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Philip Tomas(?)–Lewis Tower House

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c. 1825. 2199 Mendon Rd.

Masonry below, clapboard above, this L-shaped, low-gabled house is built into the side of a hill at two levels. Exceptional for Rhode Island is the complete screening of the two outside walls of the L by porches, giving an effect more expected in the mid-Atlantic or southern states. Of the two tiers to the front, the upper porch only runs the full length of the L: across the front, then folded along the ell addition on the upper terrace, for which the extension of the ground-story masonry provides the base. The crudeness of the simple, widely spaced, square-posted porch supports takes on a degree of elegance from the lightness of membering characteristic of Federal design. Elegant, too, is the right-angled junction of the gables. They make the L-shaped mass not a simple collision, but an interlock, in which the front gable (as a gable-on-hip-roof) intersects a simple cross gable coming in over the rear ell, but so seamlessly as to maintain a continuous pitch for the L-plan roof of the upper porch. As a final grace note, the carpenter capped the upstairs porch posts with strips of wood to make a primitive Tuscan or Doric allusion under the eaves.

The principal living floor has always been upstairs—another rarity for the period. Each leg of the gabled L has its central chimney core, with back-to-back hearths for parlor and dining room on the upper level in front, for kitchen and (originally) a bedroom behind. Aligned with each chimney is an entrance, one at the ground into the basement level at the front of the house, the other off the side terrace. This house fits both site and function with the nicety and abstraction of a morticed joint. In virtually every respect its qualities oppose those of the Jillson House (preceding entry). Although it is customarily known as the Tower House because of this family's long ownership, the Towers purchased the property only in 1833, when the house already existed on it.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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