Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Thomas F. Hoppin House, Providence, RI

The Thomas Hoppin House, Providence, RI. 1852-5 Photo: Tom Bastin

The east facade. Photo: Wikimedia

The west facade. Photo: HABS
Just when you thought Providence would only offer another cube, here is a truly interesting composition! The Hoppin house is built across the street from the Bowen house, but couldn't be more different in design, at least from the sides. Hoppin was a dramatic artist, according to Guide to Providence Architecture, who had just returned from a European tour. He hired Alpheus Morse as an architect because of his speed of design. It is likely that Hoppin and Morse's experiences in Europe influenced the sophistication of the design. The house is currently the home of Annenberg Institute for School Reform, a rather gloomy sounding fate for an artist's house. It is an Anglo-Italianate design that is meant to be enjoyed from all of its sides, each of which differs. The front (south) facade is a normal symmetrical plan, however the sides are both examples of a very European scaled pavilion plan with extended side wings and a recessed center. On the west facade, facing Benefit Street, there is an enclosed porch between two slightly projecting pavilions. The east facade has more dramatically projecting pavilions and an open porch. This side is next to the carriage house pictured below by HABS, which served as the entrance for those arriving by horse.

The window treatments are similar on all three facades with backeted cornices on the first floor, simple cornices on the second, and eared moldings on the third. All the windows are rectangular. As in other Providence homes, like the Lippitt house, there is a belt course between first and second floors, and quoins on the first floor. The bricklaying like the Lippitt house suggests corner pilasters. The cornice is simple and expected with brackets and dentils (no large frieze of course). The central bay of the south facade above the front door has a series of triple windows, the second floor's surmounted by a round pediment that gives it a Palladian air. The front porch is very classical in design with Corinthian pilasters and a full entablature. Although it is enclosed now, it probably was open in the past, as the older HABS image shows. The porches on the side facades are simpler with a belt course and three arches with moldings. A fancy flourish occurs on the east facade. On the second floor in the recessed section there are no windows. Instead in the center is a large brownstone niche with a classical statue, no doubt a touch of grandiosity suggested by European precedents with exterior statuary. It's a piece of high style design that must have seemed impressive in sober Providence. The house is brick, but it is painted to simulate stucco in a very Downing style palette, making the house look like a stuccoed brownstone, which seems very period appropriate and accentuates the elements of the design. The surrounding balustrade survives on the property with dramatic pillars at the carriage entrance.

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