One Square Mile Johnston: How They Lived 326 Years Ago

Feb 3, 2017

Johnston is home to one of the oldest houses in Rhode Island: the Clemence-Irons House, built in 1691. It's right on George Waterman Road, but if you don't slow down, you'll miss it. 

RIPR's Chuck Hinman stopped by recently for a tour with Daniel Santos, site manager for Historic New England.


According to Historic New England, the Clemence-Irons House is named for the first and last owners of the property. The original four-room stone-ender was built in 1691 for Richard Clemence, the son of Thomas Clemence, a prominent member of the community (Providence at the time), who came over from England in 1636. Thomas Clemence bought the land from the Native Americans in 1654, to begin farming. There's a popular legend that the big chimney of the house was all that was left of an earlier house that was burned during King Philip's War in 1675, but that story is considered unlikely.

Subsequent owners of the property included the Angells, the Goddards, the Sweets and finally Ellen Irons, who died in 1937. The house was purchased by Henry D. Sharpe and his sisters Ellen and Louisa in 1938. They engaged colonial architecture scholar Norman Isham to restore it to its original state.