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Kendrick Avenue School

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1895, Forbush and Hathaway. 64–72 Kendrick Ave.

The schoolhouse as central block, with ranges of windows for classrooms, flanked by set-back entrance wings—originally one for each sex—is among the ubiquitous institutional building types of the late nineteenth century. Here, the expected symmetry of composition is undercut by the asymmetry of the silhouette of the bell tower over the left entrance and by variations in the wood paneling and door placement within the round-arched entrances. Both are typical devices of the Queen Anne style for creating playful surprise. The dark red brick of the walls is set off by the yellow-orange capping of doors and windows: arched over the entrance doors and second-floor windows, splayed lintels over the first-floor windows. Both red and orange brick maintain the continuous plane of the wall, except that a projecting rim relieves the planarity a little around the outer arc of the arching, while the slightly stepped and pleated keystone at the center of the lintel works to the same end. So does the rough granite coursing which tops the set-out basement story, on which the entrance arches and first floor sit.

For the modern visitor, however, the special surprise of the school is the interior (open to the public only with permission from the principal's office). This is an almost perfectly intact six-room schoolhouse of its period. The central block is actually T-shaped to accommodate one high-ceilinged classroom on each of the two floors to the front, two per floor to the rear, with wide corridors the length of the building between. All rooms are wainscoted in varnished tongue-and-groove board with plaster walls, except that corridor ceilings are also of wood. Sunlight through windows at either end of the corridors turns the varnished wood of the wainscoting, the row of wooden pegs for coats, and the wood ceiling golden brown. The width and shortness of the halls make them not just passageways, but roomlike meeting places at the heart of the building. It is a far cry from the narrow, locker-lined, fluorescent-lit halls that are the bane of too many modern schools. After a century of teaching and learning, the building still seems to be appreciated by those who use it, its spacious classrooms apparently having adapted comfortably over time to changes in lesson techniques and equipment. Meanwhile, the basement contains the original boiler—a Fuller and Warner of Boston and Troy, New York, as announced with a flourish on its cast iron door.

Across the street is subsidized housing, designed as a linked “village” of gabled dwellings in stained wood. Here, however, the commendable 1970s effort to provide living conditions more congenial than the “projects” seems to have achieved only the look of informality rather than actual intimacy and privacy, and buildings which are neither urban nor rural in character.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
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Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "Kendrick Avenue School", [Woonsocket, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-WO3.

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 224-225.

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