Clement Weaver-Daniel Howland House

Clement Weaver -- Daniel Howland House
house pictured in 2009 from Howland Road
Location: East Greenwich, Rhode Island
Built: 1679
Architect: None
Architectural style: Traditional saltbox-design
Governing body: Private
NRHP Reference#:

87001977

[1]
Added to NRHP: October 8, 1987

The Clement Weaver-Daniel Howland House, is a historic stone-ender timber frame house built in 1679. It is located at 125 Howland Road in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. It is the oldest documented dwelling house in Kent County, Rhode Island and it is the second oldest home in Rhode Island (See "Early Homes of Rhode Island" Downing, 1937).

Contents

Brief history

Clement Weaver, a native of Staffordshire, England, built the house in 1679 after fighting in King Philip's War, and his descendants sold the house to Daniel Howland in 1784. Daniel Howland was a grandchild of Henry Howland, who arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1624. Henry was the younger brother of John Howland, one of the original Mayflower Pilgrims of 1620. In the early 20th century, Norman Isham, a prominent architect, restored the house. The National Register of Historic Places added the house in 1987 as building #87001977. Larry Schneider, a general contractor specializing in historic restorations, restored the home in 1996.

Expanded history

"For his honorable service during the King Phillip's War of 1675 - 1677, young Clement Weaver, along with 49 other veterans were each given large parcels of land in what was then a barren outpost now known as East Greenwich."[2]

During the winter of 1679, anxious to see his payment for service, Clement Weaver and his young wife, Rachel Andrews, sailed from Portsmouth, Rhode Island, where he had first settled after leaving his home in Staffordshire, England, to East Greenwich. Thus making Clement one of the town’s original grantees.

Clement received 100 acres (0.40 km2) of land "by the sea" where he built the house only two years after the official founding of the town of East Greenwich. His home remains as a rare and unique architectural showplace.[2]

Clement Weaver House in the early 20th century

Clement Weaver’s family of eight children grew up in this little farm house. His son Joseph succeeded him with his family of four. In 1784 Daniel Howland purchased it from the Weavers. Daniel had willed the house to his son Daniel and his wife, Philadelphia of Portsmouth, Rhode Island. The home remained with the Howlands for nearly 2 centuries. This home has had only six owners since it was built, 328 years ago.[2]

According to Martha McParland’s, “The History of East Greenwich 1677 - 1960,” Daniel Howland – the same Daniel that purchased this house in 1748 from the Weavers, was a Quaker and chaplain during the Revolutionary War. Three descendants of the original Clement Weaver also served during the Great War.

Up until the mid 19th century, several generations of Weavers had run the old White Horse Tavern (no longer standing) on Division Street in East Greenwich. It is unknown whether this tavern was or is related to the White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island. The same early time periods for both buildings indicate it likely was.

While most of the outbuildings have since disappeared, there remains a building that was originally a horse barn. It was later converted, after the Hurricane of 1938, into a smaller barn with an attached two-car garage. From the street, this building still retains its older look.

Structure description

This rare example of primitive 17th century architecture, the Clement Weaver home, built in 1679 stands today as the oldest documented residence in Kent County and likely the oldest private home in Rhode Island. Over the past ten years this home has been meticulously and painstakingly restored.[2]

The house was at first a one-room plan, a story-and-a-half high. The walls of the house were constructed using wide vertical boards over a post and beam structure. The house had been added on to four times prior to 1712, as indicated by Norman Isham’s drawings. The first addition, about a year after it was originally built, Weaver added a one-story lean-to along the northern side of the house. This was to become the original kitchen. About a year after that in 1681, this particular lean-to was brought up to the height of the original house affording the Weaver family two garrets above with a center chimney and entry. Its chimney made up of stone and homemade brick, was never exposed on the outside end of the house as was the case with many early homes of this period. A short time after that, a lean-to was built along the back (western side) of the house, creating the traditional salt-box shape it remains today.[2]

In the 1930s, Norman Isham, a well-known historic architect, was commissioned to restore the Weaver farm house, which now belonged to the Howland’s. The restoration was intended as a memorial to Daniel Howland, whose family came into possession of the property in 1748. Shortly after the restoration was started, the current Mrs. Howland gave the home to what was then called 'SPNEA' – The Society for Preservation of New England Antiquities. SPNEA has recently changed its name and is now known as Historic New England.[2]

The first lean-to addition was also the first room restored during Isham’s famed 1930’s restoration. Besides a huge fireplace, it still retains many of the original hand-planed, feather-edged, vertical pine boards, along with batten doors with wooden latches and strap hinges. The ceiling is exposed oak beam and the floor as well as ceiling above is wideboard. Of particular importance, this room also contains two of the original square-shaped, single casement, leaded glass windows. They too were carefully restored and re-hung where evidence had shown them originally located. These windows provide some of the best evidence available of seventeenth century windows. The entirely restored room presents an excellent picture of a seventeenth century residential interior in Rhode Island.[2]

