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Old 10-02-2012   #1
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Providence

In a few weeks I am going on a trip to Providence to visit a friend who is going to school there. Since I know there are at least a few Lovecraft fans here, I am wondering if anybody has any suggestions as to must visit places. Of course, they don't have to be specifically Lovecraft related! I'm really looking forward to this trip, and am excited that I might even get to meet Brian Evenson (he's my friend's academic adviser). Now, if only I could somehow finagle my way into meeting Caitlin R. Kiernan while I'm there, I'd be in weird fiction heaven!

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 10-03-2012   #2
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Re: Providence

The typical answer may be to visit Lovecraft's grave. I hated being there, because it filled me with woe to remember his life at its end, his self-doubts about his art, &c &c. College Hill and Benefit Street were IT for me. Linger before the Shunned House, and then climb through the wee forest area adjacent to it. Visit St. John's churchyard and write a sonnet to Poe as you sit upon a tabletop tomb. Stand before 10 Barnes Street and remember all of the masterpieces that E'ch-Pi-El penned when he lived there. If you must visit Swan Point, journey to the river below and sit upon a rock so as to write a postcard, as Grandpa did. Sit for one silent hour in ye Providence Athenaeum. Visit the Providence Art Club and ask if there is any way you can tour ye Fleur-de-lys building. Oh!

I have many photos in my photo album here at TLO of my four days in Providence, where S. T. Joshi led me on a walking tour of Lovecraftian sites. Gawd!! Wonderful!!

"We work in the dark -- we do what we can -- we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art."
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Old 10-03-2012   #3
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Re: Providence

There's a nice used bookstore, Cellar Stories, in downtown Providence not far from the Brown campus. They have a decent horror section, including some Lovecraft-interest items, though not (at least as of 2008, the last time I was there) anything terribly rare or stunning. There's another bookstore, now called Paper Nautilus Books but known as Myopic Books when I lived then, not too far from the campus in the opposite direction, but it doesn't have as much of a selection (or, again, it didn't as of 2008). They did have at one point have copies of the most recent printings of the Arkham House editions of Lovecraft, though, among their small selection of new books.

Lovecraft's grave isn't an enormously rewarding experience in my opinion (and don't try to walk there from the Brown campus unless you're in pretty good shape-- I was lucky to make it back alive), but it might be worth a quick trip. Don't, however, listen to a companion's suggestion that you leave the relatively easy path to HPL's grave and explore the cemetery, as I did on my second visit. You may find that it is easy to get lost there, on a pale and drizzly day, and feel as if you are never going to find your way out. By the time I managed to locate Lovecraft's grave again, and spread my coat on the grass nearby (not, I hope, above anyone's mortal remains), I felt like I was living in a horror story myself. But if I tried to craft it into fiction, it would surely feel cheap and obvious. Ah, life and art. But I'm rambling.

The site of Lovecraft's birthplace isn't rewarding either-- it's just a recent-ish building now, of no particular distinction-- but as with his grave, there's something to be said for having been there.

Since your friend is presumably a Brown student you may already be planning this, but you might also want to schedule a tour of or appointment at the John Hay Library, to check out items from the Lovecraft collection, which includes manuscripts, correspondence, and so forth. The Hay is open to anyone provided you bring a photo ID, and the Lovecraft collection specifically has "no restrictions on access, except that the collection can only be seen by prior appointment. Some materials may be stored off-site and cannot be produced on the same day on which they are requested." So it's worth thinking about arrangements for that now. In four years in Providence I never once got around to it-- I ought to be ashamed.

This looks like a good Lovecraft-related walking tour, though that's not the building I thought was on the site of his birthplace. I thought I had correctly compensated for the renumbering of that street, but perhaps not. You might want to double-check, if that's a site that interests you. You know, I walked past that art gallery almost every time I went to the train station or the mall, and never once knew there was a Lovecraft connection. Tsk. I should go back to Providence someday. There's another walking tour here.

