Greater City Providence

Captain Joseph Tillinghast House

Captain Joseph Tillinghast House

The Captain Joseph Tillinghast House, which has been on the Providence Preservation Society’s list of 10 Most Endangered Properties for the last two years is currently undergoing historic renovation.

Captain Joseph Tillinghast House

PPS says of the house:

Capt. Joseph Tillinghast, who commanded one of the boats involved in the burning of the Gaspee in 1772, built the ca. 1770 house on a site claimed by his great-grandfather Pardon Tillinghast in 1645. The site was also the location of the first wharf and warehouse in Providence. The 2½-story, 5-bay-facade Tillinghast House has a center-hall-plan with two interior brick chimneys and a central, pedimented entrance with paneled pilasters. The house survived the 1801 South Main Street fire and is the one of the only remaining buildings of Providence’s colonial waterfront. It is unclear why the sign in front of the building calls it “Dolphin House.”

The highly visible house is suffering from severe neglect; the buckling façade indicates problems with the building’s frame. Additionally, the building’s position adjacent to the original I-195 and the riverfront puts it at risk. Once I-195 is moved from its original location, the house will be bordering highly desirable, developable land, placing the deteriorating colonial-era structure at even greater risk.

Captain Joseph Tillinghast House

It is of course wonderful to see this historic struture getting the attention it needs. I wonder what will be built on the parcels around it once the highway comes down. It’ll be interesting to see how the house is incorporated into the urban fabric created by new structures.

Captain Joseph Tillinghast House

Photos by Jef Nickerson

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • HABS/HAER has some cool interior shots of this house from when the architectural survey of college hill was done in the 1950s. I don’t know how to embed a link with HTML, so I’ll just have to paste the whole thing in:


    It really is a classic 18th century house inside and out.

  • Who is the owner? They could very well be speculating on the site location or might not have the cash to renovate at this time. Lose of the historic tax credit doesn’t help. How large is the lot the house sits on? Are there any vacant lots nearby that are outside this commercial corridor and the 195 land where the building could be moved to? Given the current economic environment even as the 195 land is exposed and brought to market until the bank situation is resolved few will be in a position to borrow for any new projects.

  • I think PPS’ biggest concern about the house when it was listed on the most endangered list, was that it was in the middle of the 195 work, and that it would be part of a larger developable parcel once the highway came down. Damage during the highway demo, then the danger that someone would buy the parcel and demo the house.

    PPS and others have done some leg work to see that the house will be protected.

    We can’t be sure who will be on the review committees once the greater parcel gets to be developed, but we’ll have to ensure that what ever is developed, takes the house into account at the design review phase.

    The house currently is very far into historic renovation, the structural issues have been addressed. Moving it is not on the agenda now. I’ll see if I can get some more information from PPS about the current owner and future possible tenants.

    I’m pretty sure retail won’t be a future tenant as the inside is also receiving an historic renovation and the historic interior is not suitable for modern retail.

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