The Stephen Hopkins House
One of the Oldest in Providence!
This home of Declaration-signer Stephen Hopkins (1707 – 1785) is among the oldest still standing in Rhode Island and the oldest in Providence. Hopkins lived here with his family and their slaves, in eight rooms that are now chock-full of antiques, Hopkins’ personal heirlooms, and general 18th-century objects. The house played host to such luminaries as George Washington in 1776, on one of his four trips to Providence. Then-governor Nicholas Cooke wrote to Washington that “General [Nathanael] Greene [a Rhode Islander] having informed me that your Excellency proposed to set out for Providence this Day I do myself the Honor to acquaint that a House is prepared for you and your Lady.” Martha Washington did not accompany her husband to Providence, and in fact, Hopkins himself was not even present for Washington’s visit: he was at the time attending the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
Stephen Hopkins became embroiled in the first violent act of resistance to the British Crown in the colonies during the infamous Gaspee Affair, which predates the Boston Tea Party by a year. Serving as Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 1772, Hopkins was strongly encouraged to make known the names of the men who had set fire to the British customs ship The Gaspee and kidnapped its captain, Lieut. Dudingston. The Crown wanted Hopkins to provide “a full and particular account of all the proceedings had and done by him for discovering and bringing to justice the persons who committed the aforesaid offence.” Hopkins promised to do so “without loss time.” Though he may have agreed to investigate the “offence,” Hopkins, a staunch patriot, apparently had no intention of doing so, as there is no record of any such written account.