Designed by lauded architect Richard Upjohn, and built during the first few years of the U.S. Civil War for Dr. and Mrs. Marshall Woods, the Woods–Gerry House is the largest surviving 19th-century house in Providence. At its base, the house measures 55 feet by 75 feet and stands three stories high. Typical of many of Upjohn's designs, the home features restrained Italianate styling. The building currently houses the Admissions office for the Rhode Island School of Design on its upper levels and serves as an art gallery for undergraduates on the first floor.
Backstory and Context
Richard Upjohn (1802 - 1878), born in Shaftesbury, Dorset, England, moved to the United States at the age of 27 with his wife and son. He began his career as a skilled cabinetmaker and carpenter in New Bedford, Massachusetts before transitioning three years later to architecture. Upjohn moved to New York in 1839 where he was asked to design a new Trinity Church (1839 -1846). His success in that endeavor afforded him the opportunity to work on several other grand churches, as well as a multitude of other public, private and commercial buildings. As a result of his success, he and a dozen of his peers successfully organized the American Institute of Architects in 1857, with Upjohn as its first president.
The Wood family lived in the house until 1931 when Mr. and Mrs. Peter Goelet Gerry purchased the residence. In 1959, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) bought the house with the intention of demolishing it -- though that plan obviously never came to fruition. Indeed, by 1970 the RISD headed a plan to renovate (and rehabilitate) the house. Today, the first floor of the Woods-Gerry house serves as RISD’s primary gallery for displaying work performed by its undergraduate students, while the upper levels function as the university's admissions office.
Harrington, Richard B. "Nomination Form: Woods-Gerry House." National Register of Historic Places. July 27, 1970. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/e600a96e-ef8a-4b0d-aa80-70171ecce18e/
Stanton, Phoebe B. "Richard Upjohn," in Adolph K. Placzek, ed., Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects. New York: Free Press, 1982.
Upjohn, Everard M. Richard Upjohn Architect And Churchman. New York: Columbia University Press, 1939.
Side View of Woods-Gerry House in Providence, Rhode Island by Kenneth C. Zirkel - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21474582
Front View of Woods-Gerry House in Providence, Rhode Island: Waymarking.com - http://www.waymarking.com/gallery/image.aspx?f=1&guid=1a75a90f-36de-4205-915c-950411035573