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Little Compton

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West Main Road (Route 77), the principal Rhode Island approach to Little Compton, follows a ridge which permits broad views across fields down to the Sakonnet River as it swells to create the easternmost arm of Narragansett Bay. The scene is dotted with widely separated, weathered shingle houses (the norm for the area, although white clapboard is also a favored material). It is crisscrossed by as magnificent a display of stone walls as one can find in Rhode Island. Much of the land remains in agricultural use, mostly haying. Sakonnet Vineyards (1975), at 162 West Main Road, represents the latest development in Little Compton's agricultural history, with a modern-day version of a traditional shingled building housing a sales and tasting room for visitors. Among Rhode Island towns, Little Compton still provides the best sense of what the state's coastal farmland looked like during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Agriculture, however, is no longer Little Compton's principal concern. Its preservation as an Edenic rural and seaside enclave far removed from Newport is fortified by its land's end location at the easternmost extremity of the state, with no significant harbor to have encouraged seaport activity. Sizable acreage requirements for residences, together with a fierce desire to keep things the way they are and the wherewithal to resist some of the forces for change, have been equally important in maintaining Little Compton's unpretentious exclusivity. Or, as the bumper stickers of its fiercest advocates exhort: “Little Compton. Keep it little.”

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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