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St. Christopher's Roman Catholic Church Rectory (Captain Isaac Church House)

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Captain Isaac Church House
c. 1870. 1660 Main Rd.

Isaac Church's father, Captain Joseph Church, established a fishing business in Tiverton which eventually specialized in catching menhaden (colloquially “pogies”). Regarded as a junk fish unsuitable for human consumption, they were converted to soap oils and fertilizer. The seven Church brothers, all captains, together with a single sister, shared in the operation of the largest fishing operation in the village of Tiverton throughout the latter nineteenth into the early twentieth century. They expanded by adding cessing plants in Maine and on Long Island before the rise of the twentieth-century synthetic chemistry industry eventually wiped out the company.

Of all the Church mansions scattered about this village, Captain Isaac's is the most interesting and best preserved, although it is essentially more substantial than elegant. It must have been painfully plain before the addition of its wraparound porch, probably in the 1880s. This swells around a central two-story bay window capped by a cross gable, where its X-shaped railing supports are echoed in the pseudo-structural X and in the quaint triangular windows behind. A one-story latticed skirt brings the porch to the ground, veiling the front of the basement floor, which would otherwise be exposed by the steeply sloping site.

To the north on Main Road are two other Church houses: that of Captain Daniel Church (1792, c. 1900), at number 1392, a Federal period house altered to Colonial Revival, most conspicuous for its two-story semicircular entrance porch, and, adjacent at number 1420, Captain George L. Church's Italianate house (c. 1865[?] and later). (A third, the grandest of the Church mansions, the Second Empire Captain Nathaniel Church House, now St. James Convent [1872], is off Main Road farther south, at 49 Nannaquaket Road.) Other well-preserved houses, mostly from early to late Victorian vernacular, which also feature generous elevated porches overlooking the water, make something of a period ensemble scattered along the highway for the next half mile south of the rectory.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "St. Christopher's Roman Catholic Church Rectory (Captain Isaac Church House)", [Tiverton, 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, 482-482.

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