Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Lovecraft's Providence: Dexter Asylum

On the 1904 map of Providence in Chrispy's collection, it shows Dexter Asylum. A commenter, M of StrangeMaine fame, wondered about this.

Dexter Asylum was originally a "poor house" where indigents gathered to survive by working for a meager living.

"Continuing west you will quickly come to an area where the north side of Angell Street is bordered by a high stone wall. This surrounds a forty acre tract, now Brown {University} playing fields, but originally set aside and walled as Dexter Asylum, a poor farm, in the nineteenth century. The wall is three feet thick at ground level and eight feet high. Within was a marvelously Charles-Addamsish residence for the inmates {buit by} John Holden Greene, now demolished. At the time Brown {University} took over the property, there was an auction of furnishings and other items in the building. One of the more interesting lots {of items for bid} was a group of old wooden coffins, including some for infants." [1]

Lovecraft {coordinating Beckwith's tour to the 1904 map) lived about 800 feet from the wall of Dexter Asylum as a boy. 454 Angell was on the northwest corner of Angell and Elm Grove Ave - and that was a half-mile from Blackstone Park [2] bordering the Skeekonk River.

College Hill was always a steep sided place and Angell and Waterman were the only thoroughfares even back into colonial days.

As you can see, Chrispy is still building the case that when HPL uttered, "I am Providence" he sincerely meant that primal cry. Lovecraft was intoxicated by the love affair of his hometown. In Meet Me in St. Louis, a young Trudy tells Chill Wills, "Ain't it grand that I was born in my favorite city." Read HPL's stories and see Providence oozing from the pores.

1 Lovecraft's Providence & Adjacent Parts, Henry L. P. Beckwith, Jr., Donlad M Grant Publisher, West Kingston RI, 1979, p. 59
2 Recall that HPL was a member of the Blackstone Band as a boy.

{circa 1911)

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