The revelation that such a library existed raises numerous questions. When was it built? When was it lost? Was another house demolished to make way for the library? The caption to another shot of the library reads: “The image below, undated, shows the front of the Shepley Library at 292 Benefit Street.”
The database text for the same image in the online archive of the Providence Public Library reads: “Image shows the Shepley Library on Benefit Street. The library appears to be an addition built onto the Shepley House. A car is parked outside the library. Library no longer stands” The detail below of my 1895 plat map of the southern portion of College Hill and Fox Point shows a house at the sharp corner of the block that may be the library, with the Shepley House (the colonel’s residence) just above it along Charlesfield. If so, and if the front is indeed on Benefit, then it is hard to tell how the Shepley House fits to its left in the photo above.
Of course, the map or the book may be wrong, or I may be incorrect in my belief that the map is from 1895. If so, the footprint that looks like it may be the Shepley Library might also be a house that could have been razed to build the library. Or maybe it is the library but the mapmakers got the footprint wrong, or maybe the library underwent renovations that changed the shape of its footprint.
Other buildings that I perhaps ought to have included in Lost Providence include the city’s first train station, designed by Thomas Tefft, from 1848, and the Hospital Trust Bank Building, completed in 1891. The lifespan and location of each are considerably less indeterminate than those of the Shepley Library. No doubt also my investigation into the library represents a regrettably limited effort of sleuthery by the author of Lost Providence. I hope someone will provide additional (and more reliable) information – perhaps during my evening at the John Brown House on Thursday. I look forward to writing a more satisfying addendum to this report.