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Joseph Bicknell–Dr. Hervey Armington House

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c. 1840(?). 3591 Pawtucket Ave. (corner of Willett Ave.)
  • Joseph Bicknell–Dr. Hervey Armington House (John M. Miller)

Diagonally across the street is an example of a rare house type, a so-called lightning splitter. It takes its name from the exceedingly steep pitch of the roof on a narrow house, which, according to jocular myth, would split the bolt that hit it—although the story does not go on to tell us how this feat might save the house. A purer variant of the precedent, minus the myth, continues to the present in the A-frame, for the practical reason that it is an economical means of obtaining space with simple framing, although at some inconvenience from excessive interference from eaves inside. Joseph Bicknell married Pearce Allin's daughter Louisa from across the street in 1827, and the house was allegedly her father's wedding present. But stylistically the date seems early for a house of this appearance. Is the roof form, then, the result of a later remodeling when Dr. Armington and his wife, a younger Allin daughter, moved into the house in 1850? In any event, the charm of the “lightning splitter” is its exaggeration of the simple gabled box of the childhood image for “house.” This and the Daniel Pierce House in Providence (see entry) seem to be the finest examples of the type in the state.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Joseph Bicknell–Dr. Hervey Armington House", [East Providence, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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