The Governor Stephen Hopkins House is a museum and National Historic Landmark in Providence, Rhode Island. The house was the home of Stephen Hopkins, a local businessman, politician, governor of Rhode Island and signatory of the Declaration of Independence. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1978.
The home of Stephen Hopkins is
one of the oldest buildings in Providence, and can still be seen at the corner
of Hopkins and Benefit Streets. It was first built in 1707, the same year that
Hopkins was born. Prior to Hopkins’ purchase
of the land, the house was very small. It was a plain structure with one room on the
first floor, a small sleeping space above it, and an end chimney. Hopkins
bought the home in 1743 and significantly expanded it. He also added his own
warehouses and wharves nearby, where his ships docked. He lived in the home for
nearly forty years until his death in 1785.
Hopkins enlarged the one room
home into an L-shaped, 2 ½ story wood-frame structure. Inside, there is a main
parlor room on the right, a study room on the left, and a central hallway with a
staircase leading to the five sleeping rooms on the second floor. There is also
a small keeping room behind the parlor and another small bedroom located behind
Hopkin’s study on the first floor. By
1774 the view from his home at its original located (South Main Street) included
the new customhouse and his own warehouses and wharves, where his ships docked.
Stephen Hopkins led a successful
career as both a businessman and a politician. When he was just twenty-four
years old, he became the Town Clerk in Scituate, Rhode Island and was made
President of the Town Council three years later. Eventually, Hopkins moved to Providence with
his wife, Sarah. He and his brother, Esek, started their own
mercantile-shipping firm in the early 1740s. Their business built and fitted
vessels used for commercial shipping. During these years he served in the
colonial assembly and as a justice of the colonial high court. Hopkins served
as governor of Rhode Island for several terms during 1755 to 1768 (1755-1757,
1758-1762, 1762-1765, and 1767-1768), alternating with Samuel Ward of Newport. In
1776, Hopkins signed the Declaration of Independence and was a member of the
First Continental Congress. The house is the only significant structure
associated with Hopkins' life.
Alden Hopkins, a descendant of
the former governor, designed a small pocket-park around the home in the years
after Stephen’s death. The local chapter of the DAR saved the home from
destruction in 1927 and moved it to its present location. In the late 1920s the
house was carefully restored by Norman Isham. The house is now managed by the
National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, and is a museum open to the
public. A copy of the Declaration of Independence and a quill pen lie on the desk
in the study as a memorial to the homes most famous resident.