Individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 7-acre Esek Hopkins Homestead is all that remains of the original 200-acre property. The house, facing southwest onto Admiral Street, consists of three distinct sections. The main and oldest section of the residence dates from 1756 when it was built by Hopkins himself. This structure consists of a two-story, gable house of a one-room, side hall plan. An 1802 addition included a 1½-story, gambrel roof structure, three bays wide with a modified five-room plan. A second renovation added a long, one-story gable roof ell at the rear of the main house. A shingled portion of this ell contrasts with the otherwise clapboarded house.
Esek Hopkins was a key figure in American history. Among his list of accomplishments, Hopkins was the first Commander-in-Chief of the newly formed Navy during the American Revolution; he persuaded the British not to occupy Newport in 1774; and he is credited with establishing the Marine Corps. Admiral Street is in fact named for Hopkins, its most famous resident.
In 1908 the Hopkins family transferred ownership of his 1756 home and its furnishings to the City of Providence under the condition that the property would be maintained as a public park. Used for any other purpose, the property would return to the Hopkins heirs. Since that time the City’s Parks Department has struggled with limited funds to maintain this highly significant house which was used as a museum until the 1970s.
When placed on the 1995 Most Endangered Properties list, the property was under utilized and inadequately maintained. By issuing this public declaration of the building’s endangerment, PPS successfully brought attention to this very significant home and worked actively with the City to secure its future. Despite these efforts, the City planned to sell a small portion of the property’s acreage to facilitate the 35,000 square-foot addition of a local business in 1996. The sale of land was restricted, however, by a clause in the will that restricted using the property for any other purpose than as a public park. The City worked with the heirs and local preservation groups, including the Admiral Esek Hopkins Homestead Restoration Committee, to come up with a solution that would accommodate both the business and the historic property.
SAVED: The building continues to stand as one of the oldest extant residential buildings in the city. It is managed by the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation and leased to a member of the police force.
The Esek Hopkins House is currently undergoing a reimagining. Thanks to an artist-in-residency program created by the Providence Parks Department and the City’s Department of Art, Culture + Tourism, the Haus of Glitter PVD is well into the second year of their HISTORICAL INTERVENTION at this City-owned historic property.
To cap off their residency, they have created The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins, “an Activist Dance Opera about mermaids, revolution, and resilience. [They] are subverting the truth [they] inherited by imagining nameless, underrepresented & erased Queer/Femme/BIPOC lives as fully realized humans with bodies + stories + legacies.” To learn more about their HISTORICAL INTERVENTION, visit www.thehausofglitter.org!