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Dorrance House

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1720, c. 1750. 1971, restoration, Peter Flint. 2 Jencks Rd. (not visible)

Close to the road, this house has been palisaded by planking to thwart even minimal intrusion. Samuel Dorrance, the first minister in the border Connecticut town of Voluntown, once owned a very large tract, part of which he gave to his brothers George and John, who built this house near their saw- and gristmill in the 1720s. In 1728 a boundary adjudication placed this portion of the Dorrance holdings in Rhode Island. Originally a narrow two-story, five-bay shingle house one room wide with a large stone central chimney, the house had only two rooms on the ground floor—parlor to the west, kitchen (keeping room) to the east with a stair between (here quite wide) to two bedrooms upstairs. Although this five-bay, one-room-wide type was fairly common in the seventeenth century, Rhode Island has few survivors. Like many of its type, it was expanded around 1750 by three rooms to the rear of the original two by extending the rear half of the gable into a typical saltbox massing. Parlor woodwork which survives from this remodeling and much other evidence provided the basis for a thorough and knowledgeable restoration by the architect Peter Flint, who lived here and was active in Rhode Island preservation work until he moved to Keene, New Hampshire. The Dorrance House is among the important seventeenth-century houses in Rhode Island.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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