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This substantial, high-shouldered Colonial Revival house was a suitable domestic setting for the family of one of Rhode Island’s leading textile manufacturers. Webster Knight (1854-1933) was the son of Robert Knight, founder of B.B. & R. Knight, manufacturers of “Fruit of the Loom.” Knight assumed major responsibilities in the firm about the time this house was built. His choice of Angell & Swift as architects ensured the combination of bold scale and delicate curving detail that distinguish this house. Knight and other family members were benefactors of the nearby Knight Memorial Library.

— 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture

Photo by Warren Jagger

Providence’s earliest and best-executed Colonial Revival was built for the prominent Knight family in 1897-98. Webster Knight was the son of Robert Knight – partner in the B.B. & R. Knight Company, cotton manufacturers known for their brand, “Fruit of the Loom.” In fact, Robert was so inspired by a still-life painting done by the daughter of a close friend that he decided to use it as his branding concept.

Robert’s son Webster was assuming control of his father’s company at about the time he had 118 Princeton constructed. In its design, architects Angell & Swift recalled the stately mid-eighteenth century Colonials commonly seen on Providence’s East Side or in Newport’s Point District, with the main difference being the scale. Here, the rooms are large and ample, all radiating from the quintessential center-hall. The airiness of the house and its associated flow is in keeping with the late nineteenth-century ideology of rooms forming a procession. Knight’s family primarily resided in an historic country estate in Warwick – still extant on CCRI’s Knight Campus, while the Providence house was used primarily for business and entertaining needs, and was outfitted with every modern convenience at the time.

Webster Knight and his family owned 118 Princeton until 1922, when the house was sold to Walter Colwell Gordon and his wife, Lucy Marsh. The Gordons would live at 118 Princeton until Walter’s death in 1957. The house remained vacant for two years, until it sold to its next owners. In the 1960s, the house was carved into small apartments, with as many as seven different residents recorded as living in 118 Princeton during the course of a given year. In the 1980s, a new owner acquired the house and began the painstaking process of restoration. Now a two-family dwelling with a rental unit on the third floor, the house has been meticulously maintained by its present owners. 

— 2017 Festival of Historic Houses

© 2019 Guide to Providence Architecture. All rights reserved.
Design by J. Hogue at Highchair designhaus, with development & support by Kay Belardinelli.