1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Inventory

5.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

    R.I.H.S. home page

 Joseph K. Ott Papers

 Antiques historian and historic preservationist in Providence, RI

 Personal papers, 1961-1994

 Size: .5 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 1103

 Processed by: Karen Eberhart, July 2002

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Joseph "Darby" Kevin O'Neill Ott was born in Providence, RI on April 14, 1929. He married Anne Northrup and they had two boys, Joshua and Andrew. He graduated from Harvard in 1951 with a degree in Economics and then received a master's degree from the Harvard Business School in 1953. He joined his father's company, Joseph M.P. Ott Textile Manufacturing in Pawtucket, in 1953 and worked there for 12 years. His specialty was fiberglass fabric and he designed the first fabrics for "Nike" missile cases, shade fabric for tobacco growers and fiberglass insect screening. The firm was sold in 1964 and he concentrated his energies on researching and writing about antique furniture and participating in urban renewal and historic preservation activities in Providence. He did extensive research on antique furniture made in Rhode Island using collections at the Rhode Island Historical Society and from 1976-1978 he wrote a syndicated weekly column for the Providence Journal called "Antiques in America." He was also a frequent contributor of articles on antiques and colonial cabinetmakers to Antiques magazine and Rhode Island History. Mr. Ott was also very active in the community and participated with vigor in many civic organizations. A listing of his activities, with the dates of his participation when known, appears below.

            His business life continued as the president and sole stockholder in South County Services, Inc. which was a small venture capital firm. He was also the founder of Hill Realty Company which was volunteer-run from 1967-1991 and loaned money for projects aimed at saving older houses from demolition.

            Joseph K. "Darby" Ott died June 10, 1994 in Providence, RI at the age of 65 and was buried in the Swan Point Cemetery.

J.K. Ott's civic and historic preservation activities:

President, Rhode Island Historical Society, 1970-1973

            Rights and Reproductions Committee

            Museum Committee

            Manuscripts Division volunteer

Trustee, Preservation Society of Newport County

Board of Directors, Children's Museum of Rhode Island

President, Benefit Street Association, 1962-1968

Vice President, Providence Preservation Society

            Zoning Committee

            Planning and Architecture Review Committee, 1984-1992

Special Fine Arts Committee for Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the Department of State in Washington, D.C.,

Board of Directors, Providence Atheneum

Treasurer, Alumni Association for the Moses Brown School.

Fine Arts Committee, Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Arts

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Scope and content:

The collection is divided into four series:

            Series I: Correspondence

            The correspondence consists primarily of letters between J.K. Ott and various individuals and organizations interested in antiques. He is often consulted on the origins, worth and general value of furniture made in Rhode Island. A listing of the correspondents is provided below.

            Series II: Writings

             His writings include manuscripts and notes for articles he wrote over the years on the topic of Rhode Island furniture and cabinetmakers. This series also contains the correspondence between J.K. Ott and the editors of Antiques magazine and other publishers regarding article ideas and revisions to the manuscripts.

            Series III: Organizations

            The Benefit Street Association comprises the bulk of this series. The materials provide a comprehensive history of the organization and J.K. Ott's active involvement and enthusiasm for the future development of the Benefit Street neighborhood. This series also contains documentation regarding his involvement with the Rhode Island Historical Society and the Providence Preservation Society. Of particular interest is his work on the John Brown House Loan Exhibition for the RIHS in 1965.

            Series IV: Subjects

            The subject series includes more information about his work with antiques and urban renewal issues. Of note, are the board game he invented which incorporates antiques as part of the action and a file concerning the 1991 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in which Darby and Anne Ott drove their 1901 Hurtu.

See also:

North Benefit Street Association Records (MSS 960) covering 1962-1986 which were donated to RIHS by Karen Fleming in 1995.

Providence Preservation Society Records (MSS 241), in particular the Planning and Architecture Review Committee

Hill Realty Company (MSS 901)

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            Donated by Anne (Northrup) Ott in memory of Joseph K. Ott.

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Series I: Correspondence (see list of correspondents below)

B1. F1.      A-G, 1967-1993

B1. F2.      H-Z, 1966-1986

B1. F3.      Unidentified, 1977-1984, n.d.

