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Rice City

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The handful of buildings at the head of Vaughn Hollow Road hardly makes a “city.” Rice City, however, does take in much countryside, for which a booster like the tavernkeeper Samuel Rice in the 1790s imagined a grand future. Halfway between Providence and Norwich, Connecticut, it was the location of a turnpike tollbooth (which still stands on Plainfield Pike as a rare example of the type), several inns and taverns, and a number of small mills. Today the ensemble counts for more than the individual buildings. First in the village cluster, which barely denotes a center today, comes number 25 Vaughn Hollow Road, a pretty but much restored house of 1804. Adjacent on a corner of the site is a very early school building. The Democrat School (before 1812), moved from another site to 25 Vaughn Hollow Road, is the most important structure in the village simply because one-room schoolhouses of such an early date are extremely rare. Originating as a private school and built by subscription, it was sold to the public in 1817 and served as the village schoolhouse until 1846. The petiteness of its functional detailing and overall scale give it a charming vulnerability. By happy coincidence, its intimate quality as a child's house can be immediately measured against the institutionalized quality of its successor, the Rice City School (1846; 63 Vaughn Hollow Road), both in the latter's rationalization of the double-doored entrance to separate the sexes and in its slightly larger, more public scale. The contrast between the school as child's house and a full-fledged one-room schoolhouse would have been more evident had the latter retained its original bell cupola. Restoration would be especially appropriate because the school and the First Christian Church (1846), also at number 63, rose beside one another simultaneously; both employed two doors, three windows along the side elevations, and a cubic belfry as characteristic minimal Greek Revival expressions of their respective institutional types. Bluntly assembled and ponderous on its gable, the church belfry explodes its modest secular underpinning into the rural majesty appropriate for its calling.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


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William H. Jordy et al., "Rice City", [Coventry, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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