Inside an Endangered Property: Providence’s Beresford-Nicholson Estate
This historic mansion on Blackstone Boulevard, on a rare three-acre parcel, made the Providence Preservation Society's annual list of endangered properties.
Three acres of prime real estate on Blackstone Boulevard, the swankiest artery on the East Side of Providence: What would you do with such grandeur? Take a twilight stroll among the heritage trees before retiring to your wood-paneled library for a few fingers of scotch? Or would you dice the land into ten pieces and turn a hefty profit?
On Friday, the Providence Preservation Society released its list of 2019’s Most Endangered Properties, and the Beresford-Nicholson Estate at 228 Blackstone Boulevard is one of them. The PPS’s twenty-five-year tradition aims to stir up interest in significant structures threatened by neglect or demolition. Sometimes, the attention works; once-endangered properties including the Bomes Theatre and the Wedding Cake House have been saved.
Salvation might not be in the cards for the Beresford-Nicholson estate, however. The property is under contract with the Bilotti Group, whose re-subdivision plan — leveling the triple lot and dividing into ten single-family properties — was approved by the City Plan Commission earlier this month despite outcry from neighbors and city residents. According to a press release from the Providence Preservation Society, “Many neighbors have come out to voice opposition to the demolition of the buildings and concern over re-subdivision as drawn, loss of historic trees, traffic implications, curb cuts, and penetration of the historic wall. PPS continues to monitor the situation.”
It’s a given: We all want to save old houses (like this one or this one or this tragic one, also a PPS 2019 endangered property). But the Beresford-Nicholson estate isn’t protected by historical regulations. And I have to admit: It is a bit of an anomaly on the East Side, where property lines are tight and price tags are very, very large. It’s no wonder the Bilotti Group swooped in.
Only two families owned the property over its 110-year history, according to the PPS press release. The main manor, an Elizabethan beauty built for William Beresford, was designed by Clarke, Howe and Homer and completed in 1909. Ten years later, the property was sold to Paul Nicholson, who enlarged the main house and added several ancillary buildings; the estate has remained in the Nicholson family for the last century. Additions include a playhouse, cow barn, garden shed, caretaker’s cottage and greenhouse. But the most charming feature of the property is the cottage-style chauffeur’s quarters, an ivy-covered structure that’s built into a stone and stucco wall on Slater Avenue. (Knocking down the chauffeur’s quarters is a little like bulldozing the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs. Just saying.)
Here’s a peek inside the estate, which was listed by Residential Properties for $4.95 million and is pending sale: