Sights ~ The Annmary Brown Memorial ~ Providence

AnnMary Brown Memorial
21 Brown St.
Providence, Rhode Island

A couple of years ago, I took the Providence Ghost Tour on the East Side. It's an interesting and engaging tour, and one of the stops was the Annmary Brown Memorial. Our guide stood on the steps and regaled us with the tale of Rush Hawkins' love for his wife, Annmary, and how the two, who are entombed inside, were particular about the placement of objects in the museum, and would move them, or scatter them, as the mood struck.

Annmary was the granddaughter of Nicholas Brown, for whom Brown University was named. She was the sister of Carrie Brown Bajnotti - she of the Carrie Tower at Brown and Bajnotti fountain in Burnside Park.

Rush was a general in the Civil War, who raised the 9th New York "Hawkins' Zouaves" regiment in 1861. He had a fairly distinguished military service, and even advised President Lincoln and General McClellan, and served for a time under General Burnside. He went on to serve in the New York General Assembly.

Rush and Annmary were avid art collectors, which inspired him to incorporate an art museum into their shared mausoleum. Rush was also a collector of rare books, and included a room for that purpose in the plans.

The building is one story tall, and has massive bronze doors. The hours are 1-5, Monday-Friday, Labor Day to Memorial Day when school is in session, which makes it tricky to get in, if you work a 9-5 job.

The architect, Norman Isham, was a Rhode Islander, who was known for his restoration work on Colonial-era homes in the state, and also consulted on the Delaware Legislative Hall and the American wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

When you enter the building, you first pass a couple of small offices. One contains a spiral staircase to the attic, and a fireplace.

After that are three rooms, each in a different color.

The yellow room contains paintings as well as a sword collection and impressive array of toy and ceramic soldiers.

Next is the red room, which houses even more paintings.

And from the red room you move into the blue room, which contains more paintings. It also has a couple of antique furniture pieces.

Finally, in the blue room, you can look into the crypt.

The flowers are put there each year on March 9, Annmary's birthday

The museum houses an impressive collection of paintings and militariana. You know what it doesn't have? Books.

From the Encyclopedia Brunonia:

General Hawkins had planned the building with its two art rooms, a personal treasure room, an office, and the rare book room, around the walls of which were originally arranged 450 incunabula, open for viewing by visitors. Hawkins pursued the goal of acquiring the first book of each of the presses which were printing by 1500, and he did realize a collection of 225 first and second books from 130 of the 238 fifteenth-century presses. 
Rush also collected manuscripts, and books by or about anyone named Hawkins. That's an impressive number of books, and I'm sure it had quite a range, as well. But the books were removed from the Memorial and moved to the John Hay library in 1990. I hope it was because of preservation issues, otherwise that's kind of an obnoxious thing to do.

Anyway, the Memorial was turned over to Brown in 1948, and the University operates it to this day. It's a nice museum, full of very good paintings and other interesting art. Definitely worth exploring further. And the founders are still there, if you want to thank them.


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