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John Barstow Farm (Greenvale)

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Greenvale
1864–1865, John Hubbard Sturgis. 582 Wapping Rd. (open to the public)

John Barstow's farm, now operated as a vineyard, typifies the mid-nineteenth-century retiree's dream of an idyllic country seat with enough farming on the property so that he could continue to exercise some part of the entrepreneurial skills which had already brought him a fortune—in Barstow's case, in the Boston China Trade. Barstow picked the pretty site of an old farm for his ferme ornée. The approach road descends into a green vale of trees, then rises slightly, past the old Federal farmhouse (which Barstow reserved for his help) to a cleared area on the water for which he requested of the rising young Boston architect John Hubbard Sturgis a house, stable, and barn (the latter demolished). Sturgis had just returned from England, the first American-born architect to study there (as distinct from the many English emigré architects who chose to practice in the United States). Greenvale Farm was among his first commissions. The main house is Stick Style—that is, half-timber construction with a mix of clapboard, vertical boarding, and shingling infill in carpentered compositions which use structure and contrasting materials to suggest that the result derives from the process of building itself—as it does, but for a fanciful, picturesque rather than laconic utility. But Sturgis would have known of such house design from suburban and resort houses abroad, where brick, stone, and stucco predominated instead of wood.

For Barstow, Sturgis designed a fairly compact, roughly L-shaped house which seems more rambling than it is because of the variety of its roof treatment—gables, cross gables, jerkinheads, and timberwork vergeboards, fitted snugly to the main mass of the building—and ran an elaborate open timberwork porch around three sides of it. Between 1890 and World War I, the house stood empty and dilapidated, until a later generation of the family revived it. Unfortunately, they stripped away the porch, partly because it had rotted, partly because it darkened the interior. As a result the clapboard base, topped by vertical “Swiss boarding” (board and batten with a sawtooth skirting), appears somewhat sheared. But the interior remains, its dominant feature being a wide hall floored with English tiles, highly prized at the time, off which the major rooms open.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
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Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "John Barstow Farm (Greenvale)", [Portsmouth, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-PO15.

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 506-506.

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