Filed Under Providence

Metcalf Estate

Wanskuck Park, a 25-acre park with walking trails, wooded areas, and old foundations, lies along the edge of the Wanskuck Historic District, in the northernmost part of Providence. Before it was parkland, this site was the estate of Jesse H. Metcalf (1860-1942) and his second wife Louisa Dexter Sharpe Metcalf (1866-1959). Jesse Metcalf's father was a textile manufacturer who owned the Wanskuck Company, a profitable woolen company, and his mother, Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf, was one of the co-founders of the Rhode Island School of Design.

Jesse H. Metcalf took over his father's role in the Wanskuck Company; he was also president of Rhode Island Hospital, a United States Senator, and a partial owner of the Providence Journal. He and his wife Louisa were notorious philanthropists, donating from their sizeable fortune to various schools, community groups, and institutions throughout Rhode Island. Jesse Metcalf served as the chairman of the Metropolitan Park Commission of Rhode Island from 1909 to 1924, and after his death, Louisa donated their estate to the City of Providence to be used as a public park, along with $30,000 to develop and maintain it.

The Metcalf home and its barn were torn down in 1949, as requested in Louisa Metcalf's will, and the house's foundation was filled to create a level rise. Some smaller features of the estate remain, including the elaborate wrought-iron gate, mature trees, the drive leading up to the former site of the house, and a stone wall running along Woodward Road. A stable was demolished in 1979, after neighborhood residents opposed a proposal to turn it into a cultural center, citing traffic concerns; the 1 ½ storey former caretaker's cottage still stands, overlooking the park.

Images

Metcalf House Jesse and Louisa Metcalf's house, with three stories, a wraparound porch, and numerous outbuildings, sat behind an elaborate wrought iron gate at 229 Woodward Road. Date: c. 1940
Walkway in Wanskuck Park The old drive to the Metcalf Estate is now a well-traversed footpath. Notice the distinctive earthworks on which the house once stood. Date: 2019
Portrait of Jesse Houghton Metcalf This portrait of Jesse H. Metcalf, painted in oil on canvas by Jean Pierre Laurens (1875-1933), hangs in the Jesse Metcalf Research Laboratory at Brown University. Jesse and his sister Eliza donated money for the construction of the building, and also established an endowment to support the graduate students who would work within its walls. Date: 1924
Metcalf Estate This broad view of the Metcalfs' estate shows some of the numerous outbuildings, which included a barn, chauffeur's cottage, garage, playhouse, stable, and caretaker's house. The stone wall in the foreground remains, although it is no longer topped by formidable chicken wire. Date: c. 1925-1949

Location

Wanskuck Park, Woodward Rd, Providence, RI 02904

Metadata

Angela DiVeglia, “Metcalf Estate,” Rhode Tour, accessed September 29, 2022, https://rhodetour.org/items/show/353.