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Thomas and Alice Brayton House (Green Animals)

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Green Animals
1859–1867. 1919, topiary garden. End of Cory's Ln. (open to the public May–October)

The Amos Smith mansion and the Thomas and Alice Brayton mansion, both built by wealthy Victorian businessmen, are the principal extant exceptions to the preference among nineteenth-century owners of grand farm estates for the Sakonnet over the bay side of Portsmouth. The attraction of the Brayton House is the “green animals,” one of the famous American topiary gardens—its fame suggesting something quite grand, whereas it is really delightfully unpretentious. Well-tended barns and outbuildings are very much part of it, as though this privet menagerie might be taken in at night. So is the house, an early Victorian farmhouse with Colonial Revival modifications. A plain two-and-one-half-story clapboard house, its distinction derives from commanding proportions, as well as from the placement and scale of the elements that distinguish it. Chimneys thrust from all four corners of the flat center section of the extraordinarily broad hipped roof; miniature dormers pop from its steep front slope. Its most prominent feature is the attenuated spaciousness of its Neo-Colonial porch, which wraps three sides of the house. The architectural aspects of the house are the more compelling because it stands free of planting, lawn sweeping downward away from it to the front and sides. Garden, barn, and house retain much of the plainness of the old farmhouse, but raised to a degree of elegance which make the place doubly charmed.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Thomas and Alice Brayton House (Green Animals)", [Portsmouth, 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, 502-502.

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