VALENTINE WHITMAN HOUSE REVOLVING FUND PROJECT
Property: Valentine Whitman House, ca. 1696
Location: 1147 Great Road, Lincoln
Owner: Town of Lincoln
Current Status: Proposal and Negotiation
In the late 1690s, Valentine Whitman Jr. built a house along the Great Road, in what was then Providence but is now the Town of Lincoln. Whitman’s house was large and elaborate for its time, with tall timbers, elegantly decorated with chamfers. One end of the two-story house was constructed entirely of granite stone, similar to other nearby buildings: the Clemence-Irons House (ca.1691) in Johnston and the Arnold House (ca.1693) in Lincoln. Eventually, this type of construction, unique to Rhode Island, became known as the “stone-ender.” Whitman’s house stands today as an exceptional example of this rare type, with fewer than ten stone-enders surviving today.
Whitman’s house survived an early 19th century conversion into three separate apartments and a mid-20th century subdivision and sale of surrounding farmland into a residential development, leaving the historic house on a parcel of less than two acres by the late 20th century. In 1991, the Town of Lincoln rescued the building from all but certain demolition. For the ensuring thirty years a fiercely loyal and hard-working band of volunteers operated a house museum.
Proposal for a New Future
The harsh economic realities of museum use prompted a preservation wake-up call. Whitman House is faced with an all too common dilemma posed at house museums: inadequate funding, declining attendance, aging boards and mounting maintenance costs. PRI, town officials, and friends began to explore a more economically sustainable future for the building. On June 18, Lincoln’s Town Council approved moving forward to negotiate terms and conditions for a new chapter for the house. The Town would turn over control to PRI. PRI would use its Revolving Fund to conduct desperately need repairs, ensuring that Whitman House is ready to embark on its next century. PRI is exploring new uses to repay its Revolving Fund investment, including as a single-family residence and a vacation stay rental in partnership with another New England non-profit preservation organization. All parties share the goal to develop a sustainable preservation pathway for Whitman’s House future.
In the News
New chapter for Valentine Whitman House - June 19, 2019
Time running out on Lincoln’s oldest home - June 12, 2019
View looking southeast (left) and southwest towards Great Road (right). Photographs by Preservation Strategies