Lovecraft’s Providence

I spent last weekend at SMOFCon in Providence, Rhode Island, mostly inside the sheltered environment of the Marriott Bonvoy hotel. I did get out for a walk on a damp Sunday morning to attempt the Necronomicon walking tour of sites associated with H.P. Lovecraft in the College Hill district of the city.

The eponymous College Hill, location of Brown University, is edged by a sharp ridge, along which Benefit Street runs from south to north, with a steep drop to the Providence River an the canal to the west. It was easy to imagine tendrils of horrible fog swirling up from below, from the less salubrious parts of the town to trouble the white middle-classes on the higher ground.

135 Benefit Street, supposedly the basis of The Shunned House, “a particular house on the eastern side of the street; a dingy, antiquated structure perched on the abruptly rising side-hill, with a great unkempt yard dating from a time when the region was partly open country… that house, to the two persons in possession of certain information, equals or outranks in horror the wildest phantasy of the genius who so often passed it unknowingly, and stands starkly leering as a symbol of all that is unutterably hideous.”
The home of Henry Anthony Wilcox in The Call of Cthulhu, 7 Thomas Street, “the Fleur-de-Lys Building in Thomas Street, a hideous Victorian imitation of seventeenth-century Breton architecture which flaunts its stuccoed front amidst the lovely colonial houses on the ancient hill, and under the very shadow of the finest Georgian steeple in America.”

I’m also pretty certain that I took a selfie in front of Lovecraft’s residence at the time of his death, which has been moved from its original address at 64 College Street to 65 Prospect Street; but the picture seems to have been eliminated from my device, probably by some nameless eldritch unearthly power, unprepared to share the image with the human world.

I did take a picture of the sign marking H.P. Lovecraft Memorial Square, which is flanked by an arcane but mangled symbol on a metal plate to the right, and a graphic display of a flashing hand with numbers counting down to the end of time on the other. (Actually the numbers may just be counting down until the traffic lights change; sometimes what you get from these experiences is what you bring to them.)

Lovecraft is of course a tremendously problematic figure, but his descriptive powers are extraordinary, and it was fascinating, though also damp, to walk the streets that had inspired him.