Tour of Jenny’s Lane in Barrington reveals early history

Dr. Burton Van Edwards, visiting lecturer at Bridgewater State University and Bryant University, conducted a tour of Mathewson Road and Jenny’s Lane in Barrington on September 15, 2018 for the Barrington Preservation Society. He began with some of the early history of the town and went on to describe the legacy of Allen C. Mathewson who built two hotels and five Victorian houses between 1862 and 1873 to promote Barrington as an ideal summer colony. [Barrington, 2017] Click here for a 33-minute video of the tour.

In 1679, following the King Philip War, house lots were laid out between Rumstick Road and the river across from Tyler Point. The first recorded tavern in Barrington, the Wayside Tavern, was located near the new meetinghouse, as was the militia training field.

The first Congregational Church Meeting House was built on what is now Jenny’s Lane in Barrington in the early 1700s. During John Miles’s tenure as minister, the Swansea church, though nominally Baptist, had admitted members with Congregationalist beliefs. The second pastor, Samuel Luther, aligned the church more strictly with Baptist doctrines and practices. In 1700, Luther relocated the church from Tyler Point to North Swansea, just east of Miles Bridge. Around 1705, he adopted policies which excluded Congregationalists from membership. Swansea’s Congregationalists, primarily residents of Phebe’s and New Meadow Necks, formed a new church of their own and built a meetinghouse on today’s Jennys Lane some time between 1712 and 1718. [from Historic and Architectual Resources of Barrington, RI, 1993]


A boat house built by Matthewson in the 1880s is pictured following the 1938 hurricane.Three ferry crossings of the Barrington and Palmer Rivers behind it are known to have been in operation nearby beginning in the late seventeenth century. The earliest, established in the 1681-82, crossed the Palmer River in the location of the present bridge, and was later known as Kelley’s Ferry after the family that held the franchise for several generations. A second ferry, established before 1739, crossed the Barrington River between Phebe’s Neck and New Meadow Neck. Humphrey’s Ferry, later known as Martin’s Ferry, connected Ferry Lane in Barrington to the foot of Washington Street in Warren.The area was developed as a residential area following the construction of a railroad connection to Providence in 1855. [from Historic and Architectual Resources of Barrington, RI, 1993]


One of two hotels built by Allen Matthewson in the 19th century is pictured above along with one of the five Victorian houses along Jennys Lane.


Dr. Edwards talks with people who live in the area before leading a group along Jennys Lane.


Click here for a description of the history of Jenn’y’s Lane from the Historic District nomination.

Click here for a 33-minute video of the tour with Dr. Edwards.