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This stunning row of houses (43, 49, 63, 67, & 75 Orchard Avenue)
shows the vigor of the transition between Queen Anne and Colonial Revival that so heavily dominated Providence’s upper-income residential architecture at the turn of the twentieth century. To mention them in the order they appear on the street (and are listed here), the first three were designed by Martin & Hall; the first two were owned and occupied by the architects themselves. Martin’s house, number 43, is a frenetic composition, a delightful grab-bag of forms and details piled together with assured exuberance into a large, lot-filling mass; he sold it soon after completion to Harold J. Gross, partner in G.L. & H.J. Gross, one of the city’s leading real-estate brokerage firms. This transaction suggests an early connection between the design and marketing of real estate, a concept common in the twenty-first century but little explored historically. Next, at number 49, Martin’s partner, Hall, took two lots and built, in an ample garden setting, a much more reserved brick-end house with a nice balance between smooth, unarticulated surfaces and strategically placed delicate detail; its conspicuous paired-chimney street elevation shows an early influence of mid-Atlantic Georgian sources. The Barton House, number 63, reinterprets mid-eighteenth-century Georgian icons, like the John Vassall House (1759) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As a conscious citation of an earlier form, it is an obvious successor if less locally specific follower to the Robert Taft House (154 Hope Street), built two years earlier by Stone, Carpenter & Willson (for whom both Martin & Hall worked before setting up their own shop in 1893). Hoppin & Ely’s design for the Nugents, at number 67, has a little bit of everything – including French chateau, English Gothic, and Chinese Chippendale – pasted onto a Queen Anne body. At the end of the block, number 75, Angell & Swift’s large house for the Harveys has all the busyness of both massing and detail usually found in the firm’s designs; even the imposition of general symmetry in both overall form and plan offered no suggestion of restraint to these seemingly always ebullient architects.

– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture

Note: The photograph shows the Hall house on the right.

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© 2024 Guide to Providence Architecture. All rights reserved. Design by J. Hogue at Highchair designhaus, with development & support by Kay Belardinelli.