EAST GREENWICH — Crossways Farm – a property consisting of a farmhouse and agricultural outbuildings at the “crossways” of Cedar Avenue and Middle Road – has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, the R.I. Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission announced recently.
“In this preserved East Greenwich farm we can trace nearly three centuries of Rhode Island history,” said RIHPHC Executive Director Edward Sanderson.
The farm – located at 12 Middle Road and also known as the Spencer-Shippee-Lillibridge House – received the federal recognition for its contributions to the history of the town’s agriculture and architecture.
Owner Sam Sinel applied for the nomination to the National Register a little more than a year ago, he told the Independent when the nomination was pending in February.
“It is not just a house, but a homestead. There is the main house, the carriage shed, the barn, the screen house, the pump house and the stone milk house,” Sinel said. “The crops and the livestock are missing, but when I step out of the back door, it seems like I should be heading over to the barn to milk the cows.”
For two centuries, the farmhouse served as the primary residence for a sizeable and prosperous farm, and it retains the character and immediate setting of its agricultural past, according to RIHPHC.
The 1.3-acre property is the core of what had been a 225-acre farm. The large, two-and-a-half-story, timber-framed house is vernacular Georgian in design with some modifications, said RIHPHC, and its date of construction has been traditionally given as 1772, but some architectural features suggest a possible mid-18th century origin.
The history of Crossways Farm begins with John Spencer, who acquired land for his homestead farm on a parcel just northeast of the intersection of Cedar and Middle roads, according to RIHPHC. By 1716, his son, also named John, acquired a 73-acre parcel immediately to the south of the original Spencer property. This land formed the core of a farm that would be maintained by succeeding generations of Spencers, Shippees and Lillibridges for the next 250 years.
However, in the decades following World War II, smaller farms languished with falling dairy prices and increased competition from larger farms, and farmland in East Greenwich was rapidly increasing in value because of burgeoning suburban development.
The long tenancy of the Spencer, Shippee and Lillibridge families ended in 2001 with the sale of the present lot with house, yard and nearby outbuildings intact to the Sinels.
The National Register is the federal government’s official list of properties throughout the United States whose historical and architectural significance makes them worthy of preservation. In addition to honoring a property for its contribution to history, listing on the National Register provides additional benefits, such as eligibility for federal and state tax benefits for historic rehabilitation projects.
Owners of private property listed on the National Register are free to maintain, manage or dispose of their property as they choose.
In February the Independent published a story on the farm’s history and nomination to the National Register, which can be found in the newspaper’s archives at www.neindependent.com. A more complete history of Crossways Farm also can be found at www.preservation.ri.gov.
Reporter Jonathan Pincince can be reached at email@example.com.