Series II: Writings

B1. F4.      "Abraham Redwood's Chairs?" Antiques magazine, March 1981

B1. F5.      "Antiques in America" Providence Journal invoices for syndicated column, 1977-1978

B1. F6.      Antiques magazine correspondence, 1968-1982

B1. F7.      Charles Scribner's Sons - correspondence, 1975

B1. F8.      John Innes Clark, 1971, 1973

B1. F9.      "John Townsend: Two Tables and Chair" Antiques magazine, 1966-1968

B1. F10.    "The Loved One: Being and Account of the Funeral of George Mason of Newport," transcribed by J.K. Ott, 1972

B1. F11.    "More Notes on Rhode Island Cabinetmakers and Their Work" Rhode Island History

B1. F12.    "Recent Discoveries Among Rhode Island Cabinetmakers and Their Work" Rhode Island History, Winter 1969

B1. F13.    "Still More Notes on Rhode Island Cabinetmakers" Rhode Island History

B1. F14.    Wolfe Publications, Inc. - correspondence, 1981-1982

Series III: Organizations

B1. F15.    Benefit Street Association, 1961-1963 

B1. F16.    Benefit Street Association, 1964-1965

B1. F17.    Benefit Street Association, 1966

B2. F1.      Benefit Street Association, 1967-1972, 1977, 1979

B2. F2.      Benefit Street Association, n.d.

B2. F3.      Benefit Street Association - news clippings, 1963-1971

B2. F4.      Providence Preservation Society, 1966-1968

B2. F5.      Rhode Island Historical Society - correspondence, 1969-1984

B2. F6.      Rhode Island Historical Society - John Brown House Loan Exhibition, 1965

Series IV: Subjects

B2. F7.      Allen, William Slater family, 1984-1987

B2. F8.      Board game invented by J.K. Ott called "Happy Birthday,"1968

B2. F9.      Goddard Family books, 1921-1927

B2. F10.    Hurricane barrier, 1964

B2. F11.    Newspaper clippings, 1984-1993

B2. F12.    Painting of Thomas F. Hoppin by G.P.A. Healy (1859), 1972-1973

B2. F13.    Perry-Hewitt Family, n.d.

B2. F14.    Pewter Collector's Club of America, 1963-1994

B2. F15.    Research notes on cabinetmakers and furniture

B2. F16.    Research notes on cabinetmakers and furniture - Exports for years 1776-1790

B2. F17.    Research notes on cabinetmakers and furniture - Imports for years 1776-1790

B2. F18.    Resume and vocational test, 1967, 1974, n.d.

B2. F19.    Taxes on real estate and automobiles, 1985-1987

B2. F20.    Veteran Car Run - London to Brighton, 1991


Arnold, Ralph

Associated Appraisers, Inc.

Barter, Tanya

Bishop, Robert see: Greenfield Village

Bivins, John

Burleigh, Cindy see: Gilders Workshop

Campbell, Paul see: Providence Historic District Commission

Carpenter, Ralph E.

Cianci, Vincent A.

City of Providence

Cohen, Herman M.

Collins, William E.

Community Boating Center

Cooper, Wendy

Deegan, Mr. and Mrs. J.K.

Essex Institute

Failey, Dean Frederick see: Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities

Farnum, Ann see: Essex Institute

Fenton, Joshua see: City of Providence

Gilders Workshop

Ginsburg, Benjamin

Ginsburg & Levy, Inc.

Gores, Pamela W.

Gorham Corporation

Gotjen, John

Greenfield Village

Greenlaw, Barry see: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Hague, W.S. see: Community Boating

Hathikhanavala, Behram A.

Henry Ford Museum see: Greenfield Village

Horton, Frank L. see: Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts

Igler, Kirk Alan see: Parke-Bernet Galleries

King, J.H. Jr.

Kuhl, Mrs.

Levy, Bernard see: Ginsburg & Levy

MacKinney, Mrs.

Marvin, James W. see: Shelburne Museum

Miailhe, W.A.B.

Milnor, James W.

Montgomery, Charles F. see: Winterthur Museum and Gardens

Moore, George E.

Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Newport Historical Society

Old Sturbridge Village 

Parke-Bernet Galleries

Phister, Frank see: Gorham Corporation

Porter, Daniel

Preservation Society of Newport County

Providence Historic District Commission

Ring, Betty

Sack, Harold

Save the Bay see: Community Boating

Scotti, Nino see: Associated Appraisers, Inc.

Shelburne Museum

Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities

Spark, Victor

Stone, Stanley

Walsh, Alison see: Community Boating

Wells, Ruth see: Old Sturbridge Village

Walker, Deborah see: Newport Historical Society

Winterthur Museum and Gardens

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Antiques - Rhode Island

Benefit Street Association

Bernstein, Stanley

Cabinet makers

East Side Project Citizens' Committee

East Side Renewal Project

Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island

Furniture - Rhode Island

Neighborhood associations - RI - Providence

North Benefit Street Association

Providence Preservation Society

Providence Redevelopment Agency

Rhode Island Historical Society

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