Many houses in Providence’s Victorian (19th century) neighborhoods are well documented through National Register nominations and the PPS Historic Marker Program. That is not the case for 234 Lenox Avenue, but what fun exploration its listing has prompted. A community member nominated the house as an MEP because it is currently for sale and in poor condition. PPS shares the optimism that when this house changes hands it can receive a proper restoration and shine once again on this pleasant, tree-lined South Elmwood avenue.
Historical maps show that the south side of Lenox Avenue, previously owned by the estate of Joseph J. Cooke, was only beginning to be developed at the turn of the 20th century. This is curious because the house at 234 Lenox is in the Italianate style—popularized in America in the mid-19th century through 1880—which begs the question, was it moved to this site? More evidence is found in the City Directory of 1921-22, when the address first appears, and the house was occupied by John McGarrahan, a building mover! Unfortunately, no building permits exist that confirm this strong suspicion.
The property is not included in the Elmwood Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, a largely honorary designation, but it is in the South Elmwood local historic district. The regulation and design review provided by the Providence Historic District Commission serves to protect the historic fabric and visual identity of our city. This means that alterations to and demolition of 19th-century residences like this one—plus older and younger buildings—are considered for appropriateness within the context of the historic district. It does not mean that protected buildings are less immune to deterioration or demolition by neglect.
Our hope in listing this house is to call attention to the ongoing restoration and preservation efforts required to steward historic properties for future generations.