Surprising True Story of Providence Zoo’s Amazing Sentinel Dog
Think the Sentinel dog statue at Roger Williams Park Zoo is just a photo op spot? Think again.
Though tens of thousands of zoo guests have enjoyed Providence's Roger Williams Park Zoo over the years and have likely snapped a photo or two with the park's beloved dog statue, how many people truly know his tale - or even his name?
This bronze mastiff has been a part of the park since the late 1890s and in real life was once owned by the richest woman in America. So how did he come to be inside the zoo with kids climbing him daily? We did some digging to find out.
This beloved statue was once a real life family pet named 'Black Prince' who saved the lives of two of his young owners. In the mid-1800s Black Prince was owned by Anna Almy Jenkins, the granddaughter of Moses Brown, the man who founded Brown University.
She was living with her three children at Clark House on Benefit Street in Providence and was considered the "Richest Woman in America" at the time. Sadly on November 20, 1849 a fire broke out in that home and took the lives of Jenkins and her youngest daughter.
Amazingly, Jenkins oldest daughter and son survived the deadly blaze all thanks to Black Prince, the family's pet mastiff. Black Prince had been chained up in the yard when the fire broke out, but somehow managed to break his chains, charge into the burning house and rescued the children with his warning barks.
Which is why you see the links of chain down the statue's back.
This bronze version of Black Prince was designed by someone who may have appreciated the heroic dog more than most. Thomas F. Hoppin, the fiancé of fire survivor Ann Jenkins, was a painter, sculptor and graphic artist. He designed the statue as a wedding present for Ann in 1852, had it cast in bronze by Gorham Manufacturing (potentially one of the first bronze cast statues in America) and the couple placed it on the lawn of their new home, Hoppin House, built on the site of Jenkins' former residence.
The new home was described by the Library of Congress as "one of the largest and most elegant houses built in Providence in the mid-nineteenth century" and the Black Prince statue stood guard outside its doors for nearly 50 years.
Years after the couple passed away, family members decided to donate the beautiful bronze statue to the City of Providence and its long history with Roger Williams Park began.
Now for more than 125 years visitors to the park and zoo have been snapping photos with the heroic pooch, most never knowing his amazing story. Until now.
Just like Black Prince, Hoppin House still stands today and was recently sold for $2 million. The once modern marvel was dubbed the “House of a Thousand Candles" because of how bright it shone both inside and out when parties were being hosted and it has welcomed a number of famous guests over the years.
Now on the National Register of Historic Places, Hoppin House was where President Rutherford B. Hayes was staying when he came to Rhode Island in 1877 and made the first presidential phone call from Warwick's Rocky Point Park.
It's a home that holds a lot of Rhode Island history and you could call it your own. Today the mansion has been remodeled into a number of luxury condos. Keep scrolling to see inside Hoppin House today.