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James F. Simmons House

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c. 1845. 928 Atwood Ave.

James F. Simmons, the principal early industrialist in this area, founded the dual mill villages of Upper and Lower Simmonsville in 1822 and 1831 respectively. (When a British immigrant entrepreneur later took over Simmons's holdings, he changed the name of Lower Simmonsville to Thornton in honor of his birthplace.) Simmons was also a leading Whig in the state and eventually, after holding state offices, was elected to the U.S. Senate. (He became the first ever to be removed by that body for conduct deemed unsuitable for his office.) His house, among the more elaborate extant Greek Revival houses in the state, is sited with its side elevation to the street, so that its two-story Ionic-porticoed porch once commanded the slope down to the stream that drained the twin reservoirs that powered his upper and lower factories. One-story entrance porches with simple Corinthian columns must have originally flanked the main portico. (Although only the porch toward the street now exists, the alteration to the rear of the house appears to have been made to a similar arrangement.) Toward the street the Corinthian porch shelters the principal entrance, while a similar porch at the rear provides for service, with a square bay window tucked between. The surroundings are so chaotic that it is difficult to imagine the original effect; but then, Simmons's factories initiated the process that one day overran his idyll.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "James F. Simmons House", [Johnston, 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, 174-175.

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