CRANSTON , R.I. -- In 1994, in a depressed real estate market, Andrew Lombardi found a bargain: a massive Greek Revival mansion that had fallen victim to receivership.
Then a bachelor in his early 30s, Lombardi decided to buy the property, renovate it, and keep it as his home. He was undaunted by its size (three floors and 15 rooms, not including bathrooms) or its derelict condition (it had been abandoned by its previous owner).
"I really had no idea what I was getting into," said Lombardi, a chiropractor who is now a husband and father, "so I went into it with both feet and just nipped away at it."
Over the next five years, he restored the house to its original grandeur and turned it into a Victorian-style bed-and-breakfast called Edgewood Manor . The results of his labor s are spectacular . The handsomely furnished mansion truly is, as its motto proclaims, "an elegant reminder of Rhode Island's opulent past."
The house, built in 1905 in Cranston's Edgewood neighborhood just across Narragansett Bay from Providence, is a gorgeous showcase for a bounty of stained glass, crystal chandeliers, oak floors, stately fireplaces, intricately carved woodwork, and striking antiques. It's like a living museum where you can roam freely and touch the collections.
Overdone, this luxurious decor could have been stuffy and claustrophobic. Instead, it strikes the perfect balance of formality and comfort, and the vast house easily absorbs the period fixtures and furnishings while remaining roomy and inviting. Website photos of Edgewood Manor make the place look imposing and a bit pretentious, but staying there is the opposite experience.
The house is a grand beauty -- from the handsome foyer with ornate ceilings, to the sweeping staircase, to the majestic chiming of the grandfather clock, to our elegant second-floor room, called the Victorian, which stretches from the front of the house to the back and has windows on three sides. Its spaciousness supplied plenty of room for a four-poster king-size mahogany bed, working fireplace, sitting area, and private marble bathroom. The room had modern amenities, too, including air conditioning, cable TV, a phone, an alarm clock, and a hair dryer. There are also whirlpool tubs in five of the nine guest rooms and Wi-Fi throughout the house, which has a rich history.
It was built as a private home for Samuel Priest, a Lithuanian-born Jewish immigrant who founded a successful textile dying company, Imperial Printing and Finishing. His personalized touches include a sitting room with domed ceiling designed to provide superior acoustics for his four musician daughters. In 1950, the house was donated to the Roman Catholic Church, which turned it into a convent. In the 1980s, it was sold to a Cranston hospital, which owned it until falling on hard times in the early 1990s. That's when Lombardi stepped in.
He also owns the next-door Charles Newhall House, a circa-1892 shingle-style Victorian that he bought in 1996 as a companion B&B. It lacks the opulence of Edgewood Manor and has no common areas. The only reason to choose Newhall over Edgewood is if you're traveling with children, who are allowed there but not next door.
We never met Lombardi, who doesn't live at the property and often staffs the place with Johnson & Wales University students. That made Edgewood Manor feel less folksy than other B&Bs where the owners are part of the landscape. But we learned later that the high-spirited woman who served us breakfast was Lombardi's mother, Joy Generali.
She's an accommodating cook who offered us choices galore, including eggs Florentine, mini-croissants filled with cream cheese and jelly, sugar-sprinkled blueberry corn muffins, French toast with strawberries and bananas, sausage, and English muffins, served in a dining room that felt airlifted from a castle. Its 10-seat table is surrounded by throne-like chairs and laid out with silk tablecloths and elegant flatware.
This is an urban B&B, just around the corner from a bank and two chain pharmacies. That means street noise can drift in; when we visited, a screaming fire engine woke us at 7:23 on Sunday morning. But the mansion is usually blissfully quiet. And its tremendous location -- in a National Historic District just a few blocks from Roger Williams Park Zoo -- makes it ideal for travelers who want non-hotel lodging without sacrificing convenience.
Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.