Home / History / The Grand Designs of Russell Warren; New Bedford Architecture
The John Avery Parker Mansion called the most imposing house ever built. (New Bedford Whaling Museum Photo)

The Grand Designs of Russell Warren; New Bedford Architecture

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Warren NBIS
The National Institution for Savings before it was owned by the NPS (New Bedford Whaling Museum Photo).

6. Old Third District Courthouse, 1853
The Old Third District Courthouse, located on the corner of Second and William streets was another Greek Revival style building, albeit without the columns that Warren seemed so fond of. While everyone knows this building as the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park building or “the Visitor’s Building”, it was originally the New Bedford Institution for Savings or NBIS. When whaling busted, and textiles replaced it, the bank relocated further downtown in a larger facility. The Bristol County Courts then moved in and to this day the pediment states “THIRD DISTRICT COV[U]RT OF BRISTOL.” As the population grew, so didn’t the criminal element and the building was simply too small. The courts relocated in 1896, and the building then went through a variety of incarnations including an auto parts store and an antique dealership. In 1995 Fleet bank and WHALE came along and did their wonderful thing in renovating the building before turning it over to the National Park Service.

Warren Rodman Mansion
Rodman Mansion – One of America’s most expensive homes in the 1830s (New Bedford Whaling Museum Photo).

7. William R. Rodman Mansion
Located at 388 County Street, the William R. Rodman Mansion or “Rodman House” was built in the Greek Revival style that Warren loved. Of course, it had the his favored Doric columns as well. It was designed for aristocrat, bank president, William Rotch Rodman and was considered “the most stately mansion in New Bedford” in its day. Indeed, it was considered one of the most expensive homes in America in the 1830s. When Rodman passed away in 1855, the mansion passed from one famous family after another, beginning with New Bedford’s first mayor Abraham Howland. For a number of years it passed from Howland, to Grinnell, to mill mogul Joseph Knowles who built an addition onto it in 1909, then to John Gael Hathaway. Self-made millionaire, and owner of Dartmouth Mills, Walter Hamer Langshaw purchased the house and spent years renovating and building additions, including an organ loft, mosaic floor, Georgian plaster-work, and a facade solarium. In the 1950s it became the New Bedford Jewish Federation’s community center. In 1972 it went to the Swain School of Design, and finally its last owner William Rodman Partnership in 1988.

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About Joe Silvia

When Joe isn't writing, he's coaching people to punch each other in the face. He enjoys ancient cultures, dead and living languages, cooking, benching 999#s, and saving the elderly, babies and puppies from burning buildings. While he enjoys long walks on the beach, he will not be your alarm clock, because he's no ding-a-ling.

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10 comments

  1. Nice job Joe! Interesting to know he was the one behind many of the key buildings throughout NB!

    Seems he was a fan of the columns!

  2. Thanks Freddie! Yes, he sure loved his ionic and Doric columns!

  3. David Harrington

    Great article! The architect Russell Warren, was in fact, born in Tiverton, and died in Providence in 1960. He’s burried in the Grace Church Cemetery in Providence. I’ve visited his grave. He also did several buildings in Bristol and Providence. We’re having a tour of some of his Providence buildings on May 11. Contact Linden Place in Bristol for more info.

  4. Gee, Joe, is there ANY area that you do NOT wander into??? Now it’s architecture!! I just stumbled into this blog, and was immediately taken with the Russell Warren buildings. I will send a scan of a plate I have had for …years..to your email address, and it shows the County Court House, and looks a lot like a Warren design..n’c’est pas?? You can also see Palmer’s Island Light.
    I hope you check your blogs and emails occasionally, as I love to hear from you.

    Regards, Gardner

  5. Great article! However, every building in this article either has Ionic or Corinthian columns, no Doric ones. Art history classes are compelling me to speak out! 😀

  6. Thank you for the correction Tania! I am not an architect or artist, let alone a crappy one! I just love these buildings and wanted to showcase them. I “copied” the term Doric from one of the articles I read and being ignorant of architecture, used it.

    🙂

  7. Great article! They all look familiar,except for the Pearl St depot..that is still around?

  8. Thanks Stephan! Unfortunately, the Pearl Street Depot was too small. Perhaps, no one expected the system to become as popular as it became. It was torn down in 1886 and replaced with a larger station.

    Russell Warren had passed away 25 years prior, otherwise I’d imagine he would have lobbied for something that was Egyptian or Greek Revival.

  9. Joe, a very good story on Russell Warren. The New Bedford Institute for Savings building (now the National Park headquarters) is probably mis-attributed to Warren. The NBIS is a copy of the original Old Stone Bank (originally Providence Institute for Savings) which is attributed to C.J. and R.J. Hall. The original Providence building was identical to the NBIS building, but it was hugely modified to create the existing gold-domed building. You can see remnants of the original in the side wings. There is an image of the Providence building prior to alteration here: https://www.providenceri.com/photogallery/set/72157636691303166#

  10. Hi Kit – thanks for the kudos and reading!

    The NBIS building is actually one year older and the inverse is true: the Providence building was a copy of Old Third District Courthouse/NBIS. The NBIS building was erected in 1853 and the Providence building was erected in 1854.

    If you look at the Rhode Island Historical Society’s records they state “…a new building was constructed at 86 South Main Street in 1854, which was expanded in 1898 into its present form.” (http://www.rihs.org/mssinv/mss943.htm)

    This is also backed up by the Rhode Island State Census in 1885:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=QT7QAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA49&lpg=PA49&dq=r.j.+hall+providence+institution+of+savings&source=bl&ots=w4p9cdiUBv&sig=U6NmibVkKADybxtQlNjz6KH_moE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=-LQvVbqLMMHbgwSO7oOwAw&ved=0CCwQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=r.j.%20hall%20providence%20institution%20of%20savings&f=false

    Having said that, I HAVE seen the mention that the Halls are responsible for the design of the NBIS building, however I have only seen one mention of it and there is no source – it states “…research has shown.” That page has been taken down and now only accessible as a cached page.

    I am not doubting the possibility – the buildings were virtually identical. Too much of a coincidence. That leaves us with two possibilities: the Halls copied (perhaps even collaborated) Warren’s NBIS building or that the Halls are responsible for both buildings. However, these two particular Halls did not build outside of Rhode Island.

    There is definitely a story here. I will dig some more and see if I can’t access Spinner Publications archives. If you have more, I would love to see it. Please send to nbgarts@gmail.com.

    There may be an article here – if we can prove the Halls are responsible with source documents, it’ll be huge,

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