connection with the outside world. The building was the private residence of the family of James B. Mason. After the Boston & Providence railroad came into the city in 1835, at its original terminus in the district by the mouth of the Seekonk, the railroad company bought the house and established a hotel there for its travelling patrons who were either remaining here or in transit to New York. It had a number of landlords. In 1843-4, Willard Whitcomb, who later was in charge of the City Hotel, in connection with the Franklin House, ran it; in 1845, Mrs. Mary Esten; 1846, D. V. Ross, 2d. The location was only desirable for a hotel on account of the patronage afforded it by the railroad, and when the road changed its terminus to Exchange place, the Tockwotten House was practically killed. Charles Potter, Doctor Grosvenor's father-in-law, bought the whole of the estate for a nominal amount, some $13,000, and made a boarding house of the lately thriving hotel. In 1850 the property was sold to the city, and from November of that year until the establishment of the school at Cranston, the Tockwotten House was used for the reform school, for which purpose it readily adapted itself with but few alterations.
The Weybosset House, which stood where the Mechanics' Bank building now is on Weybosset street, was a flourishing hotel. The building was erected by Amos Atwell for his family mansion, and it was known as the Atwell House before becoming the Weybosset. It was moved back and two wings put on when transformed into a hotel, and from its wings became popularly known as the 'Angels'. Hezekiah Allen was its proprietor, and it was a flourishing hostelry down to about 1850 or 1855.
The Franklin House, the familiar tall brick building, with lower story of stone, that stands at the foot of North Main street, was built in 1823, and during its career as a hostelry was honored by the best patronage in the city; indeed, a large proportion of the old business and professional men of prominence in the community to-day have occupied rooms within its walls for greater or lesser length of time. Its old sign, 'Franklin House', still hangs high up on its facade.
In 1846, Robert Earl, of the City Hotel, established Earl House, at 69 North Main street, which was absorbed by the Gorham Manufacturing Company with the old White Horse Tavern.
There are now in Providence some 25 hotels of more or less creditable standing, aside from boarding houses of all grades. First in prominence is the Narragansett Hotel, conducted by L. H. Humphreys. This house needs no description to make it outwardly and by reputation, at least, familiar. It is owned by the Wheaton Hotel Company, which was chartered in 1854, the date to which the charter of the present company was put back, and which went to pieces after a considerable investment. The building is eight stories high on the inner court and presents seven stories to the street. Its frontages are 181 feet on Dorrance street, 134 on Broad street, and 184 on Eddy street, and it is built of Trenton pressed brick, with lower story and trimmings of iron. The grand dining-hall is 40 by 90 feet and 27 feet high, and there are 225 rooms for guests in the hotel.
The Hotel Dorrance, which ranks second only to the Narragansett, and by a good proportion of the traveling public is an equal favorite, was built and is owned by H. T. and A. M. Beckwith, trustees. The old wooden building which occupied the site, and was itself the home of cafes, Dorman's, and that kept years ago by L. H. Humphreys, being familiar, was torn down, this work beginning in the fall of 1878. The hotel was opened in the spring of 1880, and the veteran host, Captain L. M. Thayer, was its proprietor. Mr. George W. Cross is its present manager.
The City Hotel was originally the magnificent mansion built and occupied by Mr. Charles Dyer, whose brother, Mr. Benjamin Dyer, built 'Dyer's Block', on the opposite side of Broad street. In 1831 Mr. Charles Dyer started the subscription list for what became the City Hotel Corporation, with a view to transforming his palatial residence into a hotel in accordance with the following sentiments, expressed in writing to those to whom the scheme was presented: 'The growth and prosperity of the town of Providence, the rapid increase of business and the consequent extension of commercial intercourse with the principal cities of the Union, require proper accommodations for the public convenience and the personal comfort of those whom pleasure or business may call to sojourn among us.' The building was enlarged and the hotel opened a year or so later, all the stock having been subscribed by public-spirited citizens, as well as by those who thought it a good speculation. The corporation continues to control it, and one of the original members is still living and holding sock. Until the Narragansett was built the City was the leading hotel of Providence, although it saw its palmiest days in 'war times'. Mr. Humphreys was one of its later lessees.
The Aldrich House, on Washington street, was opened January 2d, 1860. It was built and owned by Anson W. Aldrich. It was a house popular with the dramatic profession. It was destroyed by fire in February, 1888, and has not been rebuilt.
Other hotels of the city are the Perrin House on Washington street, one of the newest and neatest of the hotels; the Central Hotel on Canal street, a large and popular hostelry that is notable as being of strict temperance principles; the Roger Williams and Providence, two of the very hotel buildings; Brucker's, formerly the Westminster, a hostelry of some years standing; the Freeman, the American, kept by Ray Greene, at 92 North Main; Baldwin and Fisher's Hotel at 314 North Main; the Hotel Bristol, by N. F. Barrows, 7 Market square; the Clarendon, by P. McGough, at 118 & 120 North Main; College Street Hotel, by C. J. Read, at 22 College street; Commercial House, by W. D. Smith, at 322 Prairie avenue; Dresden Hotel, by J. Scheninger, at 18 Snow street; the Franklin Street, House, by W. F. Weeks, at 5 Franklin street; the German Oak Hotel, by William Rothfuchs, at 30 South Main; Girard House, by E. W. Tinker, 51 to 55 Eddy street; Halfway House, by F. W. Harris, on Pawtucket avenue; the Holly Tree Inn, by J. E. Pieczentkowsky, at 156 Westminster; the Hopkins Hotel, by T. A. Cunliff, at 421 High; Hotel Bijou, by Matthew Barry, at 50 Union street; Hotel Broadway, by Mrs. W. S. Hall, at 106 Fountain; Hotel D'Alsace, by J. B. Schmidt, at 8 & 10 Potter street; Hotel Elmwood, by J. N. Manwaring, at 1093 Broad street; Hotel Glendon, by Mary J. Greene, at 96 Pond street; Hotel St. George, by T. Miller, at Washington and Matthewson streets; the Mansion House, by George R. Earl, at 159 Benefit street; Market Hotel, by J. J. Haley & Co., at 35 Dyer street; the Musee Hotel, by Joseph S. Wheeler, at 1 Aborn street; Olneyville Hotel, Olneyville square; Rialto Hotel, by W. A. Barron, at 195 & 197 Broad street; the Rochester Hotel, by George Finck, at 138 Pine street; the Royal Oak, by Fred. Smith, at 286 Washington; the Daniel H. Sullivan House, at 168 Pine street; Sweetland's Hotel, 9 & 11 Crawford street, and the Teutonia House, by Mrs. K. L. Hock, at 174 Broad street.
The Newport County Reading Room Index More Biographies and History.