Strange New England - Turk's Headturks.1

At the intersection of Westminster and Weybosset Street in Providence Rhode Island is a site that has puzzled many. It has been called the Turk’s Head Building. Rumors of secret organization, religious cults, and eccentric men have been circulating around this fair city for as long as I can remember. In my search for the truth, I discover that some of these rumors contain a measure of truth.

The building is the source of one of Providence’s most famous legends. Unfortunately this tale has been pushed aside for more fantastic stories to entertain the masses. The story tells of a Man named Jacob Whitman who once owned a home on this site in the mid-eighteenth century. His porch was adorn with a carving of a Turk. Over time the corner was called Turk’s Head by locals. After Mr. Whitman passed away people continued to associate that name to the area. Eventually a commercial building replaced Mr. Whitman’s home but the name still stuck. When the present building was eventually built, a large-scale head of a Turk was included in the design in reference to this legend. The story might have some truth. The Historical society posses a carving of a Turk’s head which is said to be the very one from Whitman’s front porch.

turks.2As for the secret clubs, There is a club called the Turk’s Head Club which is based in the building. From what little information I could find it seems to be a club of Brown University students or Alumni. I found many other college clubs associating themselves with the Turk’s Head club but could not find the exact details concerning the clubs itself. As so often in the past, as you peel away one layer of a mystery, it revels new curiosities concealed within.

~ Strange New England



Other Sources:

Providence Architecture – Brown EDU

History concerning the tradition of the head:

Saracen’s Head – (The Diary of Samuel Pepys – Daily entries from the 17th century London diary)

Posted in Historical, Mysterious Landmarks and tagged , , , , , , , , , with 1 comment.


  • Craig vale says:

    The ” Turk” figure head is also attributed to Jacob as having been acquired it from a demolition of a merchant ship. Some historical references say it was later lost in a storm.It would be interesting to see just what the historical society has and the provenance of the piece.

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