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Olney-Israel Arnold House

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c. 1740. 600 Great Rd.

Although the Olney family erected this house, Israel Arnold married into this family in the early nineteenth century, and it remained with his descendants well into the twentieth century. This important mid-eighteenth-century house is exceptionally well preserved. It is a typical two-and-one-half-story, five-bay, central-chimney house with an in-line one-and-one-halfstory, one-room gambrel ell with its own equally substantial end chimney in brick like that of the main house. It shows on the exterior as a brick panel to the height of the eaves which is roughly the size of the fireplace. The rest of the end elevation is clapboard. It was long believed that the ell was built first, c. 1720, the main house following at mid-century. Recent evidence, however, suggests that they were built at the same time.

The disposition of the narrow nine-over-nine windows in the front elevation of the main house is especially effective. A stretch of clapboarding separates the centered, transomed door with its own window above from the remaining windows. Clustered close to the outside corners of the elevation, they vaguely recall a four-spot domino, but form compact clusters that exert peripheral tugs against the central axis. The most interesting colonial and Federal elevations of this type are those, like this, in which the exceptional placement or proportioning of the openings lifts a symmetrical format out of the expected. The simple hooding of the first-floor windows and door by a projecting board also relieves the otherwise planar quality of the elevation and subtly emphasizes this floor as the principal one.

Characteristically, the main block contains five rooms with fireplaces all working off the central chimney. Much of the original character of the interiors remains, especially in the huge stone fireplace in the keeping room (kitchen). On a corner of the property, a so-called Dutch Colonial playhouse, a miniature version of the house fashionable during the 1920s and 1930s, is an incongruous delight.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Olney-Israel Arnold House", [Lincoln, 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, 196-197.

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