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Providence Art Club (Seril Dodge Houses)

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Seril Dodge Houses
Mid-1786–1789, 1791. 1886, second house converted to Art Club (expanded through 1983–1984 to include both houses), E. J. Nickerson, architect, with Sydney Burleigh, painter and craftsman, and Isaac Bates. 1906, first house raised over early 20th-century shop front. 10 and 11 Thomas St.
  • Providence Art Club (Seril Dodge Houses)

Thomas Street (the name for this single block of what is known as Angell Street for most of its length farther up the hill, and as Steeple Street for the next block downhill), has a fine row of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century buildings. Number 7, the Fleur-de-Lys Studios, now a studio building for the Art Club, is an example of Arts and Crafts collaborative design by the colorful artist-craftsman Sydney Burleigh, who occupied its ground-floor studio, and the architect Edmund Willson. The design derived from medieval half-timbered buildings with overhang and multiple bay windows which Burleigh had seen in Chester, England. He and his art workers decorated its walls in aqueous semi–Pre-Raphaelite, semi–Art Nouveau designs of muses, flora, and fauna, slightly raised and lightly tinted. Burleigh's own studio on the first floor remains essentially as he left it, as a whimsical tribute to the Aesthetic and Arts and Crafts movements in the decades before and after 1900. Inside (not open to the public) are more medieval-inspired woodwork, plaster ornamentation, and wrought iron fixtures, all centered on a capacious inglenook fireplace. Its plaster surround is charmingly modeled in a basket weave, rent at one point with water gushing through and a little Dutch boy, his finger in the dyke. This combined living room–studio, with balcony for canvas storage, kitchen, bedroom, and bath, provided the very ideal for the artist's life of the period. The Providence Art Club, which owns the building, carefully restored the decorative stucco in 1997–2000.

Up the hill, Seril Dodge built two adjacent houses in quick succession in the late eighteenth century, the two now joined and owned by the Providence Art Club, which was founded in 1880 and moved into the second of the houses in 1886. Dodge, a clockmaker and silversmith who came to Providence in 1784 from Norwich, Connecticut, built his first two-story clapboard house a short distance uphill from his shop. Success enabled him almost immediately to supplant it with a second next door. The special interest of these houses, however, lies in adaptations made of them at the height of the Aesthetic Movement—which were particularly appropriate for the reuse of quarters built for one of the city's postrevolutionary master craftsmen. The older (clapboard) house, was raised in 1906 so that a commercial floor with a pretty Neo-Colonial storefront could go under it, its old door becoming a balconied upstairs centerpiece. It retains, nevertheless, most of its interior woodwork on the original, upper stories. The second house was completely reworked as the initial quarters for the Art Club in 1886. The building's interior (gallery only open to visitors), has been minimally altered from the decoration of its first few decades. A fine period ensemble, the entrance hall, partially paneled with recycled shutters, offers a line of caned rocking chairs along the hearth on the way to a Nickerson-designed nook-and-crannied dining room, with a stair sweeping up from just behind the entrance to a spacious upstairs gallery. Burleigh presumably contrived the friezes of silhouettes of early members who keep company with their successors.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
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Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "Providence Art Club (Seril Dodge Houses)", [Providence, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-PR59.

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 69-70.

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