Golden Ball Inn

also known as Daggett’s Tavern, Roger Williams Hotel, Alpheus Ammadon’s Inn, Globe Tavern, Mansion House Hotel

A late 18th-century inn in the heart of Colonial Providence’s political seat

About this Property

Reason for Demolition

Built a year after the end of the American Revolution, the Golden Ball Inn was constructed in a prominent part of Benefit Street. Across the street was a horse stable called “Copeland’s Livery Stable” and the Old Colony House (also known as the Old State House, 1760). This building replaced the 1732 Colony House that burned in 1758 and was the seat of government in Providence, comprising offices for officials and a court house and meeting room. Not far away was also the Benefit Street Armory, though it was moved closer in the early 20th-century.

It was in the Providence Colony House (Old State House) that Rhode Island declared its independence from England, two months before the Declaration of Independence.1 The proximity to one of the functioning State Houses made the Golden Ball Inn an attractive place to spend a night, have a drink at the bar, or dine in the restaurant. In one of the photos, a plaque above the entrance reads “The Golden Ball Inn, Built 1783. Here were lodged George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson.”2 The Marquis de Lafayette helped launch the French Revolution in 1789 and was likely in Providence for the Declaration of Independence’s fiftieth anniversary in 1826.3

Why was such a historic building eventually razed? If were were to guess, older buildings were much less fashionable before 1950. The building was likely in a state of disrepair, having been converted from an historic inn to a grand hotel and then into a boarding house. Owners did not see the need to maintain a hotel across the street from another building that stood as a historic artifact, one that once held political importance but then was important only as a memory. The urban renewal of Benefit Street was decades away and the larger appreciation of Benefit Street’s “Mile of History” was even further into the future.

Current Events

The area where the main buildings once stood have been an undeveloped parking lot since the 1940s. The Ell building is extant on South Court Street, and the 1876 George Earle Building on the corner of Meeting Street, once considered part of the hotel, is also extant.


Photo of the parking lot from 1990 shows a lack of retaining wall at the rear. Photographer Will Hart also documents this locations place in the history of Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.

Context from “Downtown Providence: Statewide Historical Preservation Report P-P-5,” prepared by the RIHPHC, May 1981

The hotel, here as in Europe, evolved from the inn. By the early eighteenth century, Providence and Rhode Island had several taverns and inns, located both on major overland transportation routes and in population centers. The best known and most important of these was the Golden Ball Inn, later the Mansion House Hotel, which stood at the southeast corner of Benefit and South Court Streets in close proximity to the State House and a livery stable. Only a small fragment of the building survives, a rear wing along South Court Street, for the main block was demolished in the twentieth century.

The chief distinction between inn and hotel is the greater size of the building and the greater number of public rooms. Several buildings in Providence were transitional hostelries, between the inn and the hotel. Franklin House 1823-24; John Holden Greene, architect on Market Square was a five-story brick building. It was markedly larger than the Golden Ball Inn and a presence on Market Square. (Page 113)

From the description of What Cheer Garage, 160 Benefit Street: The historic use of this piece of property further gives a picture of life in the 19th century, for the stable with the Golden Ball Inn across the street and the Old State House formed a complex of sorts. The State House was also a courthouse and, by the middle of the 19th-century the state office building. This government center required ancillary facilities: transportation (the stable) and lodging (the inn). And what state government center could get along without a convenient barroom and restaurant? These three properties, so close together but now functionally disengaged, were for a time closely related. (page 142)

The description of 17–23 South Court Street: Golden Ball Inn Ell 1784 et seq. A staggered, 2-story frame building ascending the hill on the south side of the street, this is the rear ell to the Golden Ball Inn, a large 4-story frame building with a double balcony along the front. The inn was originally operated by Henry Rice and often provided lodging for visitors to Providence who had business at the State House at 150 Benefit Street q.v.; with the State House and the stable across the street, it formed an important civic node in 19th-century Providence. Early distinguished guests included the Marquis de Lafayette, Mrs. John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. The building was extensively altered throughout its life, and the main portion was demolished in 1941.

From the College Hill Historic District nomination form, Edward F. Sanderson & Keith N. Morgan, January 1976 17-23 South Court Street — Golden Ball Inn (rear), 1785. Federal; 2-1/2 stories; flank gable; clapboard; rear L of Inn set on sloping site with entrances in basement; bay window above door to #17; fine Queen Anne porches across rear.

From the supplemental info of the three photo collection, Library of Congress, 1975

Frame with clapboards, three stories plus exposed basement at the front, hipped roofs, double balconies across the front. Built 1784; brick addition 1820; original portion demolished 1941. The social center of Providence for many years. 3 exterior photos (1941); photocopy of exterior drawing (c.1800). Card prepared June 1975.

