The Governor Henry Lippitt House is a historic, Victorian era home in Providence, Rhode Island. It was built by Henry Lippitt in 1865 in the Renaissance Revival style. The mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Currently, it functions as a historic house museum and is operated by Preserve Rhode Island. Tours and various programs are offered at the museum, including lectures and art exhibitions.
Henry Lippitt was a successful
American businessman who also served as Governor of the State of Rhode Island
from May 1875 to May 1877. He was born
in 1818 to a large family heavily involved in the textile industry. His grandfather, Charles Lippitt, had
co-founded the Lippitt Manufacturing Company in West Warwick, Rhode Island in
1807 (also a national historic landmark). Henry’s father, Warren, eventually
inherited the company. It was passed
down through several generations of Lippitt men until it was purchased by the
founders of Fruit of the Loom, in
Lippitt had interests in several
other manufacturing and business ventures. Henry, his father, and his brother,
Robert, purchased the Tiffany Mill in Connecticut (which later became the
Quinnebaug Manufacturing Company) His later business undertakings included interests
in: the Manville Company in Lincoln, Rhode Island (part-owner); the Silver
Spring Bleaching and Dyeing Company (organizer and President); banking; and
real estate investments. In addition to
his business endeavors, Lippitt served as a member of the Providence Marine
Corps of Artillery. He attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was
responsible for a company that found against forces tried to extend the right
to vote outside of the propertied class.
During the American Civil War, Lippitt served as the Commissioner of
Providence County. In this position, he
was responsible for the drafting and enrollment of Union soldiers.
Lippitt married Mary Ann Balch in
December 1845. They had eleven children together, although only six of them
survived to adulthood. Three children
were lost in a single month to scarlet fever.
Another child survived the disease but lost her hearing
After the war, he built the house
at 199 Hope Street for his wife and six children. He designed and supervised
the construction the home primarily on his own.
He hired only one outside decorating firm to assist him - a very young partnership
from New York (Pottier and Stymus). He built an elaborate three-story,
thirty-room mansion in the Renaissance Revival style. The home features intricate finish work and vibrant
stained-glass windows. It is well-known for the stylish interior décor that
survived four generations, as well as the smartly engineered plumbing and
heating systems that were ahead of their time. The National Register of
Historic Places Nomination Form (link below) details many of the architectural
aspects of the house.
Several years after the home was
completed, Mr. Lippitt became the Governor of Rhode Island. During the elections for the seat in 1875 and
1876, there wasn’t a single candidate that earned a majority of votes.
Therefore, the legislature had to choose a winner, and they picked Lippitt as
the head of the state’s government for two years. As Governor, Lippitt worked
on constitutional amendments to repeal the registry tax and to allow
naturalized veterans to vote.
Henry Lippitt passed away in
1891. His son, Charles Warren Lippitt,
served as Governor for two years (1895-1897), exactly twenty years after his
father. His great-great grandson, Lincoln Chafee, also served as Governor from
2011 to 2015. The house remained in the
family for several generations until the family donated it to Preserve Rhode
Island in 1981. In 1993, it was opened to the public as a museum after ten
years of restoration work was completed. It is the best-preserved evidence of a
Victorian interior in Rhode Island. Today, the museum offers guided tours,
special exhibitions, lectures, art installations, concerts, and family programs