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John Updike House

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1745. 19 Pleasant St.
  • John Updike House (John M. Miller)

Wickford's grandest eighteenth-century house was built by the grandson of the town's founder. It typifies the American translation into wood of the blocky five-bay house of England's middle class. When its elaborate detail is compared to the plainness of Old St. Paul's, one can see what great strides classicism had taken on this side of the Atlantic during the intervening forty years. In the 1920s the house was moved back on its site and remodeled by Norman Isham for Alonzo T. Cross, the inventor of the Cross pen and a prominent Rhode Island industrialist. The effect of the paired trees and the tall turned fence with a central bow framing the elegant pedimented entrance clearly represent the romantic viewpoint of Isham's colonial revivalism. So does the trellising toward the front of the side elevation, meant perhaps for a frame of vines. The door surround has a copybook precision and elegance that suggest Isham's hand. He is definitely responsible for the ell and the sunroom/porch to the rear overlooking the harbor. Farther along, number 95, a simpler variant of the Updike House, contains a door with much the same qualities as that of its neighbor, together with a scale and sophistication against the straightforward builder's elevation that again points to Isham. And there is more of Isham's fencing.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "John Updike House", [North Kingstown, 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, 361-361.

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