HOME OF THE WEEK - Magnificent mansion in Woonsocket's North End

HOME OF THE WEEK - Magnificent mansion in Woonsocket's North End

WOONSOCKET - It was a sign of the era, as industrialists and capitalists and railroad magnates presented their status to the world by the size of their home - the bigger the mightier - and Woonsocket's North End rivals the East Side of Providence for a show of grand mansions that were built for the rich in the late 19th- to early 20th century.

This amazing structure at 269 Prospect St. in the North End is the c. 1868 Oscar J. Rathbun mansion, a rambling Italianate brownstone filled with the exquisite details and craftsmanship found in buildings from this era.

It was commissioned to architect Michael Valk, who also designed some of the Newport mansions, by Edward Harris, a wealthy industrialist, politician and philanthropist who also built Harris Hall, now Woonsocket's city hall. Harris, who also resided in the North End, had this magnificent house built for his daughter, Rachel.

Rachel was wed to Oscar J. Rathbun in 1860. Rathbun served as president of the Harris Woolen Company, and also of the Woonsocket Street Railway, among other companies. He served in the Rhode Island General Assembly, and as lieutenant governor 1882-1884.

The house is also sometimes referred to as the Thurber-Rathbun Mansion because it was built by a New York contractor named Thomas J. Thurber. A plaque on the front wall, however, names it the Oscar J. Rathbun mansion. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There's an "oval" theme throughout the house, the first example in the oval-shaped leaded window in the front door. An entry vestibule opens through a Dutch door to the parlor. Here are paneled walls and a coffered ceiling, an impressively carved terra cotta fireplace, and a built-in bay window seat. Another Dutch door with leaded glass light opens to a small, round greenhouse room that has a glass and copper cupola ceiling.

The main staircase has intricately carved posts and balusters, and its underside - which is exposed - is carved with more oval designs.

A formal living room has the most intricate of details, with designs in the ceiling, floor-to-ceiling oval-topped windows, a white brick fireplace with carved wooden mantel, and a half wall topped with Corinthian columns that separates it from a sitting room.

The formal dining room has a brick fireplace with built in China cabinets above. A chandelier hangs from an ornate ceiling medallion. The wainscoting and trim is painted a cheery green with gold accents, and the walls are covered with floral paper. A wall of floor-to-ceiling curved windows includes a curved glass door that opens to a large screened porch, which in turn goes out to the lovely formal gardens. The porch's screen panels and windows are also curved, separated by tall columns. The ceiling is coffered with skylights and the floor is tile.

Also on the first floor is a butler's pantry with floor-to-ceiling cupboards that's located between the dining room and eat-in kitchen, as well as a fireplaced family room with a door to the back yard, and a quite unique powder room that's in a connecting hallway between the kitchen and parlor. Throughout this floor are 11-foot ceilings, formal wainscoting, dentil crown moldings and other fine details, including charming round glass doorknobs and wavy glass windows.

Upstairs are four bedrooms, an exercise room/ fifth bedroom with fireplace, and a library/office with fireplace, plus four full bathrooms and a cedar closet. There's also a fireplace in the master bedroom, a water closet with a little sink in one of the children's bedrooms, and the other bedrooms each have their own full bathrooms, including one that is completely updated with a modern glass shower. Here, as on the first floor, are wonderful architectural details and more oval windows.

The third floor attic offers an additional five rooms that appear to once have been bedrooms plus a bathroom, but are now unused and in need of work.

The enormous basement includes an old bank vault used as a wine cellar, and a laundry room.

The 1.2-acre lot includes formal English gardens and a 1,584-square-foot, two-story carriage house with a full basement.

The house has seven fireplaces, four full and one half bathroom, and 11 rooms in 5,080 square feet of living space, not counting the five rooms on the third floor, the spacious covered veranda, and the formal screened porch.

The one-of-a-kind property is listed at $500,000 by Janice Geddes of Residential Properties. Reach her at 401-457-1377.