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Preserve America is a national initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

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Preserve America Community:
Little Compton, Rhode Island

The town of Little Compton, Rhode Island, was founded by explorers from Plymouth Colony seeking to expand their settlement along the Massachusetts coastline. The land they chose, situated on a peninsula sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean, was originally named Sakonnet after the local Sogkonnite tribe of Indians.

In 1682, Sakonnet was incorporated by Plymouth Colony and renamed Little Compton. Little Compton became an incorporated town in 1746. Today, Little Compton (population 3,593) is a rural-farming community. It was in Little Compton that the famous Rhode Island Red chicken was developed.

Fishing is still a major industry in the town, as one can observe with the daily departure of the fishing fleet from the Sakonnet Wharf. The town has also developed into a vacation spot, having retained the traditional atmosphere of a seaside New England town due to its isolation.

Wilbor House, headquarters of the Little Compton Historical Society, stands on land purchased from the Sakonnet Indians in 1673. Built by Samuel Wilbore in about 1690, the original house consisted of only two rooms, one above the other, and a cramped stairway and attic, typical of 17th-century New England homes.

Today one unusual feature of Wilbor House is that it spans four centuries and contains rooms representative of each. It is part of a complex, including a barn museum housing farm implements and vehicles, as well as other outbuildings, which interprets the town's history for visitors and residents.

The society, in partnership with the town and local foundations, recently rescued an 18th century barn threatened with destruction, moved it to Little Compton, and refitted it as a state-of-the-art storage facility for historic artifacts. The Little Compton Agricultural Land Trust has received Transportation Enhancement funding for the preservation and restoration of historic agricultural landscapes.

For more information

Little Compton Historical Society: users.ids.net/~ricon/lchs/

Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation profile of Little Compton: www.riedc.com/riedc/ri_databank/31/293/

Posted May 13, 2009

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