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Samuel M. Conant House

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1895. 104 Clay St.

This elegantly detailed Neo-Federal house was built for the head of a printing firm, who was also a son of the owner of the Conant Thread Company. A tower of the Conant plant can be seen as the terminal vista of Clay Street a few blocks away in Pawtucket. (A block away, and within equally easy walking distance of the High Victorian splendor of his residence, Benjamin Greene located his Greene and Daniels thread works, which the Conant-Coates behemoth eventually did in.)

The house is brick-faced below, clapboarded above, its front symmetrically organized around a pair of two-story semicircular bays which swell out to embrace an entrance porch that is ample enough to serve as a small veranda. This shelters a spreading, double-doored portal framed by leaded glass side lights and a stretched fanlight. But apart from the swollen grandeur of the mass, the meticulous and copious detailing attracts attention: attenuated Corinthian columns as porch supports, an elaborate Palladian window-door centered in the upstairs story, a broad and elegant modillion cornice, all topped by a row of four dormers, two capped in pinched and austere pediments, two in pinched and elongated broken scrolls. At every level closely packed, elegantly turned balustrading animates the elevation: at the second level as a porch parapet, at the cornice as bay parapets, at the roof pinnacle as a “widow's walk” between chimneys which flank the central halls cutting through the house downstairs and up. Much excellent woodwork remains inside.

In the time separating this and the Greene House ( CF5), styles changed, along with the attitude toward the proper display of wealth—assertive effects giving way to refined. But the joy in exuberant display continued. Up to the time of writing, this house has survived the usual fate of such houses converted to nursing homes. It would be unfortunate to lose such a fine example of the early Colonial Revival attempting to outdo its Federal precedent.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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