Timeline of Linden Place
1810: George DeWolf (1778-1844), a merchant, slave trader and ship owner; commissioned Russell Warren to build a home on his Hope Street property at a cost of $60,000.00 to build the fine mansion, known for half a century by Bristolians as "The Mansion" and today called Linden Place. The money he used came from the illegal slave trade. (This would be about 1.2 million dollars today)
1825: A bankrupt General George DeWolf makes a night escape with his wife and young family to avoid his many Bristol creditors who subsequently storm and ransack the mansion, removing the contents.
1837: William Henry DeWolf, George's cousin, adds an octagonal sun room designed by Russell Warren. Two wings, the little ballroom (eventually the billiard room and today the gift shop) and the kitchen, are added within the next few years
1865: The house is auctioned by William Henry's heirs and is purchased by Edward D. Colt for Theodora Colt, General George DeWolf's daughter
1866-1873: Theodora restores the Mansion to its former glory, has Linden trees planted in the yard and renames the house "Linden Place". She lives there with her children Isabella and Samuel Pomeroy Colt.
1901: Theordora dies and Samuel Pomeroy Colt purchases the entire block next to the mansion. He has a marble school built next door to Linden Place in her memory. The school is now Colt Andrews School.
1905: Colonel Samuel Pomeroy Colt retains noted RI architect Wallis E. Howe to design a new ballroom and garage for automobiles; his cousin designs the gardens
1910: Col. Colt throws a 100th birthday party for Linden Place on July 4, reported to be "the most brilliant social affair in the annals of the history of Bristol..." Among the guests is actress, Ethel Barrymore Colt Miglietta, daughter of Ethel Barrymore. Click here to view the article in the local newspaper!
1963: The Bristol Art Museum is launched in the ballroom with the help of Ethel Barrymore Colt Miglietta
1973: Scenes for Hollywood's "The Great Gatsby", starring Mia Farrow and Robert Redford are filmed at Linden Place. The film is released in 1974. Click here to view the front page of the Bristol Phoenix covering the story!
1987-1988: Friends of Linden Place seek to raise $2 million to buy the mansion and preserve it as a public, cultural and educational center. State historic preservation funds assist the acquisition.
1989: Friends of Linden Place acquire the mansion. Restoration and renovations begin.
1990: First floor of the mansion is open for tours.
1997: The mortgage on the mansion is paid off and burned by Board President, Gert Pardee and Director Lou Cirillo during a ceremony on the front steps.
1998: For the first time since being built in 1810, the mansion's paint is stripped down to the woodwork and the house receives a fresh coat of white paint. The mansion's original 1810 andirons belonging to General George DeWolf are returned to the museum.
2010: For the first time in 25 years, Captain James DeWolf's carriage is included in the Bristol 4th of July Parade.
2019: The 30th Anniversary of the Friends of Linden Place is celebrated!
The DeWolf Family and the Slave Trade
The DeWolf family of Bristol, Rhode Island, were introduced to the slave trade by their Uncle Simeon Potter, a well-known slave trader and privateer. From 1784 to 1807, the DeWolfs sent 88 ships to Africa in the Triangle Trade, making them the largest slave trading family in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island was unique in that it had few raw materials to sell to Britain, so the profits gained from the slave trade allowed its citizens to purchase the desired goods made in England. Some of the items traded were beads, bread, fabric, guns and gunpowder, muskets, onions, snuff, tallow, and tar. Rhode Island rum was a prized item for trade in Africa, and Bristol distillers produced some of the best. African kings gave Rhode Island slave traders the title, "rum men."
Rhode Island slave traders went to Ghana, on the west coast of Africa, to purchase captive Africans who were sold to plantation owners in the West Indies and the Americas. The worldwide desire for sugar, coffee, cotton, rice, and tobacco, guaranteed the continuance of this "unrighteous traffic." The African slaves worked long hours under difficult conditions, surviving only eight or ten years, securing the constant need to replenish their numbers.
In the small village of Bristol, Rhode Island, nearly everyone was invested in the slave trade. Ship owners sought investors for their slave voyages, including churches, bankers, ship builders, shop keepers, coopers, distillers, sailmakers, and insurance companies. Nearly everyone in town was complicit directly or indirectly in the Triangle Trade.
Charles, William, James, John, and George DeWolf, were the main players in Bristol's story of the slave trade. Mark, Samuel, and Simon died at sea, and Levi would only sail on a slaver two or three times. Captain James DeWolf prospered greatly in this business, becoming one of the richest men in the country. His nephew George, the original owner of Linden Place, did not do as well. Several disasters attributed to his bankruptcy in 1825.
Many other families in Bristol, Newport, and Providence, were involved in the Atlantic slave trade. We still recognize these names, as they reached the pinnacle of society: The Browns, Champlins, Aaron Lopez, Abraham Redwood, the Wantons, Samuel and William Vernon, the Bourn and Wardwell families, Cyprian Sterry, Godfrey Malbone, and the Clarkes.
Here at Linden Place we pride ourselves on being an educational resource for those looking to explore the history of the triangle slave trade in Bristol and beyond. Our tours delve into the DeWolf family's long history with slavery and we host a twice a month walking tour focused on this important part of Linden Place and Bristol's story. We are committed to presenting all of our history and stories, both good and bad, and we have for many years. We are proud and committed to being a part of the statewide Rhode Island Slave History Medallion project and we look forward to hosting everyone at the mansion for a tour (when we are able to reopen) so that you, too, can explore this significant part of our collective history.