Have fun in Providence. The Brown campus is very nice, and the adjacent downtown has a more urban feel and lots of shops without any of the unpleasant of larger cities.

Noonday Stars: a blog about horror fiction. Recent content includes essay on the new edition of Ligotti's The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein and Other Gothic Tales.
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Old 10-03-2012   #4
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Re: Providence

Thanks so much for your detailed and evocative suggestions Wilum and Brendan! You have certainly whet my appetite even more for this upcoming visit to Providence. I never even considered exploring the Lovecraft collection at John Hay library. There is something so thrilling and inspiring at the thought of actually handling some of Lovecraft's original works and correspondences. The thought actually makes me kind of shivery!
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Old 10-03-2012   #5
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Re: Providence

Hi Freyasfire,

Actually, I just went to Providence two months ago to do the "Lovecraft tour", and I have to say, it was the most rewarding vacation experience I've had in forty one years. It's amazing how much one can sense Lovecraft's spirit there, even taking into account some lamentably modern excrescences, such as a Starbucks where HPL's one Angell St. house use to be. (I refer to the missing #454)

Speaking of Angell St., if you follow it down towards the Seekonk River, you will have walked the exact path where Lovecraft must surely have wandered countless times as a child, and as a young man. Supposedly, he even made a shrine right by riverside, though I forget which particular pagan deity he intended to honor!

A rather cute thing happened when I was looking at the 10 Barnes St. house: I was standing there just gazing up at it for several minutes, when I noticed a pretty young woman driving slowly past me. Well, she got the biggest grin on her face when she saw me, and it was quite clear that the grin meant, "Haha, it looks like another one of those Lovecraft nuts has come to town!"

Also, if you have the time, Newport is a spectacular place, and only about 30 minutes away. If anything, it may even be more beautiful than Providence. It doesn't have any particular "Lovecraft sites" that I know of, but HPL was quite passionate about its quaint, 18th century charm, and he rhapsodizes over it frequently in his correspondence. I have personally never been to a place that appealed to me so much--and what's more, you can experience the whole city fairly easy in a day or two.

Anyhow, good luck to you and I hope you genuinely enjoy your vacation. It really is something quite unique and worth getting excited about. But like I said, do your homework regarding the various HPL sites so that you can extract the full measure of charm from what you are observing.

Oh, by the way, I totally agree with the other comments about Swan Point Cemetery. Actually, it was the one major HPL location that I intentionally didn't visit, simply because that's really not (ironically, but in my opinion) the best place to come into contact with Grandpa's ghost!

All the best.

Last edited by Pan Michael; 10-03-2012 at 08:10 PM..
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Old 10-04-2012   #6
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Re: Providence

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences in Providence Pan Michael. Your obvious passion has further fueled my anticipation and excitement! I was definitely planning to do the Lovecraft walking tour, although the placement of a Starbuck's where HPL's house used to be on Angell St. is rather depressing! And we were definitely considering going to Newport, so your description has made me lean more favourably in that direction. Hopefully my experience in Providence will be as rewarding as yours seems to have been!
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Old 10-04-2012   #7
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Re: Providence

Sounds great, Freyasfire--hope you have a nice time.If you do decide to go to Newport, there is a great place to stay called "Melville House" on 39 Clark St., Newport RI., 02840 (I think the phone # is 401 848-5300, and the e-mail address is newportinn@aol.com) Anyhow, It's a restored Georgian house, and is really something to look at. A really beautiful location, and the owner was very solicitous and friendly. It cost a hundred and something a night when I went, so it's a tad pricey. But if you're just going for a day or two you might be able to splurge a little!

And technically, I think the Starbucks is across the street from the missing 454 Angell home. I'm not sure, but I think there's an apartment complex now where HPL's house used to be.

Good luck.
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Old 10-04-2012   #8
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Re: Providence

I've been wanting to plan a trip to Providence for years. Have passed through there multiple times via train on my way to Boston but never had the opportunity to stop. These posts have been great and made me seriously plan a legitimate vacation there.
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