Library of Congress Reference number HABS RI-73

Historic Deed investigation of 167 Benefit Street, Mary A. Gowdey Library, Providence Preservation Society

Benjamin Taylor, saddler, sells for $3333.33 to Alpheus Ammidon, innkeeper, a certain lot of land with a Dwelling House and other buildings thereon standing bounded: W on Benefit Street 54’; N by grantee and J. Needham 132’; E by grantee 54’; S by Jail Lane 132’ […]
Alpheus Ammidon and Sarah Ammidon, single woman, sell for $6300.00 to George P. Parker, gentleman, the above property […]
NOTE: Alpheus Ammidon was the owner and keeper of the Mansion House […] with the above sale, George P. Parker now owns on benefit Street the buildings from Meeting Street to South Court Street known as the Mansion Estate […]

Source PDF

From College Hill: A Demonstration Study of Historic Area Renewal, 1959

4: Golden Ball Inn II

In 1784 Henry Rice opened the Golden Ball Inn on the corner of Benefit and South Court Streets, just opposite the old Colony House. For many years, its location was central to much of the city’s activity, and it served such distinguished guests as Lafayette, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In time, however, the focus of the city moved to the west, and the hotel’s importance diminished. It changed hands as well as names several times and its long varied career came to a close with its demolition in the 1940’s.[…]


  • 1875 Volume 1, Ward 2, Plate M — Labeled as belonging to ”G. R. Earle.“ The entire Mansion House property is present, but the George R. Earle Building has not yet been built on the corner of Meeting Street at 167 Benefit — it would be built the following year.
  • 1882 Volume 1, Ward 2, Plate 2 — Mansion House is labelled along with the now extant George R. Earle building on the corner of Meeting Street.
  • 1920 Sanborn Insurance Map, Volume 2, Plate 11 (page 18) — Labeled as “Mansion House” and seems to encompass the entire western side of the block, including the now extant four-story building at 167 Benefit

In the News

My wife, my dog, and I retraced George Washington’s route through New England

by Nathaniel Philbrick
Boston Globe | September 10, 2021 (abridged)

[…] By retracing his journey across the country as he attempted to bring the American people together, I hoped to gain some historical perspective on our own politically divided times.

I’d gotten the idea for this quest the year before during a trip to Providence, when I first saw John Brown’s horse-drawn chariot. I couldn’t believe how tiny it was: think the back seat of a VW Bug mounted on four skinny wheels. With a carriage like this, the 57-year-old Washington, whose health had begun to suffer almost as soon as he was sworn in, had saved both his country and himself by exchanging the confines of his presidential office for the boundless promise of the open road.

When he became president, Washington was still wrestling with the meaning of the American Revolution. He’d entered the conflict an unrepentant Virginia slaveholder. By the end of the war, a new Washington was gradually emerging, one who realized that “nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union, by consolidating it in a common bond of principle.”

Love him or hate him, to ignore Washington is to ignore the complicated beginnings of the United States. We cannot remake our country’s past, but we can learn from it, and all of us still have a lot to learn from George Washington. Yes, I would follow him across 13 states and see what I discovered along the way. […]

There was one state Washington refused to visit during his New England tour: Rhode Island, which had so far refused to ratify the Constitution. When his presidential entourage rode into Worcester, the local artillery company fired five times for the states of New England: “three for the three in the union — one for Vermont, which will speedily be admitted — and one as a call for Rhode Island to be ready before it be too late.” This was exactly the message Washington hoped to deliver. […]

In May 1790, more than a year after Washington’s inauguration, Rhode Island finally ratified the Constitution — the last of the 13 states to do so. On what seems to have been the spur of the moment, Washington decided to hop on a schooner and sail from New York to Newport and Providence. It would prove to be an inspired move, turning some of the harshest critics of the new government into some of its biggest fans. […]

Washington was preparing for bed at the Golden Ball Inn on Benefit Street when there was a knock on the door. The students at Rhode Island College had a request. They had illuminated all 146 windows of the college’s single building, known as the Edifice, with candles in the president’s honor and wondered whether he might come take a look. On that wet, dark night in August 1790, when Washington crested the hill and saw the college ablaze with light, he witnessed a spectacle that has been repeated many times since. Every commencement week, the lights go on in the windows of what is now called University Hall, just as they did in Washington’s honor. […]

Captured 12 May 2024 from

  1. “Downtown Providence: Statewide Historical Preservation Report P-P-5.” Rhode Island Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission, May 1981. Description of the Old State House, page 142 

  2. “Mansion House.” Providence Public Library Digital Collections, description field. Captured 12 May 2024 from 

  3. “Downtown Providence: Statewide Historical Preservation Report P-P-5.” Description of the Old State House, page 142