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Little Compton Commons

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From one corner the common appears to be of the usual roughly rectangular shape; but the town's proprietors laid it out in 1677 on a hillock at the town's center as an elongated triangle—prophetically shaped like a yachting pennant. The green contains the burying ground for the United Congregational Church, which stands at one of the halyard corners of the “pennant.” Except for the church, the architecture is not striking. It is more the appropriateness of the building, with some aura of the venerable around the church, and the immediate sense one has of this place as a lively center of town activity that make it engaging.

Facing the entrance to the church are renovated Greek Revival and Early Victorian houses and, farther along, a nice bungalow that deserves notice, however incongruous for a New England common. Around the tip and along the top edge of the “pennant” is an extraordinarily full range of town institutions. They include the present school (in a dreadfully inappropriate building for this location), fire and police departments (the latter partly occupying a Greek Revival church which should be restored), and a fine one-room schoolhouse, now connected to the plain two-story clapboarded Little Compton Town Hall next door. Then, around the corner to the halyard end of the pennant is the Brownell Library (1929, Charles G. Loring; 1929), a pretty Neo-Colonial brick building, originally painted white, by an architect whose libraries for small towns in the Northeast were widely published in the architectural journals of the time (this one in Architectural Record, July 1932). Next to the library, the Publication House (now partially used as an antique shop), a mid-nineteenth-century house with unusual Greek Revival cast iron railings and cresting on the roof commands a view down the length of the common. This extraordinarily compendious roster of civic institutions which line the Common and, together with the mix of church, stores, and houses, make the Little Compton Common an ideal place to observe the way in which the full development of the common as a New England town form reinforces the sense of community by giving it visibility.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Little Compton Commons", [Little Compton, 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, 495-496.

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