Miss Baker is one of Providence’s great mystery figures. She moved to Providence in her mid-40s and built this large single-family house, lived here for 40 years with several servants and her “dear and life-long friend Elizabeth Dorrance Bugbee,” and left an estate in 1923 of almost $700,000, the equivalent of almost $9 million today. But what she did during her life remains unknown: unlike other wealthy spinsters of her era, she is not counted among the usual church, charitable, and social activities.
What she left, however, is one of the city’s most magnificent Queen Anne houses. Superbly sited to exploit the corner of Manning and Hope Streets, the house presents a dramatic pavilion that projects diagonally from the main block of the house and offers two principal entrances, one for pedestrians on Hope Street and one for vehicles on Manning Street. Exterior articulation is carefully juxtaposed, with a pink-mortar-dressed Seekonk-stone first story, grey-green slate-hung second story, red-slate roof, spindle-work porches, elaborately detailed gable ends, and pilaster-and-corbel chimneys.
Complex and compelling spaces and finely coordinated detail characterize the interior. The principal entrances lead to hallways that intersect at the heart of the house, adjacent to the magnificently-detailed three-story principal stair hall, the seasonal site for many years of a multi-story Christmas tree, decorated from the stairs themselves. Decorative elements in the first-floor public rooms include a fine shell-motif two story mantel in the music room, music-themed tiles surrounding the fireplace in the parlor, and basket-weave-carved newel posts at the foot of the stairs. Stained glass appears in the parlor’s transom lights, on the stair landings, and in the second-story sitting room.
– 2009 Festival of Historic Houses Guidebook
Stone & Carpenter’s textbook example of the Queen Anne style, developed in England in the late 1860s and introduced into this country by Henry Hobson Richardson’s William Watts Sherman House (1874-75), owes a great debt in its design to the new architect in the firm, Edmund R. Willson. Surviving drawings clearly show Willson was the genius behind the design of the diagonal section that directly addresses the corner and effectively links the two principal street-front elevations, one from Hope and one on Manning Streets. Not surprisingly, Willson, a mere twenty-seven at the time, made partner in the firm the same year.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture