Museums ~ Gov. Henry Lippit House, Providence

Governor Henry Lippitt House
199 Hope St.
Providence, Rhode Island

I've been curious about this house since Bear and I first saw it, there on the corner of Hope and Angell Streets. It's a big brick Victorian (Renaissance Revival with Italian Palazzo elements, according to the site) built in 1865 for Henry Lippitt (then a textile merchant), his wife Mary Ann and their six children. Lippitt served as Governor from 1875-1877. In time, one of his sons would serve as Governor, and another son as a Senator. His great-grandson, John Chafee, was Governor, Senator and Secretary of the Navy, and this year his great-great grandson, Lincoln Chafee was elected Governor. A true Rhode Island political dynasty.

The house was designated an historical landmark in 1976 and donated by the Lippitt family to Preserve Rhode Island in 1981.

At some point, the back part of the house was converted to condos that are still used as private homes.

Gov. Henry Lippitt Mansion entrance
front entrance

We toured the house on December 19 for their Holiday Open House. Bear literally gasped when we walked inside.

The doors, which look like steel, but are in fact painted wood (one of many tromp l'oeil effects in the house) open into a main hall with beautiful parquet floors, a huge mirror and a marble statue of an ancient Greek goddess.

Picture 159
entry hall mirror detail
To your right as you enter is the reception room, where guests would wait until the family came to greet them. It's got a door out to the side garden and fountain, a fireplace that's been converted to forced-air, and the original furniture, as the docent told us. In fact, most of the furniture in the house is original, based on photographs from when the house was inventoried. The docent also pointed out that the beautiful inlaid woodwork on the ceiling was, in fact, hand-painted, and not wood at all.

For the holidays, the room boasts an adorable child's tree, with toys and gumdrop garland. I kept coming back to that tree... I really must figure out where to get fake gumdrop garland.
Receiving room tree
Receiving room tree
Receiving room tree detail
Receiving room tree detail
The mantel was likewise decorated with nutcrackers.
Receiving room mantel detail
Receiving room mantel
Like most large homes of the time, the rooms were able to be closed off to keep the heat contained in winter, and opened up to let the breezes through in summer. The next room was the library.

Bear and I were both goggle-eyed at the blue and gold wallpaper, but we loved the pair of cobalt glass mirrors.
Library wall
The ceiling painting was beautiful, although we were surprised at the small amount of books for a library room.
Library ceiling detail
Library ceiling detail
Library shelves
library shelves
From there, the sliding doors (with frosted glass woodland scenes, naturally) led into the dining room.
Door between library and dining room
sliding doors between library and dining room
As with the mansions in Newport, the dining room was filled with depictions of hunting and food preparation. There was a painting of a slaughtered rabbit over the china cabinet, and carved heads of hunting dogs on the china cabinet.

China cabinet
China cabinet
China cabinet figurine
Figurine in front of hunting dog detail on china cabinet
This was the height of Victorian fashion, and the Lippitts entirely fashionable. I was very charmed and intrigued by a couple of pieces I found in this room.

I loved the mantel decor. The shiny apples, evergreens and lights were old-fashioned and beautifully arranged
Dining room mantel

and the painting of a serving woman (Dutch, perhaps?) above the buffet really grabbed my attention. Note also another hunting dog.
Painting above buffet
Of course the dining room had another spectactularly painted ceiling.
Dining room ceiling detail

In back of the dining room was the butler's pantry. It was roped off, but we got to see a portion of it from the doorway.
Butler's pantry
butler's pantry
Leaving the dining room back into the hall, you face a staircase to the second and third floors (closed for the event). At the first floor landing, there is a beautiful stained glass window.
Stairs with stained glass window
stairs with stained glass window
To the right of the stairs was a room that I think may have been a study, but was pressed into service as a coatroom for the event. There was a piano, some artwork and, just beyond the red fringe lamp, a built-in roll top desk.
Study fireplace

Now the other side of the grand hallway was mostly taken up with the living room .It's a bit bigger than the other rooms, and - if possible - more formal. There's gold-flocked wallpaper and white paint.
Mantel detail

And there beside the big, formal tree sat Tiny the Elf, who read The Elf on the Shelf for the guests.
Tiny the Elf, ready to read "The Elf on the Shelf"
Tiny and tree
Tiny held the guests spellbound through the story. And afterward many of them were interested in the doll house that stood in the corner. Handmade for the Lippitt children, it came into the house the year it was built and has been the family doll house since. Bear was both impressed and envious.

Dolls house
doll house

We really liked seeing the Lippitt House and would certainly go back. In fact, while they have very limited touring schedules, they do host events.

The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition (With Blue-eyed Girl Elf Wearing Skirt)
The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition


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