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Job Watson–Thomas Carr Watson Farm (North Farm)

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North Farm
1796. Early 19th century, kitchen ell. c. 1990, kitchen ell rebuilt. Late 19th century, animal barn. Mid-20th century, other outbuildings. 455 North Main Rd. (owned by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities and maintained as an operating farm; open to the public June–October)

Beyond the reception center (restored outside, adapted inside) a long lane runs to the highest point of this 248-acre farm where Thomas Carr Watson erected his farmhouse. Views from around it look down the long slopes of his fields to the West Passage into Narragansett Bay and, in winter especially, up and down the island as well. Its weathered clapboard front expectedly displays the conventional five-bay, central-chimney format of its period. In 1794, two years before Thomas built his house, his father, Job Watson, had purchased this farm at auction as confiscated Tory property, a piece of the 592 acres owned by Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Boston. Job divided this acreage among his three sons. Apart from the situation of the farmhouse, the forceful organization of its traditional front is its other principal attraction. Its central vertical axis, from the basic pilastered and paneled door capped by a pediment with rolled molding to the brick chimney (which is off-center), is made emphatic by its narrowed second-story window (nine-over-nine instead of twelve-over-twelve for the rest) and the wide expanse of clapboard separating it on either side from its paired flanking openings. As seen elsewhere, this spacing isolates the outer openings just sufficiently so that they take on a degree of visual independence from the center as four-spot patterns, yet are tautly attracted to it. Not that the carpenter who built it thought in any such terms; he intuited only a certain rightness in his spacing of the traditional formula. The house is clapboarded on three sides, with shingling for the rear elevation and kitchen ell. The first version of the kitchen ell was later slightly enlarged, and this has been rebuilt.

Five generations of Watsons farmed here before Thomas Carr Watson, Jr., bequeathed the farm and an endowment of $1 million in 1979 to the SPNEA so that it could continue as an operating farm, and the house remain the home of the farmer. In 1991 the Tiddeman Hull House was moved to the entrance of Watson Farm from Jamestown Bridge right-of-way. The focus of a visit is as much or more on the farm as the house itself: on the outbuildings and on a trek of the fields with stops along the way to examine aspects of traditional farm life extending back to the colonial period—indeed, beyond it to evidences of previous Native American use of the land. Nowhere else in the state is one so completely transported to the world of the large colonial coastal farm.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
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Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "Job Watson–Thomas Carr Watson Farm (North Farm)", [Jamestown, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-JA7.

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 589-589.

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