Prescott Farm offers a glimpse of early rural New England through its buildings and landscape. The Farm traces its origin to the early 18th century when the Nichols-Overing House (c. 1730) was central to the site. Doris Duke, through the Newport Restoration Foundation, purchased the 40–acre farm with the idea of preserving open space and the Nichols–Overing House, as well as creating a setting for additional historic buildings that were rescued from imminent demolition.
THE ROBERT SHERMAN WINDMILL (1812)
Robert Sherman Windmill
This impressive smock–style, four–vaned windmill was built in 1812 and used in Warren, RI in connection with a distillery. It has an unusual feature—two sets of grinding stones whose doubled capacity could be lucrative for its owner. Not surprisingly then, it was moved two more times to Portsmouth, Rhode Island by millers who acquired it, first by Robert Sherman to Quaker Hill (East Main Road), then to Lehigh Hill (West Main Road). It became idle in the early 20th century and remained so, in ever deteriorating condition, until the NRF acquired it in 1969 and moved it to Prescott Farm. The mill was restored by the NRF in 1971, with additional work done in the 1980s and a new shaft installed in 1998.
Zoom detail of windmill sails
To learn more abut the history of windmills on Aquidneck Island:
Wind Grist Mills of Rhode Island: Interesting Relics of a Bygone Era
A 1942 essay of reminisces by former windmill owner Benjamin Boyd.
THE GUARD HOUSE
This small gambrel-roofed building was attached to the back of the Nichols–Overing House in 1840, when it was moved there to replace an ell destroyed by fire. In 1971, the NRF moved it to the museum side of the property. Oral tradition has it located on the site in the 1700s and its frame is certainly 18th century. Since it is the kind of utilitarian structure that might have housed General Prescott’s guards during his occupation of the Nichols–Overing House, the second floor is furnished to tell this story. The NRF uses the first floor for a variety of educational programs.
Hicks House now called The Country Store
The Hicks House, circa 1715, was moved from Bristol Ferry Road, Portsmouth to its present location in 1970. It is thought to have been used, in its earliest period, by the ferrymen who operated the boat between Portsmouth and Bristol at the site of the current Mt. Hope Bridge. It is a very simple structure of two rooms and a loft space.
Originally located at 855 West Main Road, now the site of fast food restaurants and a hotel, this house was moved to Prescott Farm in 1970. This broad-gable roofed 1½ story farmhouse came with much original woodwork intact. It is a good example of simple rural architecture, complete with additions which were made in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is also valuable as an example of a middle-class farm dwelling, a nice counterpoint to the extravagance of the Nichols-Overing House.
THE NICHOLS–OVERING HOUSE
Architecturally the Nichols-Overing House, circa 1730, is built on what is often referred to as the ¾ house plan. Formal 18th century house builders strongly preferred a symmetrical plan with an equal number of windows on either side of the main entrance. Despite the fact that the Overing House is one of the grandest and most formal in the NRF collections, this rural house does not have the full balanced façade that would truly place it in the top rank of high-style houses of its period. It is best described as a 2nd period (1725-1750) house. The scale inside and out is akin to the Hunter House in Newport. The main features are its gambrel roof, interior chimney, high ceilings, excellent woodwork, and a comfortable stair hall. Mr. Overing’s rather grand country house is an interesting counterpoint to the more common and modest house of Mr. Sweet’s on the southern part of the property.
Read a fascinating paper on the entire history of this house and its owners.
Potter House was built in Oneco, CT in 1790. While it is a stretch to have a Connecticut house on Aquidneck Island, this building was acquired in a situation of some urgency. The house had already been dismantled and was rapidly deteriorating due to poor storage conditions. The NRF was persuaded to rescue the building before it decayed further. Although it is somewhat out of context, the Potter House was rebuilt at Prescott Farm during 1984 and 1985. It displays several features that are typical of Connecticut architecture, most prominent of which are its projecting gables. It came to the collection with a frame in fine condition and most of its interior and exterior woodwork intact.
THE ALMY-CORY HOUSE
Almy Cory House
Portsmouth community members approached NRF about acquiring this house after learning it was slated for demolition at its original location on East Main Road. This house is an excellent and scarce example of a rural, Federal style home built for an upper-middle class farmer. Document research indicates it was built between 1797 and 1802. The center chimney, two story, five-room plan so popular from the mid-1700s through 1820, and the largely intact interior details, made this house worth saving as an exemplar of the Federal style. The house was disassembled and moved in 2004 and has undergone restoration to be rented to a tenant steward.
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