Mary Elizabeth Sharpe (1885-1985) was a woman of great style and taste. She had a clear vision of what her house and garden should be. Engaging the Boston architectural firm of Parker, Thomas & Rice for the house as well as landscape architect Marion Coffin (1876-1957), Mrs Sharpe oversaw the creation of an integrated built environment. The house, based loosely on 18th-century French exemplars, is carefully sited on an ordinal axis, facing directly east with the principal rooms oriented toward the gardens to the north, west, and south.
At the onset of designing the property, Mrs Sharpe made three important decisions: siting the house to allow optimal amounts of sunlight for the gardens, extending the property all the way from Prospect to Congdon Street for privacy and tranquility from the urban setting, and designing a garden that is largely green and of year-round interest.
The gardens include eight individual spaces: front court on the east, bird garden on the north, north garden and courtyard, two formal gardens that frame the east and south of the house, a transitional garden that leads to a naturalized space to the west, and the Japanese garden located west of the south garden. The layout of these eight spaces moves dynamically from one to another, and the diversity of the designed spaces is reinforced by continuity of plant material.
Mrs Sharpe’s involvement with landscape has extended far beyond this property. She was actively involved with planting on the campus of Brown University, her son, Henry’s alma mater, and at India Point Park. The Sharpe Street Tree Fund, which she established and funded, continues to provide new trees on streets around the City of Providence.
– Festival of Historic Houses Guidebook, 2013