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Frenning House (Bumble Bee Farm)

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Bumble Bee Farm
c. 1940, Blanche Borden Frenning. 316 West Main Rd. (not visible)

Concealed at the end of a winding private lane, this picturesque collage of colonial fragments united by modern construction possesses a spectacular view over fields and marshes to the distant church steeple on the common. This was the house of an interior decorator who became a part-time architect without formal training. A number of her houses, like this, incorporate ancient siding, timbers, windows, and hardware. Such assemblages were both a popular aspect of the Colonial Revival in the 1920s and 1930s and possible because of the large number of such dilapidated buildings which were just then being demolished. The house combines pieces from two seventeenth-century houses in the living room and dining room and has a Greek Revival porch.

It is the bold collision of a two-story mass with a saltbox slope into a low gabled offset adjunct that unifies this architectural collage into a picturesque whole. An outbuilding in weathered boarding from a collapsed barn across the entrance court completes a composition worthy of one of Samuel Chamberlin's textured photographs of old New England buildings. It is as though repeated alterations to an ancestral home had always had the good fortune to find a succession of counselors with a sure sense of architectural charm. Frenning designed a number of other houses and additions in Little Compton and around her winter home in Palm Beach, sometimes inventing “restorations” as here, more often building de novo with a traditional aura.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Frenning House (Bumble Bee Farm)", [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, 490-491.

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