Mary Elizabeth Sharpe

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Mary Elizabeth Sharpe
Mary Elizabeth Evans

(1884-10-23)October 23, 1884
DiedApril 4, 1985(1985-04-04) (aged 100)
Spouse(s)Henry Dexter Sharpe
ChildrenHenry D. Sharpe Jr.

Mary Elizabeth Sharpe (née Evans; October 23, 1884 – April 4, 1985) was an American philanthropist, businesswoman, and self-taught architect who is known for her work on Brown University's campus in Providence, Rhode Island. She became a prominent member of the Garden Club of America, created an annual tree fund, and worked on many landscaping projects.[1]


Sharpe was born in Syracuse, New York, on October 23, 1884, to William E. G. Evans and Fanny Elizabeth Evans. At a young age, Sharpe lost her father, and as a way to help her mother and three sisters, she began making candies to sell.[1][2] At age 13, after selling candy to friends and townspeople, the knowledge of Sharpe's candy spread throughout the city as "Mary Elizabeth's Candy".[3] The business grew, and she moved to New York and created a managing company, "Mary Elizabeth Ltd of New York", and two tea rooms in Boston and Newport.[1]

At the start of World War I Mary Sharpe joined the US Food Administration and later joined the Red Cross in Paris to check over the U.S. Central Diet kitchen.[1] During this time Sharpe also went on to write two books. One detailed her candy and chocolate recipes and techniques.[2] The other was titled War time Recipes.[4]

After the war, Mary Sharpe returned home to her businesses, and in 1920, she married Henry Dexter Sharpe, a man she met on a horseback-riding trip out west before the war. They married and settled down in Providence, Rhode Island, near the Sharpe family's manufacturing company, Brown & Sharpe.[2]

The Sharpe Refectory in Wriston Quad was named after Mary Elizabeth and Chancellor Henry D. Sharpe.[5]

Settling down in Providence allowed for Mary Sharpe to explore her interest in gardening. She closed her businesses in the mid-1930s and immersed herself in the culture of Providence. As her love of French culture grew, Henry and Mary built a French style house at 84 Prospect Street which was later named the Rochambeau House. This building would later house Brown University's Department of Romance Languages.[1]

In 1924, the couple had a son named Henry D. Sharpe Jr. who would grow up to take over the Brown & Sharpe business.[4]


In the 1940s, Mary Sharpe joined the Garden Club of America which allowed her to create an annual tree fund that successfully planted 3,000 new trees. She later also took on a job being the landscape architect for Brown University's campus.[1]

She was also heavily involved in politics; she was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1928 and 1936 and Republican Elector in 1932.[4] During the 1960s Sharpe successfully advocated for a waterfront park at India Point in Providence.[6]

In the 1970s, she pledged $153,000 for the dilapidated waterfront in India Point Park and got the mayor to match her in funds to create a tree-lined park. Sharpe would continue to work on landscape projects like India Point Park and Brown University across Providence until she died on April 4, 1985.[1]

in 2001, Mary Elizabeth Sharpe was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame for her contributions.[1]

Further reading[edit]

  • Carbone, Gerald M. (March 14, 2017). Brown & Sharpe and the Measure of American Industry: Making the Precision Machine Tools That Enabled Manufacturing, 1833-2001. McFarland. ISBN 9781476669212.
  • Weiss, Peg (December 1978). "Florence Koehler and Mary Elizabeth Sharpe: An American Saga of Art and Patronage". Arts Magazine (4): 108–117.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame: Mary Elizabeth Sharpe, Inducted 2001". Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "The Story of Mary Elizabeth Evans Sharpe". Onondaga Historical Association. March 11, 2015. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  3. ^ The Pacific Reporter. West Publishing Company. 1923.
  4. ^ a b c Croyle, Johnathan (January 12, 2019). "Syracuse's Candy Girl: One of the city's greatest success stories". Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  5. ^ "Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame: Mary Elizabeth Sharpe, Inducted 2001". Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  6. ^ Improvements to I-195, Providence County: Environmental Impact Statement. Federal Highway Administration/Northwestern University. 1996. pp. 3–97.