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Baptist Church (Allendale Schoolhouse and Community Hall)

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Allendale Schoolhouse and Community Hall
1847, Thomas Tefft. Belfry later. 545 Woonasquatucket Ave.

Zachariah Allen originally commissioned this building as a combined Sunday school and community meeting hall, with a library projected for the basement. Such multipurpose meeting halls in mill towns were also used for church meetings on Sunday; here the church took over as early as 1850. The exceptional nature of a Rhode Island schoolhouse–meeting hall in the Tudor period style then designated as “Elizabethan” resulted from an English trip during which Allen's fancy was taken by such a building. The trip doubtless also inspired Allendale's Gothic Revival houses as well. Tefft used some such source as the “Elizabethan” design number 4 in H. E. Kendall's Designs for Schools and School Houses (1847) as his model, possibly by way of his friend and mentor, Henry Barnard, with whom he collaborated as designer. Barnard's Reports and Documents Relating to Public Schools in Rhode Island for 1848 (published in 1849) includes Tefft's Allendale schoolhouse with the comment that its novel style afforded relief from “the dull monotony of wretched perversions which characterize the village and country schoolhouses of New England.” Influential as Barnard's practical ideas on schoolhouses may have been, however, his encouragement of more stylistic diversity in their exteriors had little effect in his day. The architectural success of this unique schoolhouse depends upon the skillful shaping of its stuccoed masonry masses (probably originally rough cast like the mill) and placing of window openings so as to maintain the force of the massing (altered, however, by added stained glass windows). Such details as the corbeled, earlike projections of the end walls at the eaves of the steeply pitched roof, the stepped roofline of the entrance gable, and the ledged projection to establish a base enliven the outlines of the simple massing. The judicious placement of smallish windows in symmetrical and asymmetrical arrangements gives precedence to the wall surfaces, and, through them, to the shaped mass. The original design (now in Tefft's papers at Brown University) shows the gable topped by a masonry bellcote in the English Decorated Gothic manner, which may not have been built, and the first floor set up as a classroom. The present wooden belfry and the stained glass windows are later Baptist additions.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Baptist Church (Allendale Schoolhouse and Community Hall)", [North Providence, 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, 165-166.

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