Dyed in the wool East Sider Ed Bishop has a home that is as East Side as he is. The Edward Dexter House was built in 1795, and originally sat at the corner of George and Prospect streets. “It was cut in half and, I’m told, it was rolled here on cannonballs,” Ed says, in 1840 (according to Brown University) or 1860 (according to the Rhode Island Historical Society). “It’s had only five or so owners in all that time.” One of the few 18th century houses remaining in College Hill, the home is on the National Register of Historic Places.
One of the previous owners of the home was Charles Pendleton. “He was an international gambler,” Ed says. “With the money he won, he brought back antiques from all over the world, and he filled this house. When he died, he bequeathed all of it to the Rhode Island School of Design, on the stipulation that they would build a fireproof building that replicated the house.” RISD built Pendleton House on Benefit Street, and modeled it as a replica of the Dexter House. “It’s the original building of the RISD Museum,” Ed says, “and it’s about 90% of what my house looks like. They’ve since added more pieces to the collection, but it’s the first museum in the country to be totally furnished by one man.”
Ed moved to Providence in 1950 to attend Brown, and has been here ever since. He lives in the house with his wife Mary Francis Bishop, and some tenants who have occupied the second floor since 1972, five years before he bought the Colonial post and beam house. Over time, occupants have added to the property: a carriage house when the building was moved to Waterman Street, a second floor added by Ed himself. “A ballroom was built in the 1920s by the Hinckleys of Hinckley Allen,” Ed says. “They had four daughters, and they had to have a lot of parties.”
The home is an important part of East Side history, and Ed invites people to learn about it. “If you drive by the house - it’s a big yellow house on Waterman Street - look at the front porch. Dead center on the portico on the front, you’ll see where they cut right down the middle.”
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