This essay in modernism never fails to astonish visitors to Gaspee Plateau, a pleasant but thoroughly conventional suburban subdivision of dwellings in revival styles, colonial or medieval in flavor. Local tradition holds that the owner had this house constructed after returning from a trip to Florida, where she had seen similar ones. To date, the identity of the architect or builder remains a mystery, though the character of the design suggests that it was produced by a contractor (as was Rhode Island's first modernist residence, the Arthur J. Levy House in Cranston (see entry). The house has all the hallmarks of the early International Style: the juxtaposition of simple, bold, geometric masses; plain white stucco walls punctuated with unadorned punched openings; corner windows; steel-frame sash; and steel pipe railing crowning the roofline. Built almost to the lot line on the west, the house is designed almost as a stage set, with the interplay between its tall, rectilinear block and lower, asymmetrically placed bow-front unit dominating the east facade. At the northwest corner, a window sports a tiny, nearly vestigial cantilevered balcony, bringing a little bit of “architecture” to what is definitely a secondary elevation. The exterior masks, rather than fully expresses, the fact that the interior is organized on a split-level floor plan with five distinct levels. Modernist dwellings were not popular in Rhode Island and are rare; this is a particularly curious and engaging example of the type.
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Mary Rose Ross House
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