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Moosup Valley Congregational-Christian Church and Cemetery

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1864–1865 (church). 81 Moosup Valley Rd.

The hamlet of Moosup Valley contains, in a clapboarded cluster, church, cemetery, library, and grange as the civic center for an area which still presents much of its traditional farming image, although actual farming is minimal. This church is almost as vernacular in quality as the Mount Vernon Christian Church ( FO20), except that its scale, the puffed-up belfry, and perhaps the aggressive quality of the sheltering door hoods all clearly proclaim its function. Nor is there any doubt of its being Greek Revival, however belated. Here, in fact, the country Greek Revival church displays all its principal elements, unadorned except for the simplest moldings. Broad, flat door frames and building corners and the same qualities in the paneling of the inset doors speak directly of the boards which make them. Most “Greek” are the projecting door entablatures, but only allusively. If the positioning of the domestically scaled window slightly above the level of the projecting entablature gives it a degree of levitated independence, the weighty quality of the doors on either side restrains its animation as by a gravitational force. The box-on-platform belfry crowns the ridgepole with its louvered openings, each stage marked by strongly projecting eaves. And at the base, a low, stepped platform of rough-quarried granite, running the length of the elevation, serves as the country stylobate. Pieced together with long granite blocks eight to ten feet in length, this was the work of oxen, who also hauled the comparably seated granite pieces for the cemetery wall. Prime movers for most of the nineteenth century, oxen outnumbered horses on Rhode Island farms until well after the middle of the century. They worked the rocky fields, plodded through mired roads, and made possible the heaviest chores of building. Only when oxen had gentled the land could horses take over.

This church, however, was not always so plain. Acroteria of signboard scale and flatness once embellished its belfry moldings with forceful undulation. It would cost little to return this feature so that the church could again flaunt its Grecian message to the countryside with an audacity unmatched by any other extant in the state. In the process, why not strip the belfry of aluminum siding?

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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