Bristol 17th Century Houses

In January 1680 Plymouth sold the area “known by the name of Mount Hope Neck and Poppasquash Neck” to four wealthy Boston merchants, Nathaniel Byfield, Stephen Burton, Nathaniel Oliver, and John Walley, who became known as the proprietors.Plymouth divided the proceeds from this sale among its other towns to pay their war debts.

    

Two 17th century houses still stand in Bristol, RI: The Joseph Reynolds House (above) at 956 Hope Street and the Nathaniel Bosworth House (below) at 814 Hope Street. Originally, the Reynolds house had a much steeper roof and may have also been capped with a cupola like the one known to have once existed on the Thomas Hutchinson House in Boston. The house is also outstanding for its fine decorative trim both on the exterior and interior. Its massive exterior plaster cove cornice is one of two remaining in Rhode Island. The interior has early bolection-molded paneling, very boldly scaled, and fine marbleizing in the two major rooms. Unfortunately, in the 1960s a serious fire damaged the paneling and almost obliterated the marbleizing, but careful restoration has to some extent retrieved the character of this important and rare early decorative work.

   

Lafayette used the Reynolds house during the Revolutionary War. It is the oldest three-story house in Rhode Island. Built by Joseph Reynolds on land his father, Nathaniel Reynolds, a leather worker from Boston, had bought in 1684. A full three-story house, unusually large for its time, it helps establish Bristol’s important contribution to Rhode Island’s architectural legacy. The House began as a two-room, center-hall dwelling with chimneys built into the back wall, typical of early Massachusetts building. Later additions across the rear produced the present four-room plan with an ell. [From Historic and Architectural Resources of Bristol, Rhode Island]

    

Deacon Nathaniel Bosworth constructed the first house in the town at 814 Hope Street in 1680-81 using material shipped over from England. John Walley was authorized to build a cart bridge over Silver Creek, and Rev. Benjamin Woodbridge was obtained to preach the Gospel. Religious services for members of the First Congregational Church were held in the Bosworth House (pictured immediately above and below) shortly after it was built in the Silver Creek section of Bristol. It began as a typical two-room-plan, two-story house. The oldest portion of the latter, now consisting of a single room on each of two floors, may have originally followed a two-room plan as well before it was moved slightly to its present site. The property remained in the Bosworth family until 1957.

Nathaniel and his wife lived in Hull, Mass., but on May 1, 1682, they bought land in Bristol, RI, and on Sept. 29 of the same year, they sold their home in Hull and built his home “Silver Creek”.[Source: Bosworth Genealogy] The first religious worship in Bristol was held in this house. The first school in Bristol was also held in “Silver Creek,” and the teacher was Nathaniel Bosworth’s daughter, Mary. Deacon Nathaniel Bosworth was one of the 8 men who founded the First Congregational Church of Bristol. He died Aug 31, 1690, and his tombstone which reads, “The first Deacon of the Church of Christ in Bristoll,” is near the wall of The Congregational Church. [Source: Woodstock Conn., Church Records, Vol. ABC, p. 168]. The house then passed to Shearjashub Bourn in the 18th century, to DeWolf Perry in the 19th century, and then to Alfred and Fernando Rego in 1957 and is now labeled the “Perry-Rego House.” Click here for an historical description of the property by family member Matthew Perry.

Both houses have been altered over the years, but the seventeenth-century core of each one can still be seen.

The above photo is from a 1906 post card of the Bosworth House. (Click to enlarge). The house was next to Silver Creek where on moonlit nights it looked like a silver mirror.

   

Facing west at 1382 Hope Street, the Elm Farm c.1687 et seq. sits at the corner of Hope and Elm Farm Road in Bristol. The front section of the3 house dates to 1740, but the east portion of the ell behind it dates to 1695. An addition was added to this original portion to the east c. 1850.

   

According to a 1981 report by Rebecca Clark Stocking of Roger Williams University, the original section of the house has “original 17th century gunstock posts, chimney girts, and summer beams, all of which are lamb’s tongue chamfered. This section, was probably once a house in itself – a two story, two room structure with a usable garret. Structural analysis of the framing in the basement shows that this two room house was probably moved here when the front section was built c. 1740, from another site on the farm.” According to Monroe’s History of Bristol RI, the house was built on land purchased by William Throop in 1687-88.

Taken together, these three houses from Bristol’s first years, though they vary in levels of sophistication and preservation, exhibit the craft and workmanship of the town’s first builders.

     

The houses are located near Poppasquash Road leading to Poppasquash Point, the name being a corruption of the Algonquian words “papoos” and “squaw”.

The area was believed to be one set aside by the native population for women and for childbirth, a place of peace.

At the northern end of Poppasquash Road, the Windmill condominiums stand at Windmill Point, where the grist mill built by the town’s circa 1680 “proprietors” was once located.

Click here for the Wikipedia description of the Joseph Reynolds House.

Click here for a Library of Congress description of the Joseph Reynolds House.

Click here for a Library of Congress description of the Nathaniel Bosworth House.

Click here for a post card in the Rhode Island Postcard Collection of the Bosworth house when it was called Silver Creek.

Click here for a description of the houses on pages 9-11 in Historical and Architectural Resources of Bristol, RI.

Click here for a Providence Journal article about Poppasquash Point.

Click on map below to see a Google satellite map of the Reynolds and the Bosworth Houses.

Click on map below to see a Google satellite map of the Elm Farm house that should be labeled 1382 Hope Street.

All three houses are private residences and are not open to the public.