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Iri Brown Farm

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1815, c. 1850, c. 1875, house. 1885, barn. 111 Plain Woods Rd. (.5 mile from Moosup Valley Rd.) (barn partially visible in winter)

The Iri Brown farmhouse is a prettily maintained one-and-one-half-story Federal house with a tiny trap-door monitor, and comfortable Greek Revival and plain Victorian additions to the rear. It is the spectacular barn, however, among the grandest extant in Rhode Island (except for estate barns) and beautifully restored, which is of exceptional interest. (Unfortunately, its position behind the house and trees make viewing difficult except in winter, and then only partially.) A four-story barn under one immense spreading gable set broadside against a rock ledge slope, it contains entrances on three levels. One entrance cuts to the cow stalls through the masonry base at the front of the barn facing the road. Up the slope, entrances at the second level into either side of the barn provide for carriages and horses. Up again, an entrance to the rear at the third level serves the hay wagon and the loft above. Three square shafts from the third level to the ground (two of masonry, one of wood, and all plaster-lined) provide for interior silage. The fitting of the barn to the rock ledge of the hill with a combination of masonry walls and pegged timber construction is especially impressive. An altogether unusual barn type for Rhode Island, it recalls the Shakers' multilevel “bank” barns set into hill slopes; and, in fact, the Brown family had Shaker connections. (Still in the barn is an exceptionally large oxen-drawn wagon for hauling the granite blocks used to build it. The blocks were suspended beneath an oak timber construction resembling a giant sawhorse on wheels.)

Iri Brown, a schoolteacher as well as a farmer, was a director of the Mount Vernon Bank and founded, with his brother-in-law, the Moosup Valley Church. He very likely provided the means of moving the granite blocks which underpin the church and form its cemetery walls. Family legend has it that the magnificent barn was built as an inducement to convince Iri's grandson Curtis Foster to remain on the farm, as, indeed, he did. It is now primarily used as a barn for riding horses.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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