Greenvale on 1870s map

“Gentleman’s Farms” have long been a part of Portsmouth farm history. Greenvale Farm has been in the same family since the 1860s.  John S. Barstow, a China-trade merchant from Boston, created a “gentleman’s farm” on fifty-three acres of land on the shore of the Sakonnet River.  Greenvale was Barstow’s country retreat and he constructed a large main house and stable designed by Boston architect John Sturgis.  Barstow followed a pattern for a gentleman’s farm from the agricultural literature of the day (Country Life by Robert Morris Copeland – published 1859).  This volume is among the “Greenvale Library” collection that was given to Redwood Library by an heir to Barstow.

In his introduction, Copeland wrote: “I shall confine myself to the wants of men with small fortunes, as our country must always be principally inhabited by this class.”  Copeland sees these as men who have retired from active business so they need to have an occupation so to avoid the “evil of mental inactivity.”

Copeland goes on to describe a pattern for such a farm.  He sees the ideal farm as 60 acres of which 20 are farm. three acres are kitchen garden, 11 acres are for orchards of pears, peaches, cherries, plums, quinces, apricots, nectarines, apples and nuts.  Six acres are occupied by barns, stables, greenhouses, a grape house, hotbeds and nurseries as well as a dwelling house.  Land is set aside for a flower garden as well.  The rest is lawn, woods, ponds and roads.

The author organizes the book around an agricultural calendar that somehow starts with September when planning begins for the next growing year.

Vintage image of the Barstow house at Greenvale

Gentleman Farms existed in Portsmouth during colonial days when Newport merchants (Metcalf Bowler, Aaron Lopes, etc.) had their country estate.  After Barstow’s day the tradition continued with the Taylor’s Glen Farm and Sandy Point and Oakland Farm with the Vanderbilts. You can visit Greenvale today.  It is located off Wapping Road and descendants of Barstow operate it as a vineyard.