Sleepy Pawtuxet. The view looks across the Pawtuxet bridge toward Broad St. Note the electric trolley car nestled in its terminus bay, presumably having arrived from Providence, and the Lovecraft-alike man on the right of the picture walking away from it. Lovecraft had a regular 1906 column in the Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner at about the time of this card (probably photographed c. 1906 or 07), with astronomy articles such as “Is Mars an Inhabited World?”. The card photographer was very unlikely to have caught a 16 year old Lovecraft crossing the bridge to make the trolley connection to Phenix, though he is known to have worn his father’s clothes as might be the case with the man seen here. But the card is indicative of a scene he would have known, had he travelled out to the Gleaner newspaper offices or simply taken an early-springtime walk down that way.

I should clarify a possible point of placename confusion for those reading Lovecraft’s letters. Pawtuxet is not Pawtucket. Pawtucket now appears to be effectively a suburb of Providence, and lies to the north of the city beyond Swan Point Cemetery and at the head of what seems to be the navigable part of the River Seekonk…

… while Pawtuxet is in the far south and just beyond Providence, at the head of a river-valley where that valley meets the Providence River as it starts to meet the ocean. Of the two places Pawtuxet was by far the more sleepy and homey place in Lovecraft’s time. This is confirmed by an author in The Survey of 1922, which gives a vivid flavour of the trolley-ride Lovecraft would have had there…

As the [inexpensive electric trolley] car turns south from Providence, out toward the Pawtuxet Valley, it passes through about nine miles of usual city outskirts. Then suddenly, round a curve, rows of little white clapboard houses appear grouped about a mill close to the sides of the river; and on the hill where once also stood the company store, is the spotless white frame company church. The whole picture is flanked by hills and rolling farm lands. The car has entered “the Valley.” It is a different world. Many inhabitants have never visited the city nine miles away.

Although the Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner offices were out in Phenix, so to visit them from Pawtuxet Lovecraft would then have change trolleys and taken another trolley or bus going west some 12 miles along and deep into the Pawtuxet Valley. I imagine he would taken this more scenic route — Providence – Pawtuxet – Pawtuxet Valley – Phenix, which is only about 21 miles in total.

The even sleepier Phenix, circa 1908.

An example of Lovecraft’s column in the weekly paper, 1906…


Later, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Lovecraft would take friends down to Pawtuxet on the trolley and the place was evidently then known for its fine seafood dinners at the local restaurants. These were presumably on the “shore”, and probably rather affordable given the usual state of Lovecraft’s finances…

On the way back I blew Price [‘treated Price’] to a typical R. I. [Rhode Island] clam dinner at antient Pawtuxet and later stopt at a Waldorf [chain restaurant] to tank up my’self.”

Still another trip was to old Pawtuxet — where, as with Price, I watched Morton eat a shore dinner.

Kirk & his wife passed through Providence on the last lap of a long New England motor tour. I took him to the ancient & unchanged fishing village of Pawtuxet, down the bay.

I imagine that Lovecraft might have been tempted to tantalise his friends while showing them around, by mentioning that Pawtuxet had featured as a substantial setting in his unpublished novel Dexter Ward. Written 1927, the book was not to be published until 1941…

He must likewise have begun to practice an extreme care and secrecy in his graveyard expeditions, for he was never again caught at such wanderings; whilst the rumours of uncanny sounds and manoeuvres at his Pawtuxet farm diminished in proportion. His rate of food consumption and cattle replacement remained abnormally high…

“the creaking of Epenetus Olney’s new signboard … was exactly like the first few notes of the new jazz piece all the radios in Pawtuxet were playing”.


Whipple.org has further useful clarification of the placenames, and warns of a third element of potential confusion, in the article “Pawcatuck, Pawtucket, Pawtuxet: Three Places in Rhode Island?”.

Sadly, the feline-loving Lovecraft never made use of ‘Pawcatuck’ in the kitty sense (one imagines a possible witty word-playing poem on the three Paw-places, re: his inevitable encounters with their paw-padding cats). Though it is deemed the site of ‘faery’ in “Dexter Ward”…

… after a few heralding cards the young wanderer quietly slipped into New York on the Homeric and traversed the long miles to Providence by motor-coach, eagerly drinking in the green rolling hills, the fragrant, blossoming orchards, and the white steepled towns of vernal Connecticut; his first taste of ancient New England in nearly four years. When the coach crossed the Pawcatuck and entered Rhode Island amidst the faery goldenness of a late spring afternoon his heart beat with quickened force, and the entry to Providence along Reservoir and Elmwood avenues was a breathless and wonderful thing despite the depths of forbidden lore to which he had delved.