Major Thomas Fenner House

The Major Thomas Fenner House, Providence, was built in 1677 after the conclusion of King Phillip's War. It is the oldest home in Rhode Island. The home is a "Stone Ender," of which only 13 are known to be in existence. It is on the National Registry of Historical Places.

Thomas Fenner was a second generation American, born three years after his father arrived in 1649. He fought in King Phillips War, was a Justice of the Peace (1704), Governor's assistant (1701-1717), and served multiple terms as a Deputy (1683-1705). During Thomas’ lifetime the House was used a meeting place, court, inn, and home in which he and his wife Dinah (Borden) Fenner raised ten children. A number of notable people have passed through the house, including George Washington and General Gilbert du Motier, Marquis of Lafayette.

The home is currently owned by an eleventh generation descendant, Richard Arthur Fenner. It has been restored as a bed and breakfast, available for rent. 

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> William Morgan, "Around New England: A True Original," Boston.com (2015 Feb. 18) | web | pdf


Lineage of the Thomas Fenner House

 

In the 1718 will of Major Thomas Fenner (1652-1718) he gave his wife Dinah the “old part” of the house essentially as a Life Estate. After making specific gifts to six of his living children, he gave the remainder, including the house, to his sons Joseph (1693-1779), Richard (1695-1773), Arthur (1699-1788) and John (1705-1725). Richard and Joseph were appointed executers. John died young, Richard andArthur were partitioned land and Joseph became the owner of the Major Thomas Fenner House.

Joseph Fenner (1693-1779) lived in the Fenner House until his death in 1779. His youngest son Asahel also lived there with his wife Rhobe Sarle and their five children. Asahel died young, age 29, so Joseph left the house to his grandsons James (1760-1799) and Joseph (1767-1835), who were nineteen and thirteen at the time.  Joseph was partitioned a portion of the estate and James kept the house. James Fenner lived in the Fenner House for his lifetime with his wife Sarah Remington and their three children. Sarah and the children remained in the house after James' death in 1799.   

James and Sarah’s sons Thomas J. Fenner (1791-1824) and Asahel Fenner (1792-1846) inherited the property from their mother in 1810.  Thomas had four children with Mary Alice Olney.  Three weeks after Thomas’ death in 1824, his wife Mary had her brother William Pitcher Olney appointed as guardian for her children and Mary took them to live on High St. in Providence. 

On 14 March 1832, William Pitcher Olney sold the Major Thomas Fenner House on behalf of Thomas and Asahel to Samuel Fenner Joy (1802-1881). Samuel was the son of Samuel Joy and Freelove Fiske Fenner. Freelove was a third cousin of Thomas J. Fenner and lived at the nearby Joy Homestead. Samuel Fenner Joy lived in the house for 50 years until his death on 25 June 1881.  During the latter years of his life the house was referred to as the Sam Joy Place.  Sam never married and died intestate. George Potter Hazard, husband of Sam's sister Rachel Joy, was appointed administrator of the estate. When George Potter Hazard died in 1887, his estate was divided among his children, George Joy Hazard (1836-1899), Samuel Anthony Hazard (1839-1916), and Mary J. Hazard (1843-1939), with the Thomas Fenner House (Sam Joy Place) going to Samuel.

Samuel Anthony Hazard lived in Providence until his passing in 1916, upon which time the Fenner house went to his sister Mary J. HazardWilliam Whitaker, who can be found living with Sam Joy in the 1860, 1870 and 1880 Censuses continued to live in the House after Sam Joy’s death and took in his sister Harriet (Whitaker) Blanchard, her daughter, Amey (Blanchard) Silva, her son-in-law Frank Silva, and grandson Frederick Silva and remained there past 1900. The property was next leased to Charles Howard Stone (1873-1946) sometime before 1910.   

In May of 1918, Mary Hazard sold the house to Charles Stone, effectively ending a 241-year ownership by Major Thomas Fenner and his descendants. During Charlie’s ownership, the stream behind the house was dammed, creating Stone Pond which was used for the production of ice.  Charles Howard Stone lived in the House until his death in 1946, and his wife, Evalina Viola (Corey) Stone (1874-1957), inherited the house.

The next year, Evalina bequeathed the house to her daughters, Dolly Mae Stone (1894-1979), Ruth Adeline Stone (1896-1984) and Ethel Helen Stone (1900-1973).  Ruth (Stone) Taylor relinquished her interest to her sisters in 1968 and when Ethel died in 1973 Dolly was left as the sole owner.   

When Dolly passed away in 1979, she left the Fenner house to her nephews and nieces, the children of Ethel Helen Stone and Stanford Nantais: Helen Louise Nantais (1922-1999), Elizabeth Grace Nantais (1924-2007),  Charles Harold Nantais (1926-1991) and Richard S. Nantais (still living). Dolly’s sister Ethel, brother-in-law Stanford and their children had lived in the house with Dolly. 

The Nantais children owned the Fenner House until June 1981 when it was sold to Myron and Maureen Taplin. Myron Taplin did considerable restoration on the home to bring it back to its original configuration.  Under Myron’s watch, the house was selected to be put on the National Registry of Historical Places in 1991.

Next, the Fenner house was sold to Don Friedlich and Judy Mitchell by the Taplins on 3 January 1992. They lived in the House for awhile before moving out of Rhode Island and leasing it out.

In October of 1995, the Fenner house was purchased by Richard Arthur Fenner, 7th great grandson of Major Thomas Fenner, bringing back into the family after a 78-year hiatus.