201112ind history

This home, located at 51 Phillips St. in Wickford, was built by Walter L. Rose for his family in 1911. Though it is only 109 years old, it has seen its share of notable North Kingstown residents as it has past through no less than eight other families since its construction.

I guess Wickford is one of the few places where someone would describe a home that is more than one century old as a “new” house. But that certainly is the case here in “Ye Olde Quaint & Historic” as the vast majority of the buildings in the village proper were already around for quite some time in 1911, when Sea View Trolley motorman Walter L. Rose had a new home built for his family on the corner of Phillips and Champlain (later renamed Elam St.) Streets. Walter, who had previously lived with his wife Louetta and their children up the road in Lafayette, constructed his home on a newly reconfigured lot, made from combining what was left of two earlier house lots that had both been decreased in size when the Sea View Trolley tracks were lain through Wickford on their way from Narragansett Pier up to the United Electric Railway’s “end of the line” station in East Greenwich. As a part of that trolley line’s construction, the house that had been there previously, known to most 19th century Wickfordites as the Brunnell place, once occupied by French-Canadian immigrants Bonaparte and Amalie Brunnell, had to be demolished as it was too close to the track right of way. Bonaparte, one can only hope he was good friends with Napoleon Magnant another French-Canadian immigrant living nearby, lost his home just prior to the line’s construction to Caleb Bowen who held a private mortgage on it, and it was from the Bowen clan that Walter Rose purchased the newly configured lot.

Walter moved into his home in 1911 with his wife and their four children, daughters Mildred, Madeline, and Helen and son Walter Jr. Things were really on the upswing for them, Walter left his job driving one of the trolley cars to open up a business which he housed in a small building right on their property adjacent to the trolley tracks and the Phillips Street trolley stop that was there. Walter sold, rented, and repaired bicycles in his store and also became a ticket office and waiting room for the trolley line. Sadly though, two years later, his beloved wife Louetta passed away and he was left a widower with four children to raise. His mother, Ella, a widow herself, moved in with Walter and lent a hand. They stayed there until 1922 when Walter sold his home to prominent local businessman Harry S. Dixon and his wife Annie.

By 1922, Harry Dixon was already a hometown hero of sorts, a successful community member that all of Wickford could take pride in. He had already been singularly instrumental in bringing that newfangled invention the telephone to the community with the installation and management of a private phone company that served North Kingstown a decade or so earlier. He sold that entire operation to the Providence Telephone Company as it worked towards establishing a statewide interconnected phone system and then reinvested his profits into purchasing the Peirce family-owned grain, hay, and feed store with its unique steam powered gristmill on Brown Street. He called his business Wickford Milling & Supply Company and expanded it to include coal sales and distribution. He bought the Rose house to live in with his wife Annie and their son Francis. Harry, a prominent local democrat, was also very involved in the Odd Fellows organization, which met in the big hall just across the street from this house, so the location was perfect for him. Harry died suddenly from diabetic complications in 1929. Annie stayed in the house with their son, later remarrying. The house stayed in the family until 1963 when it was sold to the Ramsay’s. Later owners include the Galgoczy, England, and Defelice families. For the last 33 years, the home has been lovingly maintained by the Rawlings. This 110 year old “new” house in Wickford, sure has a story to tell.

The author is the North Kingstown town historian. The views expressed here are his own.

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