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Stephen Brownell House

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1806 (rear portion earlier), documented as by Walter Allen. 86 Great Rd. (diagonally opposite Daniel Arnold House)

These are two more examples of the Walter Allen porch. In the exceptionally refined Aldrich House, the typical Allen porch appears at its best. The wide spacing of its tapered Tuscan columns and their responding pilasters tautly stake out the stretched space of the entrance shelter, with the rusticated wall further separating it from the clapboard mass behind. Within (not open to the public) is an outstanding stairhall that must have seemed a perfect setting for the young ladies of Linden Hall Seminary when this house served as their dormitory. For the Brownell House, next door, Allen chose a hipped roof instead of a gable set lengthwise to the street, which prevailed in Union Village, and was generally more conventional for large Federal houses. (Gables were cheaper to build, and, unless a monitor was added, provided more usable attic space. Hipped roofs, however, gave more elegance and monumentality.) The Brownell chimneys are centered to either side of the entrance hall, so the fireplaces are on the interior rather than the exterior walls of the principal rooms, as in the Aldrich House (where, however, chimney alterations have been made on the east wall). Here the treatment of the back wall of the porch is clapboard instead of rustication. Apparently exceptional for Allen's porches, it may represent the client's wish for economy, or even a later modification. Its roof forms a half-hip echo of the main roof, rather than the pediment echo of the main gable found in porches of related houses. Typical Federal twelve-over-twelve sash, like that of the Aldrich House, here were replaced by single sheets of glass in the lower sash, doubtless reflecting a preference popularized in Queen Anne houses at the end of the nineteenth century for an unobstructed “view” window with transomlike panes above. The small, arched window centered in the second story of the Aldrich House must also be a later alteration.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Stephen Brownell House", [North Smithfield, 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, 241-242.

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