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Phillipsdale Housing

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1883 and later, 1890s–1910s, Hilton and Jackson for some of the later brick housing. 100 and 200 numbers on Roger Williams Ave. Ruth St.
  • Phillipsdale Housing (John M. Miller)

Phillipsdale offers a picture of various types of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century workers' housing, much of which is fairly well preserved. The Phillips and Glenlyon operations so overshadowed the brief occupancy of the Richmond Paper Company at this place that some have conjectured that its earliest housing was “moved in” from another site. More likely it went up c. 1883–1884 when Richmond Paper built the factory acquired by Phillips a decade later. The second of two brick duplexes at numbers 115–121 Roger Williams Avenue (dating before 1910) is typical of most of the brick housing in the village. Its sculptural roof treatment derives from contemporary examples of English model housing. The hipped roof extends its lateral slopes downward to shelter recessed entrance porches on either end, while front and back the elevations thrust into its slope to make quasi-dormers for second-story windows. The plasticity of the roof means to replace the regimented look of earlier industrial housing by an image of cottagey coziness. Three duplexes, numbers 137–147, all originally clapboard, use gambrels with oversized dormers, aspiring to the same cottagey effect. Surprisingly, this favorite shape for the early Colonial Revival is unusual in industrial housing at the time. The plain clapboard Grace Episcopal Church (1903) and adjacent elementary school (1879–1880), which in time became the church's parish house, 130 and 132 Roger Williams Avenue, were Phillips benefactions.

The intersection of Bourne Avenue, where the former Phillips company store, now much altered, occupies the northwest corner, marks the former heart of the village, providing the principal entrance to both the wire works and the bleachery. Beyond this intersection are more brick duplexes derived from enlightened English prototypes, numbers 166–180 and 238–260, these slightly staggered on their sites in another nominal gesture against the regimented look. Opposite, at numbers 167–235, are examples of a type unusual for Rhode Island: a long row of earlier (c. 1883) single-family houses built as squarish boxes, their gable ends to the street with long, narrow porches for both entrance and sitting running the length of their downhill side (except for a few later insertions of two-story flats with tiered porches and more gambreled gables facing the street). A couple of traditional Victorian clapboard duplexes (1883) with ornamental brackets supporting door hoods follow at numbers 253–259. The pyramidal pile of the roof and the poke of tall chimneys through it are especially impressive. Both their size and their position close to the top of the village slope suggest that they housed overseers (probably for the bleachery, because the Phillips superintendent and company doctor shared a duplex next to the company store). A final pair of brick duplexes, numbers 261–267, are larger than the other brick units and prettier, with latticed porches; they, too, were doubtless for supervisory personnel. On Ruth Street, which runs on a ridge above the rest of the village, is more duplex housing of different sorts from different building periods (now intermixed with much more recent houses). Notwithstanding this considerable stock of company housing in the village, most workers originally commuted to the Seekonk enclave by trolley from Providence.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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