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Little Compton Historical Society (Wilbour House)

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Wilbour House
1690, 18th century, 19th century, 1955 and later. Pyramid Schoolhouse, 18th century; reconstructed, 1974. Burleigh's studio boat, c. 1905. 548 West Main Rd. (open to the public)

This two-and-one-half-story shingled house provides the best example of early architecture in Little Compton, the more so because the east half (up to what was originally an end chimney) was built in 1690, when Samuel Wilbore settled as a farmer in Little Compton, and the west half in the eighteenth century. Leaded casement windows in the older section give way to small paned sash in the later section (all reconstructed from evidence within the building fabric). The house remained in the Wilbour family until 1919. Its most recent restoration began in 1955 with its acquisition by the Little Compton Historical Society, which also restored its attractive complement of stone walls and outbuildings. The most notable of these is the corncrib lifted off the ground on stone supports, capped by flat stones which spread like a mushroom cap over its stem to block rodents from the contents.

Also on the grounds is a squarish building with a pyramidal roof, a reconstruction of a Little Compton landmark known as the Pyramid Schoolhouse. Its original site was less than a mile south of the Wilbour House on West Main Road. It decayed and disappeared in the nineteenth century, but was reconstructed on the Little Compton Common for the 1974 tricentennial of the town, after which the reconstruction was moved to the Wilbour enclave. Thanks to a detailed reminiscence, the interior arrangements could be reconstructed as a continuous slant-topped desk for older students fastened to the walls around three sides, fronted by benches, with a U of lower benches for younger students around the teacher's desk and a stove at the center—more in accord, it would seem, with meeting house tradition than the more authoritarian and regimented classroom image which the one-room schoolhouse came to embody. Finally, the large barn to the rear, now used for the display of historical artifacts, has, beneath a porchlike structure attached to its rear, an interesting boat converted to a studio. It was used as a floating studio at the beginning of the twentieth century by the Providence artist-craftsman Sydney Burleigh, who summered at Little Compton. His vessel recalls the studio boats that appear in paintings by Monet and Renoir. Inside, under multi-paned windows, benches lining the perimeter focus on a potbellied stove in the prow and Burleigh's shrine to a Pre-Raphaelite muse. Some of Burleigh's paintings, uneven in quality, can be seen in the Wilbour House.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
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Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "Little Compton Historical Society (Wilbour House)", [Little Compton, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-LC6.

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 491-492.

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