357 Benefit Street, Providence, Rhode Island
This house is best associated with...
Col. Joseph Nightingale, Shipping & Slave Merchant, of Providence, R.I,
The house came to Nicholas' younger son, John Carter Brown (1797-1874), who worked for the family business (Brown & Ives) but is best known as a book collector, and after his father's death in 1841 he devoted himself entirely to this passion. He added the carriage house in 1853 and a two-story addition to the south of the house in 1858. However, he made the most iconic addition to the house between 1862 and 1864, hiring Richard Upjohn to build the library wing to house his vast collection of books.
From 1874, the house passed to Brown's eldest son, John Nicholas Brown I (1861-1900), who had also inherited his father's passion for books. He is most famous for donating his father's library to Brown University, known today as the John Carter Brown Library. In 1890, as a gift for his wife, John hired America's best-known landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, to redesign the acre of gardens.
John died in the same year that his only son was born. His son, John Nicholas Brown II (1900-1979), was immediately heir to a fortune of certainly more than $10 million (the figure is often exaggerated, in one case reaching $100 million!). On coming of age in 1921, he carried out an extensive renovation project on the house, redecorating it in the Colonial-Revival style with the use of traditional American motifs. He and his wife, Anne, lived here during the winters while summering at Harbour Court in nearby Newport.
After Mrs Brown in 1985, her three children donated the property to Brown University. They carried out an 8-year renovation project on the house and in 1989 it was declared a National Historic Landmark. Today, it serves as the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage.
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