Seril Dodge, Clockmaker, Silversmith and Inventor - 1759-1802
Some of the following text was taken from a phamplet published by the Providence Art Club and from the book, Old-Time New England, A Publication of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities
Photos: Seril Dodge home Nehemiah Dodge home
For a long time, Seril Dodge with his brother Nehemiah Dodge, were known for their invention of a gold plating process in this country which led to the Costume Jewelry Industry in Providence, RI.
When Dodge Family Association member, Jim Bailey started doing Dodge research in Rhode Island, he found the grave sites of Seril and his wife, Ann, and two sons. This sparked our interest because we had long been wondering how Seril Dodge fit into the Dodge family.br>
In October 2000, several of us made a trip to New England to attend the Reunion in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and we decided to also go to Providence to see for ourselves what Jim had found. He met us at the North Burial Ground and spent the afternoon showing us the various Dodge cemetery stones there, and taking us to the Providence Art Club which now owns both of the houses that Seril Dodge built.
Seril Dodge came to Providence, RI in 1784 after serving an apprenticeship with Thomas Harland of Norwich, Connecticut, one of the important figures in Connecticut clockmaking.
Seril chose to build his house next to the new meetinghouse of the Charitable Baptist Society, which was built on land occupied by the descendants of THomas Angell. The lane that passed through the Angell property, just north of the meeting house was known as Angell's Lane. In the 19th century, it was known as Angell Street, with the exception of the 1st block, which due to an error in reading of a survey legend, was called Thomas Street.
It is typical in size to many wood frame houses built at that time, but is unique in the elegance and extraordinary detail of its interior finish work. It was one of the first buildings in Rhode Island to be recorded by the federal Historical American Buildings Survey. Recent research into the history of the building now reveals the reasons for the inconguity of this elaborate, large-scale detailing in a middling Providence residence and illustrates the way in which architecture was used as a statement of social distinction.
The two houses built by Seril Dodge are next to each other. The first Seril Dodge House was built by Seril between 1786 and 1789 on land owned by Moses Brown. In 1789, after the house was finished, Moses Brown sold the land under it to Seril. The deed states "the House Lot being the same whereon said Dodge has built a Dwelling House in which he now lives." It was designed with a central hallway flanked by two rooms on each side and with two interior chimneys, one on each side of the hall. Most houses built during this time had the one central chimney, but Seril laid his house out according to a newer style in which separate chimney stacks permittd individual fireplaces to be built in each side of the rooms and allowed daylight and fresh air to pass thelength of the house through an open central hall. Seril's house was 2 1/2 stories high and measured 36 by 29 feet.
Because Seril was an artisan and shop keeper, he may have only been able to afford a house of this size, but soon his prospects must have imporved for in 1790, he purchased the 2nd of Moses Brown's building lots on Angell's Lane and began construction of a three-story, brink-clad house for his growing family.
The next year he vacated the first house and sold the building and the land back to Moses Brown in whose family it would remain for the next 116 years. In the east parlor, now on the bridge floor level, Hope Brown was married to Thomas Poynton Ives in 1792.
This house was raised one story in 1906 for use by Adams Market and extensive alterations at that time eliminated the original chimneys and fireplaces but many original fixtures remain. The building was bought by the Art Club in 1919. Extensive renovations were completed in 1990, which included the restoration of the two original fireplace mantels bequeathed to the Club by Mrs. John Carter Brown Washburn.
The second Seril Dodge House was possibly the very first brick veneer structure in Providence, RI. It is a three story structure and was built in 1790. In 1799, it was purchased by Moses Brown for his son Obadiah. It has been known for a long time as the Obadiah Brown brick house. It was leased to the Art Club in 1866 and was deeded to the Art Club in 1906.