The Lippitt House Museum is open to the public. Visit the website at Preserve RI for hours, directions, and events.
A National Historic Landmark, the Lippitt House is extraordinary for at least three reasons. It has an exterior that links it both to much earlier and much later high-style houses in Providence. Its interior boasts one of the most elaborate decorative schemes in the country. And finally, it has survived for almost 150 years with only minimal alterations, and those in out-of-the-way places.
The Italianate house is essentially a brick cube, a form that became equated with houses of the very rich in Providence in the third quarter of the 18th century. Its classicizing detail is also very much mainstream here: porches, window frames, and cornices like these may be found on local large-scale houses spanning almost two centuries. Its siting and landscaping are also noteworthy: sited on a small hillock above the street, the grounds feature an impressive fountain, created for the house, on the south lawn and a sweeping drive through a porte-cochère on the north elevation.
The Renaissance Revival interior features original wallpaper in the library, at the center of the south side, a wide variety of woods, and, its most impressive feature, a wealth of painted finishes imitating an array of both woods and stones.
Lippitt (1816-1881) was a textile manufacturer who served as Governor of Rhode Island (1875-77), as did his son Charles W. Lippitt and great-grandson John H. Chafee. Mary Ann Balch Lippitt (1823-1889) was an ardent advocate for the deaf. Their descendants lived here until 1981.
– 2009 Festival of Historic Houses Guidebook
A monumental Italianate palazzo built for one of the state’s preeminent couples and their family. Henry Lippitt (1816-1881) was a textile manufacturer who also served as Governor of Rhode Island (1875-77); Mary Ann Balch Lippitt (1823-1889) was an advocate for the deaf. They may well have built this house to remove themselves from their still-new house across the street (198-200 Hope Street). Soon after they moved in, scarlet fever struck their children. Three sons died, and daughter Jeanie was left without hearing. They may have wanted to leave sooner, but the Panic of 1857 and its ensuing recession no doubt would have given them second thoughts. In addition, planning for this house was certainly time consuming, as a visit to the interior reveals. The overall form is an elaboration of the symmetrical-brick cube found next door at brother Robert’s house (193 Hope Street), but here it features a projecting pedimented pavilion on the front, a curving bay on the south side, and a porte-cochère on the north. The magnificent interior is well planned and sumptuously decorated. A center hall divides the space into the often-used family rooms on the south side and less-used formal rooms and circulation space on the north. The elaborate mantels and moldings are predictable in a house of this scale, but the lavishly painted walls are a stunning ensemble no longer found any other place in this country: imitation stone, imitation wood, and extensive stenciling. That such an elaborate, high-style decorative treatment from the 1860s survives almost completely intact is astounding, especially since the house remained in the family until the 1980s. The house is now a museum open to the public.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture