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Apartments (Mapleville School)

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Mapleville School
c. 1890. End of Sand Hill Rd. (off Victory Highway at intersection with Cooper Hill Rd.)

Despite its conversion, this school retains its exterior image as a handsome Queen Anne schoolhouse, the best preserved of three in the style we shall look at in Burrillville. Because of the exceptional focus on schools among Queen Anne buildings and their importance in the origins of progressive attitudes toward school building in the twentieth century, it is a pity that so few in this once popular style still exist. So it is worthwhile to examine what little remains from a campaign for new schoolhouses around 1890 which brought Queen Anne to Burrillville.

The compelling triangularity of the front elevation, reinforced by the equally forceful triangles of the flanking porches, is enhanced by the scale and placement of the openings. The tall, functional windows on the first floor have a coupled syncopation that, on first glance, may seem regular. They are set against the more decorative Palladian window above, with an elongated keystone making an exclamation mark toward the climactic bell cupola. This decorative quality of the upstairs window becomes explicit in the ribanded and foliated reliefs in the porch gables. Such a playful approach to style, combined with the conspicuous use of ornamentation in the conviction of the importance of art in early education, made Queen Anne especially congenial for schools—and for the overt prettiness of buildings in the remarkable illustration of children's books of the period. Here the ornamentation of the porch gables means to suggest the low triangularity of classical pediments, but in fact their steepness of pitch makes them gables, sharing the slant of the larger roof. The vertical picturesqueness of the massing is characteristically Victorian, while the classical and Renaissance detail anticipates the American Renaissance to come—a combination typifying the Queen Anne moment of the 1880s and early 1890s, when, in American culture generally, the flamboyance associated with Victorianism gave way to the decorousness associated with the American Renaissance. A view of the side of the building reveals how the shallower pitch of the abutting cross roof to the rear permits a full two stories of classrooms behind. The Queen Anne style schools in Bridgeton ( BU33) and Pascoag ( BU34) are doubtless the work of the same, as yet unidentified, designer.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.

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