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DEBUT author PEGG THOMAS's signed copy of The Pony Express Romance Collection is Bree Herron, Angela Couch's book,Carla Gade's "Love's Compass to Betti Mace, Carrie Fancett Pagels' "Tea Shop Folly" goes to Faith, Denise Weimer's print winner of WITCH is Connie Saunders, Joan Hochstetler, Debra E. Marvin ebook,

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Tour of Benefit Street by Lisa Norato

Benefit Street, Providence, Rhode Island


Benefit Street on the east side of Providence, Rhode Island, is known as the “Mile of History” for the 1.2 miles of historic homes and buildings that line its sidewalks.  Considered an outdoor museum, Benefit Street is a popular tourist attraction, and today I’d like to take you on a virtual tour.  So lace up your sneakers because those cobblestone sidewalks can get a bit unsteady.

"A Benefit for All"


We will be heading north, focusing on early American architecture, although there are many Victorian era homes as well.


Providence was founded by Roger Williams in the early 1600s, when he was expelled from Massachusetts for his religious views.  Almost 150 years later, the city had risen from a religious settlement cut out of the wilderness to a thriving mercantile center, with many making their fortunes trading rum, molasses and even slaves.  These wealthy merchants needed a place to build that reflected their affluent status.  In the 1780s, the hilly area overlooking the Providence River was deemed a prime residential spot for its lofty location above the City.  What was originally called Back Street was widened and the street renamed Benefit because it was deemed to be "a benefit for all."
 
Nightingale-Brown House c.1792

One of the most notable homes of the period is the Nightingale-Brown House built by a wealthy merchant in 1792.  At 19,000 square feet, it is one of the largest 18th century wood frame houses still standing in North America.  I especially love the captain’s walk on the rooftop which would have overlooked the merchant ships sailing into the Providence River.

Stephen Hopkins House c. 1707
This is the Stephen Hopkins house, built in 1707 and occupied by the merchant and ship builder from 1743 to 1785.  The house plaque reveals a bit more about the Colonial man and reads, “Ten times Governor of Rhode Island. Chief Justice of the Superior Court. Chancellor of Brown University. Member of the Colonial Congress. Signer of the Declaration of Independence.” General George Washington was a guest at the house on April 6, 1776.


What makes Benefit Street so special is that its historic character continues throughout the entire length of over one mile, not just in one or two buildings spaced here and there.  The homes have front doors that open right onto the sidewalk as was fashionable at the time, and in strolling down the street it is easy to imagine yourself back in time, as life was 150 years ago.

Isaac Bowen, Jr. House


Among the mansions and wealthy residences along Benefit Street are more modest dwellings in the Federal architecture style.  Though this Federal home doesn’t appear very modest to me.  The plaque by the door indicates that this was the home of Isaac Bowen, Jr. 1770-1804.



Thanks to the Providence Preservation Society, even simple structures bear plaques which indicate when they were built and who originally owned the house, like the home of Daniel Smith.  This house was originally built in 1750 in another area of Providence, but was moved by preservationists to Benefit Street in 1982.

Daniel Smith House c.1750
This was just a sampling of the architecture the street has to offer.  I hope you enjoyed our little stroll and learning about the history of Providence’s Benefit Street.  I wanted to share it with you, because I always enjoy walking along the street, envisioning what it would have been like living in the Colonial era.



Lisa Norato is the multi-published author of Prize of My Heart, an inspirational, seafaring historical from Bethany House, set during the Federal era. A life-long New Englander, Lisa lives in a historic village with homes and churches dating as far back as the eighteenth century


14 comments:

  1. Hi Lisa!
    This was a great post! I love historic homes like that and Providence is a simply wonderful place. Since I like in Washington state I don't get to visit often (LOL) but when I have, I've loved it.
    Thanks again!
    Amber

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    1. Hi Amber! and welcome to CACW and the Quills! Good to have you with us and I look forward to your posts. Congratulations on your upcoming release. There's sure to be a tea party in your honor in the future. So cool that you have visited Providence and enjoyed it. Next time you visit you'll have to let me know. Glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you!

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  2. What a delightful stroll down Benefit Street, Lisa. When I first saw the title I got all excited because of the familiar name since there is a Benefit St. in Attleboro, MA where I once lived and drove on frequently. But I like your Benefit Street far better! I love taking tours of old New England and Providence certainly has some beautiful colonial homes! About those houses being so close to the road...I've seen that often and thought it strange. What do you think was the reasoning?

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    1. Blessings, Carla! I'm glad you enjoyed our stroll, and thanks for joining me. About the homes being so close to the street, I'm not certain, but I think it was one of the perks and prestige of city living, to be able to have your carriage drop you off at your front door. Servants would take care of the horses and carriages, whereas less affluent people had to walk in from the barn. At least that's my theory.

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  3. I enjoyed our walk up Benefit Street. The houses amaze me. Thank you for sharing with us, Lisa!
    Barbara

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  4. Blessings, Barbara, and thank you for joining me. I'm so glad you enjoyed our afternoon stroll together! I took the photos during on my lunch hour at work. It took a few trips up the hill to Benefit Street with the company of a couple of co-workers to find the right shots...houses that weren't blocked by trees or traffic, but it was fun and interesting.

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  5. Stopping back by again! I hadn't thought about it until you mentioned it, Lisa, but it sounds very logical--people must have liked the idea of being dropped off right at their door. :) I love learning these neat little bits of history. :)
    And thank you so much for the warm welcome!! I am so excited to be a part of this great group of writers. God bless!!!

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    1. God bless, Amber! We're very happy to have you with us!

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  6. I've always wanted to visit Rhode Island. Looks like some lovely places to visit.

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    1. Jennifer, I hope you do get to visit Rhode Island one day, and if so, please let me know. Thanks for joining me on this little tour!

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  7. Oh, Lisa, I have never visited Rhode Island but you have stirred a desire to do so! And after saying "Hello" to the sweet Lisa, I think I would head right over to Benefit St! Lovely homes and a lovely blog post. Thank you for sharing. :)

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    1. Thank you, Elaine, and having you come to Rhode Island for a visit would be sweet!

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  8. Great post, Lisa, and I'd love to visit there some time with you!!! Looks so lovely!!! Blessings!

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    1. I'd love for you to visit sometime, Carrie, and so I could give you a big hug! Thanks for coming on the Benefit Street walk with me.

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