Long Way to Go

Bristol’s historic Longfield estate might have a second chance with restoration plans


On a smallish plot of land sits a beautiful house, mostly in ruins. It’s a classic example of American Gothic Revival, with spiked minarets at the peaks of the steep roof and pointed arch windows. It’s also probably haunted.

Everyone who lives in the East Bay knows of, has seen, or at least passed by Longfield at 1200 Hope Street, an unsettlingly creepy house that’s been the subject of much speculation and urban legend over the years. People around town will swear it’s haunted, though by what, nobody can seem to agree; some say it’s full of the ghosts of slaves that died in the care of the owners, the DeWolf family, and others say it is the ghosts of the DeWolfs themselves. Either way, as a kid, you’d win bragging rights for making it as close as the front porch. Just looking at the house in its current state, one could certainly imagine a spirit or two rattling around inside.

Constructed in 1848 by Charles Dana Gibson and Abbey DeWolf, the house originally existed on 60 acres of land. Abbey’s father, James DeWolf, famous (or rather, infamous) for making his money in the slave trade, originally owned the land, which Abbey inherited after his death. The house was nicknamed “Longfield” because of its long, unobstructed view of Narragansett Bay. It stayed in the DeWolf family for almost a century and a half but was sold by Daniel Gibson Knowlton in 1972. Later that year, it was accepted onto the National Register of Historic Places.

The house has been on and off the market since then, changing hands several times. The land has been divided and subdivided to the point that the property now exists on just over an acre. Several plans were made to restore the home, but it seemed no one had deep enough pockets to accomplish the task, until now.

An offer has been made on the house, and once permits and paperwork have been signed and submitted, the deal will close. Coldwell Banker Sales Associate Dory Skemp assures that the plans for Longfield are to return the estate to its former beauty, using as much of the original interior and exterior as possible and banishing those rumors of hauntings. The buyer, an out-of-stater, hopes to make it into condominiums, but one thing is for sure: he has a lot of work ahead.