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This prettily sited house, peeping out from behind an elaborate picket fence in the midst of a fantastic garden and emblazoned with markers attesting to its historicity, was for more than forty years the home of Hopkins (1707-1785), colonial governor, Brown-brothers business partner, Declaration of Independence signer, and host to George Washington. Originally located down the hill and on the north side of Hopkins Street, it was built in two stages: the present kitchen ell to the rear first, then the front, added by Hopkins when he bought the house in 1743. On the inside, the central stair hall separates the library on the left (east) from the parlor on the right (west). The parlor has a handsome mantle shelf topped by a carved-shell motif, a popular decorative feature in the mid-eighteenth century. The house came to rest on this site in 1927, when construction began on the court house across the street. Norman M. Isham (1864-1943), one of the country’s first American-architectural historians and restoration architects, restored the building at that time. Descendant Alden Hopkins, a landscape architect at Colonial Williamsburg, designed the gardens after ones in Virginia that Stephen Hopkins had admired on a trip there. Owned by the state, maintained and interpreted by the Rhode Island Chapter of the Colonial Dames of America, and open to the public, it epitomizes the home of a wealthy merchant of the mid-eighteenth century with furnishings appropriate to its time and station. It also serves as a foil for the great houses erected by merchants like Joseph and John Brown in the succeeding generation.

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