Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory - Rhode Island
Primary house Felling Dates: Spring 1721, Spring 1723, Winter 1723/4, and Spring 1724
The earliest part of the Walker House was built in 1724 by Timothy Walker (1687-1745) on land that had been in the Walker Family since the mid-seventeenth century. The building remained in the Walker family until 1984 when Faith Shedd Potter transferred ownership to the Heritage Foundation of Rhode Island, now Preserve Rhode Island, Inc.
The Walker House, two-and-one-half stories in height, is a very early example of the square plan, a plan type that is believed to have evolved from the four-room-plan Rhode Island stone-ender in the first part of the eighteenth century. The plan featured a kitchen across one side, a large parlor, and a smaller third room on the first floor all heated by fireplaces and a similar plan on the second floor. The square plan house was cheaper to construct than a five-bay central chimney house, permitted greater flexibility in the number and size of heated rooms in a compact house, and still achieved the double pile plan increasingly favored in the eighteenth century.
The original north part of the Walker House, approximately twenty-eight and one half feet square departs from the typical square plan framing because it lacks intermediate posts on the north and south walls. In other respects, such as the presence of summer beams only in the parlor and the chamber above, the framing is consistent with square plan practices. The framing was concealed in beaded cases, but in the process of documenting the building some cases were removed and some walls were opened up.
Invariably the framing was found to be of sawn oak timbers. Vertical oak plank partitions divide the rooms. Circa 1780-1790, judging by physical and stylistic evidence, the house was extended by twelve feet to the south, adding two rooms on each floor, and a one-story dependency was built onto on to the south end. Unlike the studded and nogged walls of the original building, the outer walls of the south addition and its one-story appendage were constructed of oak planks nailed to the outside of the frame. The south addition could not be dated in this project given the limited reference chronologies currently available for Rhode Island.
Miles, D H, Worthington, M J, and Grady, A A, “Development of Standard Tree-Ring Chronologies for Dating Historic Structures in Eastern Massachusetts Phase III”, ODL unpubl rep 2003/9
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