The last of these 'original' additions was a single-story (c1712) kitchen ell with a stone-end chimney of its own. These particularly constructed chimneys were later referred to as “Rhode Island Stone-enders.” Only a couple of which still survive today. The ell was built off of the southern wall of the keeping room. This latest room, still used as a kitchen, has an enormous fireplace with a small oven still intact. An original beehive oven, evidence of which can still be seen on the outside, appears to have either fallen or was deliberately removed at some point in the past.[2]

The keeping room of the original house is its largest room and has an impressive system of framing with its original posts, girts, and summer beam – all solid oak and chestnut, and all beautifully exposed. The ceiling is exposed beam. The wide board wall sheathing was at some point covered with plaster as it remains today. There is also a very early corner cupboard opposite the enormous fireplace. It has what appears to be the original, planed, single plank, batten door along with two hand-wrought, butterfly hinges. The oak chimney trees (fireplace lintels) throughout the home are enormous as well as completely petrified. This author's own observation, far less than scientific, would indicate that based on the size of the trees used in construction as well as when they were installed, would make much of the wood in the house close to a millennia old.[2]

When leaving the keeping room and heading towards the museum room, you come upon the entry hall. This sheathed hall and stairway are particularly remarkable in that so few, if any of these original "split" staircases still exist. To one side the staircase contains six steps while the other contains seven. Being built at different times, the newer staircase was constructed to reach the garret above the old kitchen, now called the “museum room.” This name was given somewhere along the way because this particular room was the first to be restored. It is also the one room that has been structurally maintained as original as can be. As for the stairways, at some point, in order to facilitate the moving of furniture, the sheathing was carefully cut on a diagonal. All of what appear to be the original vertical boards are still there.[2]

Some years later, Howland’s intent was that the home be restored and opened as a museum; thus willing it to SPNEA. What is not clear is the reason why the home was returned to Mrs. Howland a short time later. Certain correspondence still maintained by (formerly-named) SPNEA, indicates that it was becoming too expensive for the agency to maintain. It is believed that the rest of the house was then restored by Isham for its new owners in the 1930s.[2]

The home contains six fireplaces. Both the kitchen and museum room have fireplaces almost ten feet wide and five feet tall. The museum room fireplace also has a round top oven built into the back wall. Both garrets (bedrooms) above each possess a fireplace. The room currently being used as a dining room has a smaller fireplace that is believed to have been appropriated for the heating system exhaust.[2]

An interesting and rare feature that few see is the southern wall of the main house still retains several of its original clapboards, preserved when the 1712 kitchen ell was added on. If one goes into the eaves behind the garrets, you can walk into the attic space above the kitchen ell. It’s where the ell is joined to the house in this upper region that several of the original hand-riven clapboards remain untouched. They appear to be made of oak and have been feathered and lapped while being fastened to the vertical sheathing with large, hand-wrought nails.[2]

An addition was built off the back of the kitchen which sits perpendicular to the main house. Following both the strict guidelines of the U.S. Dept of Interiors’ Restoration Standards as well as the local historical board of review. While ‘modern’ in design, the room was built in such a way that it could be “unzipped” from the original house. The guidelines are fairly strict that while an addition may be constructed on a historically significant house, the new work must be done in such a way as to reflect the present period style. This is done deliberately so as not to encourage “reproduction” style additions. According to the local board of review, had one constructed an addition closely resembling the house and its particular time period, it may confuse future historians as to when the addition was actually built.[2]

For fellow researchers, much has been written about this house as well as the Weavers and Howlands. This author has come across collections of photo’s, newspaper articles, historical documents and records as well as several book excerpts. The most recent of which was found in the non-fiction book, “Killed Strangely” by Elaine Crane. The book contains notes indicating that during the later part of the seventeenth century, our very own Clement Weaver had served as a juror in the murder trial of Rebecca Cornell – from the family of Cornell University fame. Apparently the book’s author had obtained this information from Jane Fiske’s edition of Rhode Island Court Records. Crane's book makes reference to Clement Weaver as well as this particular home. It is offered as a comparison to the home that Cornell was murdered in, along with a photograph of the "museum room" fireplace (the actual murder site).[2] During Isham’s restoration, it was noted that workers had found the original builder had used seaweed for insulation.[2]

See also

Bibliography

  • Antoinette Downing, “Early Homes of Rhode Island” – Richmond, Va. Garrett & Massie, 1937
  • History and Genealogy of the Weaver Family.” Rochester, NY Dubois Press 1928
  • Martha McParland, “The History of East Greenwich 1677–1960,” published 1960.

References and external links

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natreg/docs/All_Data.html. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Antoinette Downing, “Early Homes of Rhode Island” – Richmond, Va. Garrett & Massie, 1937 History and Genealogy of the Weaver Family.” Rochester, NY Dubois Press 1928

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