History of the Nathaniel Porter Inn
The earliest part of the inn, now the tavern room, was originally a cooperage shop used for outfitting sailing ships prior to the revolution. The owners of the cooperage were ardent rebels, and, in 1778, the British raided Warren, burning many revolutionary strongholds. Fortunately, this building was saved, and, in 1795, Captain Samuel Martin commenced building his “mansion” which was added to the cooperage. In 1810, Captain Martin brought exceptional hand-painted murals back from Paris, and added them to the parlor room. Then, in the early 1840’s, Warren become one of America’s whaling centers. The wealth of the whaling trade contributed to a number of additions to the inn, including the beautiful hand-made parquet floors. The inn remained in the family for 150 years with very few changes in style or architectural detail. During the 1930’s the house was sold to a landlord who converted it into a 5 family tenement. At one time 2 families alone totalled 24 residents.
After more than 30 years as a neglected and deteriorating tenement a fire damaged the roof so the house was abandoned. For the next 5 years continuing rain, snow and vandalism caused extensive damage as the old house became a shambles and was condemned to demolition. But the building was still remarkably original – few changes had taken place in its woodwork in all its 200 years, so the present owners purchased the wreck and commenced a 6 year restoration project. Structural repairs were substantial, but antique materials were retained wherever possible. The removal of 200 years of paint and wallpaper exposed original colors and decorations which were reproduced or restored to retain authenticity. The mural in the formal parlor reproduces some 1810 wallpaper too severely damaged to restore, and the stencil work in the hallway and informal parlor is a restoration of the 1795 original – very early for stencil work. All 9 fireplaces were here in 1795 although one required rebuilding. During the colder weather 4 or 5 are in constant use, adding warmth and cheer to wintry evenings.
The extent of effort to retain authenticity is well illustrated by the entrance portico and the windows: The portico had been destroyed several years ago but a search of town archives produced an 1870 photo showing the original. A new portico was made and installed. The original windows were removed in 1830 so reproductions were installed during the restoration. The antique style glass came from Europe.
The Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is among the very finest and most authentically restored commercial colonial buildings in Rhode Island.
Nathaniel Porter was an ancestor of the owners. In 1775 he was a teenage minuteman at Lexington and Concord, the first battle of the American Revolution. So today we unite the past of an illustrious sea captain with the heroism of a 12 year old boy fighting in the Revolutionary War and invite you to enjoy the ambience of a true Colonial Inn.
Today the Inn combines the very best of old New England’s heritage:
- The romance of the sea
- The heroism of our War of Independence
- The charm of New England’s beautiful architecture
- And, of course, the sincere welcome of traditional hospitality!