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John Chadwick House and Adjacent House

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c. 1770 and pre-1750. 54–56 Poplar St.

Whereas the Frye House collision (preceding entry) was happenstantial, this takes advantage of happenstance as a joining of two small old houses (both somewhat altered) to make one big new one. It is mayhap interesting less for what it says about colonial architecture than the appeal it makes to the late-twentieth-century postmodernist taste for off-balance compositions derived from colonial precedent. A gabled house flanking the street butts a gabled house facing the street, with five windows, each in different arrangements and in slightly different sizes and alignments. The more commanding facade with the projecting cornice and the bigger door (with its own echoing cornice) signals “parlor”; the smaller, more domestic image of the frontal gable, relative to the other, says “kitchen.” The two elevations are separated—once literally, now visually—where their corner verticals touch but are united by a projecting horizontal in common. The big door touches the horizontal, providing a measure of its dominance over the plainer kitchen door, which drops below it. Its flanking windows also drop below the level of those of its neighbor. The overassertive clash of idiosyncratic elements so pervasive in most postmodernist compositions which attempt a comparable off-balance equilibrium from colonial allusion is chastised by the subtlety and straightforwardness with which a chance juxtaposition is here exploited to make a civic statement for the street.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "John Chadwick House and Adjacent House", [Newport, 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, 526-527.

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