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Portsmouth Historical Society (Union Meeting House)

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Union Meeting House
1865–1866. East Main Rd. (at Union St.) (open to the public)
  • Portsmouth Historical Society (Union Meeting House) (John M. Miller)

The form of the carpenter's barn is here given monumental presence in the expansive clapboarded surfaces and the spare slotting of narrow windows, all topped by gable motifs so simple that they seem to lift from their openings beneath in startled exclamation. Are they to be seen as pediments or (more likely) as pointed arches? Classical or Gothic Revival? The “style” oscillates as we ponder the possibilities. Two oculi, one staring from the gable cap of the double door, the other up in the eaves and decorated with compasslike projections, complete the simple vocabulary of shapes which compose this elevation. The lack of vertical alignment of the lower windows with the upper makes a giant triangle of all the elements. Not that this disposition was intentional; it seems more likely that it simply happened as the designer sought symmetry by the simple expedient of centering each element with relation to others.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Portsmouth Historical Society (Union Meeting House)", [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, 503-503.

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