You are here

Robinson Family Houses

-A A +A

The Dr. R. R. Robinson House ( SK5.1; 1904, Hilton and Jackson), at 600 Main Street, is not readily visible behind its screen of planting. Restraint is the key to the quality of this house, in which the Shingle Style edges into Neo-Colonial. Openings are beautifully proportioned to the elevation, which centers in a handsome, if austere, Neo-Colonial door with side lights, set into a recessed arch. The house appears to be no more than a very prosperous village property on no more than an ample lot. But behind (not visible) is a Doric-columned porch with pergola stretched across the back and overlooking a formal garden and an expanse of fields, making the house the frontispiece to a fairly sizable estate. (By comparison with the Watson house next door, note how the Neo-Colonial style, and desire for greater privacy, tended to push porches to the side of the house or, more rarely, to the back—forerunners of the eventual twentieth-century banishment of the front porch as a hallmark of nineteenth-century domesticity.)

A descendant of one of the brothers James and William Robinson, who originally owned Wakefield Mill, Dr. Robinson built his house on a small portion of his family's holdings. James Robinson, then William, originally lived across the street, at number 521, in a Greek Revival house known as The Larches ( SK5.2; 1831 and later). The third owner of the mill, Stephen Wright, acquired it around 1850. Wright was a local boy who left for San Francisco to make a fortune as a merchant and banker. Returning home in grand style, he celebrated his good fortune by enlarging The Larches and making it the showplace of the vicinity before he sold everything and returned to San Francisco to retire. The old grandeur of house and grounds, which has long operated as the Larchwood Inn, is still feebly visible. Next door, at 571 Main Street, was another Robinson house, which was sold to William David Miller. He tore it down for a large brick house ( SK5.3; 1934–1935, Albert Harkness; barely visible from the street) in a hybrid style concocted of two of his architect's favorite styles, a French-Provincialized American Neo-Colonial. A former navy commander, Miller was a bibliophile and local historian. His principal books, on the Narragansett Planters and on Kingston silversmiths, indicate the interest of the new generation of owners of gentleman's estates in the life and culture of their precedessors. This cluster of estates, together with Shadow Farm (see entry, above) is part of a line of country estates and large houses which existed along Post Road with Wakefield at its center. They occupied the lands of the colonial Narragansett Planters and, with the Colonial Revival, basked in the ancient glory.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Robinson Family Houses", [South Kingstown, 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, 379-380.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.