Exploring the West Side’s Colorful Historic Homes

Creative couples are flocking to homes with good bones on Providence's West Side.

“I’m really into mixing antique and historic pieces with modern clean lines,” says Nicole Pollock. Several pieces of furniture in the Pollocks’ home were custom-made to fit the space, including the shelves in the living room and the walnut dining table. One area that didn’t need much work was the kitchen, which had cabinets made by the previous owner, a woodworker. Photography by Tony Luong.

MODERN MEETS CLASSIC

Like the Fraziers, Nicole and Leo Pollock came to live on the West Side almost accidentally. Both Rhode Island transplants — Nicole grew up in rural Wisconsin and Leo hails from southern California — they always loved the historic feel of the neighborhood, but weren’t seriously searching for a home. Then, on a walk one evening in 2009, they stumbled upon a 100-year-old house at the end of a court with a “For Sale” sign in front of it.

“It was one of those fortuitous things that spiraled into something that might be real,” says Nicole, who is the chief of staff for Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.

The house, which had some renovations by the previous owner, needed work but not so much that the task overwhelmed the young couple. The Pollocks remodeled the bathrooms and added hardwood floors where needed. They decorated with a mix of artisan creations and thrift store finds.

The couple worked on the ordinance allowing chickens in Providence, so, naturally, they also added their own backyard coop.

Since moving to the neighborhood just seven years ago, the Pollocks say they’ve witnessed many changes, including an increase in the number of small businesses and many more historic houses being revitalized.

They see a commonality among homeowners willing to take on such projects.

“I think you have to have a vision for design and space. Rather than buy a home that is perfectly designed and finished, people here have a creative flair that they like expressing through their home,” Leo, an entrepreneur, says.

When it comes to self-expression, it’s easy to look at Lang and Morra’s cottage, as well as the others in the neighborhood, and see that they value preservation over all. Lang and Morra, who works for the city forestry department, did much of the work themselves, calling on local craftspeople when needed.

As is the case with historic homes, there’s always work to be done. Soon it will be time to repaint the exterior or take down the old-fashioned storm windows to put in the screens. Lang says the same is true for WBNA’s work on the West Side. As the area’s revitalization heads in the right direction, Lang says the group’s mission takes a different path.

“Now the challenge is maintaining the character of the neighborhood. It feels like we’ve arrived but we don’t want to destroy what brought us here and what’s so special about this place, which is the people and the diversity.”