Three iterations of the Italianate in brick and wood, all built at the crest of the highest hill of the city’s most desirable neighborhood, at a time when the unobstructed views west and east were spectacular. The flushboard-clad Almy house (75 Prospect) is the most intimate in scale, much more representative of the 1840s and the early 1850s. The masonry used by Binney (72 Prospect) and Owen Houses celebrates the larger scale coming into use for substantial houses on the eve of the Civil War, both designed by Alpheus Morse, Providence’s architecture of choice in the years immediately following the expatriation and death of Thomas Tefft. At the corner of Cushing Street, these three urban seats create a marvelous tableau of mid-nineteenth-century taste and architectural ambition.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture
Manufacturer Smith Owen (1809-1889) commissioned a number of substantial buildings across the city to house both his family and his business activities. This large Italianate palazzo is by far the most impressive of the lot.
For this architectural crescendo, Owen chose Alpheus Morse, then the city’s leading architect. Morse, who trained with Boston’s Alexander Parris, architect of Quincy Market, had traveled abroad extensively before settling here in the early 1850s. His design for Owens was grand in scale and finish. Not only did Morse design the house and oversee construction, but also designed furniture and superintended decoration. The center hall plan has been a Providence favorite since the mid-18th century, and the house retains much of its original detail.
Owen lived here until his death, three days after his wife’s. His daughter Lydia Dexter Owen Beckwith (1850-1947) remained here until her death. She probably added the Georgian Revival entrance porch; this relatively minor change to an Italianate house made it look remarkably more “colonial”—and desirably up-to-date at the turn of the 20th century. The contemporary domed-ceiling sunroom at the rear provides access to the garden and stands atop a partially submerged garage that also provides handicap accessibility to the house.
– Festival of Historic Houses Guidebook, 2013