A third effort to transform a historic Providence estate into a collection of big cheesy houses has emerged along Blackstone Boulevard. Readers will recall when neighborhood opposition in 2014 thwarted a division of the Granoff estate into ten lots, at least for now, but failed in 2016 to block a division of the Bodell estate just behind the Granoff estate. Its new houses, cheek by jowl, serve as a warning. But at least those two efforts did not imagine demolishing the two historic mansions involved.
Not so the Beresford-Nicholson estate, a bit farther south at No. 288 on Blackstone. Developers want to tear down the 1910 house built by William Beresford, a stockbroker, and expanded in 1919 by Paul Nicholson, who was a vice president of the Nicholson File Co., once among the international powerhouse manufacturing firms whose wealth build Providence in the late 1800s. The developer wants to put ten new houses on the property, which also features a great stone wall, which would be punctured for driveways.
Below is the actual entry in the survey of the East Side (not College Hill) by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission:
The developer’s idea is to gut the Nicholson land so that new houses can go up according to the wishes of the supposed house buyers. This means that anything could happen on the site, including the landing of an alien space ship that would wreck the resale value of however many of the houses are already built or signed for by the time that happens. It might not happen. But it might. It has on the Bodell site. (See below.) Under this sort of scheme, the early house buyers might never know until the final house is built.
This is the same strategy used by the same developer (the Bilotti Group) to build out the Bodell estate, where four of five houses seem to be at or near completion. They are shamed by the beauty of the surviving Bodell mansion, which may be why this time the mansion will be sacrificed. The new houses on the old Bodell estate are pictured below, all taken recently. The first house is the best of the lot. One is just being framed. The last looks to be a good example of an alien spaceship and a hoary modernist cliché to boot. They are followed by a shot of the Bodell mansion, which has been preserved.
The first public meeting on this subdivision, continued from November, will be held tomorrow by the City Plan Commission, at 4:45 p.m. at the city planning department, 444 Westminster St. A public hearing at the same meeting, where citizens can address the panel, is not mentioned on the CPC agenda but I have heard there is one scheduled. Nor are the proposed demolitions of the mansion and at least one spectacular out-building mentioned on Item 3 of the agenda.