|The Henry Lippitt I House, Providence, RI. 1856|
This was the first house constructed by Henry Lippitt in 1856, and it lies directly across the street from the house he constructed in 1865. He apparently left this house after several children died here of scarlet fever. Perhaps the memories were too much to remain there (that is so Victorian!). This is a double house that simulates a single family home. The architect was the famous Russell Warren, one of Rhode Island's most famous architects of Federal and Greek Revival designs. This work, which was started when the architect was in his seventies, exemplifies his versatility. Although a double house (the second entrance is tucked around the back), it employs the irregular plan without the customary tower or tower projection, giving it a distinctly L shape. It displays a variety of similarities to other Providence mansions of the period, brick facing, brownstone trim, sobriety of design, but it does not fall into the Anglo-Italianate of the later Lippitt house.
As we might expect, the window moldings are spare and simple, although there is a variation of window shape on the second story, with a round headed window marking the spot of the expected tower and the odd placement of windows on the projecting section's side. The third story windows are segmental arched, but interestingly, they intersect the entablature (which is a simple dentil, bracket, cornice affair), a technique we saw on the Decatur Miller house in Baltimore, which is repeated on several Providence Italianates. This creates an undulating cornice effect. The porch is arched with square paneled columns and a bracketed simple cornice, a design which is repeated with a bit more elaboration on the box window. The box window is surmounted by a double window with a wooden awning, one of the fripperies allowed in Providence's sober aesthetic it seems. Although the house is simple enough, one thing caught my eye. Opposite the front door, one bay of the porch has been filled in with exceptional etched glass with panels of many colors cut to clear in floral designs. I'm not really sure about the origins of this. Cut glass panels are valuable enough that some enterprising antique hound might have collected them and created a frame for them to enclose the space at the front of the door. The frame, however, looks and feels old in its composition. It might actually be a period embellishment, and if it is, it is unprecedented. It would shower those awaiting entry with a barrage of colorful light effects, a sophisticated and beautiful concept which seems very Victorian to me. Whatever its origin, it is a truly exceptional object!