March 16

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Providence Gazette (March 16, 1771).

“Both the above Houses are well situated for Business.”

Location, location, location!  Several real estate notices ran in the March 16, 1771, edition of the Providence Gazette, many of them noting locations conducive to commercial activities.  The partnership of Thompson and Arnold, for instance, advertised several properties, including a “NEW House and Lot of Land in Providence, with a Wharff a Warehouse theron” and “another new House and Lot in Providence.”  Thompson and Arnold noted that “Both the above Houses are well situated for Business.”  Elizabeth Arnold inserted an estate notice concerning her husband, Oliver.  In addition to calling on “all Persons who are indebted to the Estate” and “all Persons who have just Demands against said Deceased” to settle accounts, she advertised a property to lease.  Arnold provided a description of a “large and commodious Lot directly opposite the Court-House, … situate in the most convenient Part of the Town for Stores or Shops.”

Others advertised properties outside of Providence, noting each location’s potential for pursuing various commercial enterprises.  Sylvanus Sayles listed a farm with one hundred acres for sale or lease.  In addition to a “large Dwelling-House,” it also had “a Number of Out-Buildings, among which are a Shop and Store” located “on the Post Road to Boston.”  Sayles implied that purchasers or renters could depend on prospective customers regularly passing by the shop and store as they traveled between the two cities.  Hezekiah Carpenter advertised “a Tract of Land … lying in Hopkinton, 16 Miles West of Newport.”  It included a house that needed some repair.  Instead of shops and stores already on the property, he emphasized the potential for other kinds of enterprises, noting that “a large Stream of Water runs through the Land, with good Falls, very convenient for erecting Mills.”  Furthermore, the property “lies near and Iron-Work, so that making of Coal would be very profitable to the Purchaser.”

Whether in Providence or beyond, many advertisers who offered real estate for sale or lease did not focus exclusively on residential aspects in their efforts to incite interest.  Instead, they also explained the potential for conducting commercial activities, acknowledging that each property doubled as home and workplace.  Whether purchasers planned to run a shop or operate a mill, advertisers understood that location mattered and structured their notices accordingly.

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