Mowry-Nicholson House

This ornate former single-family home was built in stages and owned by two prominent business people that almost succumbed to the wrecking ball

About this Property

#Redevelopment

This ornate home had a long history of being prominently owned by one of the more successful Providence businessmen, William T. Nicholson of the Nicholson File Company. He and his wife lived here for about 30 years before dying in October of 1893, after which his widow Elizabeth continued until 1897. Following her death, the estate sold to Jane V. Bailey, widow of Richard A. Bailey, a foreman at A. T. Cross. She owned the property up until the 1918 Atlas of the City of Providence by G.M. Hopkins and perhaps for a few more years beyond that. 1

It was a single-family home until the 1920s when it was sold and converted to a boarding house owned by J. T. McCabe. It remained a boarding house until 1997. A fire at the time put the future of the house in danger as the owner wanted to demolish it for a parking lot. Pressure from neighborhood groups and the Providence Preservation Society ultimately saved the building which led to a sale in 2002 for $175,000. An extensive renovation took place and the house was a bed and breakfast run by the same folks as the Christopher Dodge House until 2010.

The renovation won an award from the Providence Preservation Society for “Commercial Rehab/Restoration” in 2003 in conjunction with a renovation of the Christopher Dodge House at 11 West Park Street (one block away). The collaboration of building owners and developers Kenneth Parker, Frank Hopton, and Michael Integlia, Jr. with architect Joseph Cornwall spearheaded the project.

#Current Events

The Mowry-Nicholson House is no longer a bed and breakfast but was purchased by the Amos House in 2010. It is one of their “sober houses” used for a 90-day addition recovery program.

#History

From the Smith Hill Historic District National Register nomination form, 1993

57 Brownell, Mowry-Nicholson House (1856, 1864, 1877): Originally an Italianate villa with cruciform plan built for G.R. Mowry by the contracting firm Mowry & Steere. Remodeled in 1867 after the house was purchased by William T. Nicholson, owner of the nearby Nicholson File Company. Nicholson enlarged the house in 1877, adding the three-and-one-half story tower with quoins, oculi, and steep pitched roof. The house is now two-and-one-half stories withItalianate and Queen Anne detailing. Its gabled front is dominated by wide panelled corner pilasters and has a Palladian window over a bracketed window hood at the façade. In the mid-1920s the building was divided into apartments; at that time the shed dormers were added along the sides of the roof.

From the Providence Preservation Society online architecture guide

In 1997, a fire caused extensive damage to the Mowry-Nicholson House. The owner of the building, which then served as a boarding house, planned to raze the site and replace the striking home with […] a parking lot. […] PPS immediately began an advocacy campaign [… as] the house contributes to the Smith Hill National Register Historic District. PPS feared that the conversion of the property would deprive the small historic district of one of its most prominent landmarks, and that necessary variance changes would promote further encroachments by adjacent commercial zones into the residential neighborhood. Neighbors of the Mowry-Nicholson House had long felt that the boarding house was incompatible with the neighborhood and thus supported the planned demolition. Persuaded by PPS’s arguments, however, Smith Hill neighbors agreed to support the preservation of the house. The owner, nevertheless, remained unconvinced. That is, until PPS threatened to challenge the needed parking lot variance, at which time the owner finally conceded. PPS, in appreciation, agreed to advertise the property and launched a mailing campaign offering information about both the home and available low-interest loans and tax credits.

It would be several years until the house was sold. The owner set the asking price far above market value, and though several offers were made through 1999, none were accepted. In that time, nonetheless, the owner completed several repairs to the building, restoring its structural integrity. By 2000, rising real estate valued justified the high asking price. That year, furthermore, PPS called greater attention to the home by including it on the Most Endangered Properties list. PPS received the commitment of a number of individuals and organizations, including architect Joseph Cornwall, Peter Scotti of Peter M. Scotti & Associates, Josh Driver, co-owner of KLM Drive Plumbing & Heating, and the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission to contribute to the house’s restoration.

In 2001, the house was finally sold. Following an additional change in ownership, the property was acquired by Frank Hopton and Ken Parker who converted the home into a bed and breakfast. Builder Scott Weremay and associates Dave Brown and Jose Tirado […] rehabilitated the interior into guest rooms and suites while carefully preserving original details and crafting new elements appropriate to the Italianate style. The restoration of the Mowry-Nicholson Home has greatly contributed to the ongoing improvement of Smith Hill. As of February, 2019, the house appears to be in good repair.

  1. Report written by Judith Barlow for the Gowdey Research Database at the Providence Preservation Society. Captured May 29 from https://gowdey.ppsri.org/gowdey/Brownell%20Street/57%20Brownell%20Street%20-%20MOWRY-NICHOLSON%20HOUSE.pdf