Philip Walker House, c.1724
Sitting prominently on a large lot of almost 2 acres at the intersection of North Broadway and Massasoit Avenue in the Rumford section of East Providence, the current Philip Walker House was constructed in several stages, the first being about 1724. It contains remnants of an earlier house on the site that was built and left unfinished around 1679, at the time of Deacon Philip Walker's death. While it appears that the Deacon may never have lived in the present house, the name continues to be attributed to it until more conclusive research is uncovered.
The Walker House holds great historical significance to the City of East Providence and to the State, noted as the earliest house in Rhode Island built completely of mill sawn timbers. It was once thought to be the second oldest house in Rhode Island, but continuing investigation, including a dendrochronology study to date the year the trees used to build the house were felled, leads to the 1724 date of construction now assigned to it.
The house retains much of its historic detail, but has been modified over the years with additions and alterations in the late 18th century, late 19th century and mid 20th century. It remains an intact example of how a house was used, cared for, adapted and repaired over its 284 year lifespan. Preserve Rhode Island has been steward of the house and property since 1982, undertaking occasional minor repairs while maintaining the utilities and systems, including heating the house each winter, in order to allow access for students and professionals to study it and use it for learning experiences.
Currently, Preserve Rhode Island has embarked on a 5-year project to return the house to a use that is more self-sustaining by replacing the kitchen and bathrooms in order to allow full-time residential use by PRI's Property Manager, primarily on the 2nd floor. As part of the project, severe structural deficiencies are being repaired, but the scope of the project is limited to allow for programming opportunities that will provide owners of historic homes the opportunity to learn some minor repair and finishing work, such as horsehair plastering. PRI's property manager now has an office onsite. Visitors are encouraged to stop by to enjoy the grounds and may be treated to an informal look inside the house!