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Beaver Tail Farm

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c. 1904. 601 Beaver Tail Rd.

Once a farm, this is now another mowed island cut from the seashore tangle for a shingled cottage. A barn set against the road, however, suggests that a residue of the old farm continued into the cottage phase—probably an operation centered on riding horses. In contrast to Meeresblick's stylish reference to the contemporary vernacular bungalow, comfortably spread to the complexities of a large house, Beaver Tail Farm makes a prim appeal, however nominal, to the colonial gambrel tradition. Its conciseness of form opposes the more amiable ramble of Meeresblick's gables and dormers. In place of the sheltering overhang of its projecting eaves, here the wall folds abruptly to the roof with no more than a minimal molding to mark the shift of plane and seal the seam. Shape is abstractly compelling in its crisp, linear angularity, as of folded paper. The linearity of the openings, seemingly drawn on the surfaces of their walls rather than penetrating into them, intensifies the abstractness and planarity of these shapes. So does their overblown scale, evident especially in the inflated dormers projecting from the inflated gambrel. The gambrel folds downward, then out in a caplike peak to roof the L-shaped porch. A lower one-and-one-half-story ell juts from the rear, its walls, initially shingle, becoming field-stone, and terminating as a portecochere, which rather awkwardly offers its grand entrance to what appears on the exterior as a service wing. Both house and ell are sharply angled to the L-shaped barn under another precipitously folded gambrel. So the angularity of the siting of this complex reinforces the angularity of its massing. Triangulations of sailboat diagrams come to mind.

Joseph Wharton bought the farm in 1899 as a hedge against the possibility that his large cottage on a spectacular point off Highland Drive might be taken by the United States government for Fort Wetherill (see below).

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Beaver Tail Farm", [Jamestown, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 593-594.

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