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Zion Bible College

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Frederick S. Peck House, known as Belton Court
1905–1906. 1927–1928, visitor and service wings, tower, and connector to original house; Martin and Hall. 27 Middle Highway.
  • Zion Bible College (Frederick S. Peck House, known as Belton Court)

This huge, essentially styleless but vaguely English medieval structure was built for Frederick Stanhope Peck (1868–1947) on property that had been in his family since the seventeenth century. Peck was a businessman with interests in banking, manufacturing, and real estate, and a political leader active in the Republican party. He was also a collector of rare books and manuscripts and had an avid interest in genealogy.

Belton Court is notable more for its size and rugged construction than for any remarkably original characteristics of plan or detail. It is built of local blue-gray stone typical of the Narragansett Basin and ranging in texture from a coarse sandstone to a pebbly conglomerate. Conceived as a manor house for an expansive estate that once encompassed 800 acres, Belton Court comprises three wings arranged to form an asymmetrical U around a courtyard opening toward the south. The original main house, standing alone and facing on Middle Highway, became the eastern wing of the court when the other pieces were added roughly twenty years later. Then the house was much enlarged and its entrance reversed by the addition of a porte-cochere to what would formerly have been its rear or garden front. Garages and other estate services went into the west wing of the new court, directly opposite the original house; a block devoted to large rooms for receiving and entertaining visitors closes the north end of the court. Although linked to the original house by a low connector and, to this extent, an addition to it, the visitor block seems to have been conceived as an almost separate establishment with its own entrance, which was opened or kept semiclosed depending on circumstances. Above the courtyard buildings, at the northeast corner, rises a massive four-story square tower. It is the crenellated parapets atop this tower and on several bay windows and the porte-cochere that give the house its nominally medieval flavor.

Belton Court's real interest lies in its interiors. The original house, now used as the president's house by the college that has acquired it, has at its core a broad, low-ceilinged entrance and staircase hall opening through from the front (east) entrance to the portecochere, around which the other rooms, with Neo-Renaissance and Queen Anne detailing of the period, are gathered. Contrasting with this are the expansive public rooms of the north block. Here the focus is a baronial living hall with a monumental fireplace and high segmental-vaulted ceiling decorated with ribs in a square-and-quatrefoil pattern. Column screens separate the living hall from the foyer, a corridor, and a stair hall containing a grand staircase leading one-half flight up to a ballroom.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
Updated By: 
Catherine Boland Erkkila (2021)
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Data

Timeline

  • 1905

    Built
  • 1927

    Addition

What's Nearby

Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "Zion Bible College", [Barrington, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-BA5.

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