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Several elements compel attention here: siting, changes in use, and evolution of space over the past 50 years.

The house is perched near the crest of College Hill, with dramatic views to the northeast and northwest, changing with the seasons as foliage reveals and intriguingly veils elements in both directions. Because what is now the principal floor for the occupants’ residence is at the second-story level, those views are enhanced — and calculatedly exploited through the house’s re-use.

And re-use is the key here. This building began as a single-family house, occupied for more than 30 years by Laura and William M. Cooke. William was a dealer in grain, and his wife held title to the property, a practice that many successful businessmen observed. After World War II, the house was divided into four units, the condition the current occupants, an architect and a designer, encountered upon taking possession in 1965. The location was then at the edge of the emergingly restored Benefit Street just down the hill, where the architect then worked. The family reduced the house to two units, a rental on the first floor and their own quarters in the airier upper stories.

But conversion did not stop after occupancy, as it probably never can be when design professionals occupy space. Principal rooms occupy the south side of the building, and the owners literally follow the sun from east to west. Spaces evolve: a large open space created from two rooms now has a free-standing partition that defines uses while maintaining a sense of openness.

Subtle and modest in mien, this house presents preservation at its most thoughtful and livable best. 

– Festival of Historic Houses Guidebook, 2013

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© 2023 Guide to Providence Architecture. All rights reserved. Design by J. Hogue at Highchair designhaus, with development & support by Kay Belardinelli.