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Asa Potter House in Kingston, Rhode Island | House For Sale

Asa Potter House in Kingston, Rhode Island | House For Sale
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The fireplace in the master bedroom is one of five throughout the Asa Potter House.

The fireplace in the master bedroom is one of five throughout the Asa Potter House.

When we discuss the historical importance of the Asa Potter House, we’re not referring only to its age or even to the prominence of the many generations of Potters — lawyers, legislators, ministers, teachers, and physicians — who lived within these walls, followed more recently by Marilyn’s parents, Dr. Charles and Marie Fish, and their family. We’re talking about the man who, more than anyone, succeeded in winning our independence from Great Britain five years after we declared it in July 1776. You see, on the night of March 5, 1781, none other than George Washington slept in the old part of the Asa Potter House, probably within a few feet of where we were drinking our coffee with Joe and Chip. And surely he must have visited the now fully restored three-holer out back.

Why was he in Kingston? Well, he was traveling with some of his officers and his personal slave, William Lee, from New Windsor, New York, on the Hudson River, to Newport, Rhode Island. He was to meet with the Comte de Rochambeau in hopes of convincing him to commit the French army to the fight against the British. Of course, we all know the French did, indeed, play a crucial role in General Washington’s victory at Yorktown, Virginia, six months later.

Some accounts maintain that General Washington may have slept in a different building, referred to as a tavern, on the corner of the Asa Potter House property. But searches have uncovered no evidence of a building’s ever having been there. Besides, we have a historical witness: Elizabeth Potter, the 11-year-old daughter of Thomas Potter, the home’s owner at that time. For the rest of her life, Elizabeth enjoyed remembering Washington’s visit. “General Washington came to my father’s house [and] took me on his knee,” she once wrote. She went on to describe his uniform as “patched at the elbows and all the American officers badly clothed.”

Marilyn’s mother liked to say that not only had George Washington slept in their house but that he also had had his hair cut there. She was hopeful, she would say, of “finding one of his curls” someday. Historians don’t buy that, however, although they do admit that Washington was shaved in the house next door (still there) by a William “Major” Lunt, a barber who forever after told his customers that they were “being shaved by the same razor that had been applied to the face of General George Washington.” That rings true, and we believe Elizabeth Potter’s account, too. But we doubt Marilyn’s mother was ever going to find one of Washington’s curls. Anyway, didn’t he wear a wig?

Nonetheless, if you’re a member of the lucky third family to own the Asa Potter House and you’re rummaging around the two-room shed out back, or maybe behind a wall in the two newly restored rooms on the second floor of the old section — once the “servants’ quarters” and now a laundry and a potential office, both with overhead beams and exposed floorboards — you might keep an eye out for a few hairs.

Silly? Probably. But, well, you just never know. And where do you suppose “Major” Lunt eventually stashed that razor?

For details, contact Chip Munro, Keller Williams Realty, Cranston, RI. 401-785-1700, 401-473-5590; chipmunro@aol.com, kw.com

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