Sunday, July 14, 2013

On Broadway, Part 1

In most active 19th century cities in the US, growth outside the inner city grew exponentially when public transportation made these areas accessible. The street of Broadway in Providence was first laid out in the 1830s. Some homes were built in the following years, and the street was widened to 80 feet in 1854, when fashionable Broadway became the broadest street in the city--truly earning its name.

But the laying of tracks for horse-drawn streetcars down Broadway in the 1860s truly spurred its growth, and between 1867 and 1891 numerous Victorian mansions were built along Broadway for merchants, manufacturers, brokers, and physicians.  The location, a mile or so from the downtown area, was convenient, and there was plenty of space to build large homes (in contrast to the congested areas closer to the center of town or on the East Side, which had been developed in the 18th century).

Thomas Pierce, Jr. House, Broadway, Providence RI
Thomas Pierce, Jr. House, 1867
This series of posts takes you on a tour of a few of these homes. Today most are condos or apartments, or have been converted to commercial use.

Here, in Part 1, we'll look at three homes built in 1867. All three of these homes are 2 1/2 stories in height with mansard roofs, though they are very different in appearance.

The Thomas Pierce House is an L-shaped house with its entrance porch set within the "L." Thomas Pierce was a partner in his family's boot-and-shoe business, Thomas F. Pierce & Co., which had been established in 1850 and was located in the Arcade in Providence.

Betsey R. Remington House, Broadway, Providence RI
Betsey R. Remington House, 1867
The Betsy R. Remington House is a symmetrical house with a center entrance and an ornate portico. Mr. Remington was a cotton broker, partner in Daniel Remington & Son on South Water Street. Betsey died five years after the house was completed, and Daniel's firm went bankrupt six years after that. But Daniel lived a long life, dying in 1895 in his 90th year.

The Colin C. Baker House is brick, in contrast to the wood houses in the first two examples. It is symmetrical, like the Remington House, and features Eastlake-inspired stone lintels. Mr. Baker was a partner in Stevens, Baker & Company, commission merchants on South Water Street.
Colin C. Baker House, Broadway, Providence RI
Colin C. Baker House, 1867

Part 2 of this post will look at a Broadway house built in the 1870s.

Illustration Credits and References

All photos by author.

Information on the individual houses appears in the work Providence, A Citywide Survey of Historic Resources, by William McKenzie Woodward and Edward F. Sanderson, published by the RI Historical Preservation Commission in 1986.

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