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Berkshire–Hathaway Mill Housing

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1949, Bernard J. Harrison. 15–80 Berkshire Dr.

This is among the last company-built housing to be built by the textile industry in Rhode Island, while Berkshire-Hathaway operated the Albion Mill. The institutional quality of nineteenth-century housing, and even of prettier early twentieth-century versions, here typically gives way to the small individual house, which assumes a suburban mien. These are plain versions of the prevalent “Cape Cod” merging into what would become “ranch,” both characteristic subdivision modes at the time. The first two houses on Berkshire Drive, though both are now vinyl sided, nonetheless provide some sense of the original design.

Entrance to these houses is from the side, not through what at first appears to be the curious anomaly of a very narrow door centered in the front elevation and covered by the sheathing material of the wall. This turns out to be a service door to a compact central heating unit, which services rooms around it through a run of hot air ducts above dropped ceilings. Such features represent widespread thinking of the time about compact central utility units to reduce building and maintenance costs. The erection of these basementless houses on poured concrete slabs is further evidence of the rationalization of the small house at the time. So is the orientation of all service doors toward the north insofar as possible, to give living rooms opposite a southern exposure. (This also means that almost half the houses derive the perhaps unintended additional innovation bonus of living rooms facing away from the street toward the yard.)

Eventually sold to the occupants by Berkshire-Hathaway, the houses continued to be popular, and their value steadily increased. Complaints of tight storage and cold floors have been met by alterations. Changes through time to increase both the amenities and individuality of the houses also merit attention.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
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Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "Berkshire–Hathaway Mill Housing", [Lincoln, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-LI38.

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 204-204.

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