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Tillinghast Road Historic District, Steam and Wireless Museum

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c. 1702–present. 679 Tillinghast Rd. (south of Frenchtown Rd.)
  • Tillinghast Road Historic District, Steam and Wireless Museum

A linear settlement of seven eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century farm complexes and a church along both sides of a winding country road, this district, also known as Place's Corner, shows a remarkably coherent relationship among historic structures in an agrarian setting, one which could be threatened by suburban development. Each of the farms retains several outbuildings, including barns, sheds, chicken coops, and well houses. The houses illustrate the persistence of the five-bay, one-and-one-half-story format for rural vernacular buildings. Only two, those of Daniel Briggs (c. 1702–1717, 1725) and Thomas Tillinghast (1760), are two and one-half stories. The Tillinghast House is unusual for the asymmetry of its four-bay front elevation, and even more so for its paired center chimneys, a form also seen in the old section of the Whitridge House in Tiverton ( TI11).

The vernacular Greek Revival Frenchtown Baptist Church (1822), at the corner of Frenchtown Road and Tillinghast Road, was moved to the Tillinghast Farm in 1972 to prevent its demolition. Its projecting vestibule is rare in Rhode Island. It is now used as a lecture hall by the Steam and Wireless Museum. The pioneer Massie Wireless Station “PJ” (1920s, formerly located at Point Judith and moved here also to prevent demolition) is a tiny gabled box mounted as a mini–viewing “tower” out to sea, at one end of a larger gabled box, all shingled. The Steam and Wireless Museum, established in 1963, features several steam engines, including a 150-horsepower Harris-Corliss engine with a twelve-foot flywheel, together with steam rollers and other antique steam-operated construction and farming machines.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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