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Knight Farms Subdivision and Knight Farm

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1970s–1980s, c. 1900–1930s. Route 12 (about 1 mile east of Route 116)

One-half of the once very sizable Knight Farm was sold off in the 1970s for a subdivision. A sign at the brick-piered entrance announces it as Knight Farms. Here is a handsome array of variations on the good life as these are manifest in expensive, custom-designed suburban housing of the 1970s and 1980s, edging into the 1990s. Houses with a relaxed formality, tending toward symmetry, with “Mediterranean” derivations from French and Italian precedents, predominate. (Conversely, American colonial, French Provençal, English medieval, and suburban ranch are minimally represented.) Most are masonry, as a veneer if not as a wall, especially brick, indicating the effort here to suggest the luxury of permanence and substance. (This is in marked contrast to the more informal but equally posh use of wood in a picturesque angularity of gables and dormers interspersed with decks and allusion to American vernacular or American colonial, either traditionalized or modernized in varying degrees, which characterizes another type of expensive development during the same period.) The predominance of masonry and “Mediterranean” at Knight Farms indicates its special appeal to the substantial population of Mediterranean descent in Rhode Island.

Although most of these houses derive from older suburban housing, all are subtly altered from earlier suburban precedents by the intervention of modern architecture. The same could be said of such accoutrements as mailboxes, light standards, and flanking piers at some driveway entrances, which indicate a wide range of possibilities for the external finishing touches of affluent houses toward the end of the twentieth century. Handsome landscaping, as posh as the houses, returns the cleared fields toward a wooded environment.

At the next entrance east on Route 12, a rutted gravel road leads back to the plain frame house and barns of Knight Farm (which can be viewed only from the highway). The barns present a pretty complex from afar: the cow barn with a big gambrel roof of terra-cotta block typical of the 1920s and 1930s, smaller gambrel calving barn behind, and, behind both, a tall wooden hay barn of earlier, possibly late-nineteenth-century vintage. Somewhat shabby on closer view, it is, nevertheless, in lively operation. It, too, has been suburbanized: riding horses have replaced cattle. There are complaints at the farm that places to ride are fast disappearing. An abrupt dip in the intervening field reveals only the turrets and dormers of the adjacent development through the tops of the neighboring suburban reforestation. How long can Knight Farm hold out against Knight Farms?

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Knight Farms Subdivision and Knight Farm", [Scituate, 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, 272-273.

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