200130ind History

This Cape-style house at 264 West Main St. in Wickford is much older than it looks. Remodeling work masks the home’s origins, which likely date back to Colonial times.

The recent renovations to the little Cape at 264 West Main St. are hinting at something that real estate transactions since the 1770s have long supported. This house is very old. This is a house that has stayed “under the radar” as it were. It has been sitting there quietly, hidden under the guise of numerous 20th century modifications that have masked its 18th century origins.

Assigning a construction date to this interesting little Cape-style home is difficult due to the condition of North Kingstown’s early real estate records, the property’s late 18th and early 19th century history as a small portion of a much larger Spink owned parcel, and the fact that it was extensively remodeled by 20th century owners. It most certainly shows up in an 1807 document in which Samuel Spink transfers his share of the ownership of the “house with the basement room” to his brothers Boone and Christopher Spink, and the 1839 real estate transaction through which Christopher’s widow Hannah sells it to Arnold W. Congdon.  Nicholas Spink, who was nearly an “empty-nester” when he constructed his new home and hatmaker’s shop just to the east of here in 1796, most certainly raised his family in a home here on this larger Spink parcel and the language of the 1807 document infers that this house with its basement room was that Colonial-era home. A detailed analysis of the house’s remaining original structural timbers and chimney stack configuration, which is not possible at this time due to access issues, would go a long way towards resolving this mystery. At this time, based upon the information I have, I have assigned it a date of 1774; a date that coincides with the birth of Nicholas and Hannah (Boone) Spink’s first child.  No information is available about how the house was used between 1796 and its sale to Arnold Congdon some 43 years later. Most likely it spent time as both a Spink family member home and as a rental property. Whatever the circumstances were, it is certain that in 1839, Arnold and Lydia Congdon moved into the home.

Arnold W. Congdon and his wife Lydia both began their lives together as husband and wife after emerging from personal tragedy. Arnold’s first wife, Mercy Ann (Rathbun) died in childbirth at the age of 24 while giving birth to Arnold Jr., who died just one month later. Lydia’s (Peirce) first husband, Isaac Spink died suddenly at the age of 25 leaving her with two sons. Arnold, formerly of Swamptown and Lydia, who had lived in Shermantown, purchased this house from Hannah Spink, who was a distant relation to Lydia’s deceased first husband, and moved here with her sons Eugene and Isaac Jr. They later had a son together in 1859, which they named Samuel, after Lydia’s father Samuel W. Peirce. Arnold spent his life working as a farm laborer and his two stepsons Eugene and Isaac Spink worked as fishermen out of Wickford Harbor as soon as they were able. Arnold and Lydia owned this home until 1865 and after that rented space from another relation of Lydia’s first husband, Samuel Spink (known as “Wooden Leg Sammy” to differentiate him from the many other Sam Spinks that were living in North Kingstown at that time.) out at the Spink farm on Newcomb Road before moving eventually to South Coventry, Connecticut. Lydia died there on Christmas Day in 1873 and was brought back to Shermantown and buried next to her first husband Isaac in the Spink family graveyard there. Arnold died five years later and was buried back in Swamptown next to Mercy Ann and their infant son in the Rathbun graveyard.   

The next owners of this house were Rufus and Susan C. (Northup) Rose, who purchased it in 1865 from the Congdons. Rufus was a local stone mason who worked with relation William Rose, of Rose Hill in Saunderstown, in the stone mason’s trade. Rufus and Susan moved in with their adult son Benjamin Rose, who worked as a laborer with his father, and daughters Susan, who worked in a nearby textile mill, and Elizabeth, who was still in school. A decade or so later, little had changed other than Elizabeth had gotten married to local lad Thomas A. Baker, who was working as the boss farmer/caretaker of the nearby Talbot estate and was living here in the home. Around 1880, when the Talbots constructed the caretaker’s cottage, Thomas and Elizabeth moved out of this house and took up residence on the Talbot estate itself. Rufus died in 1886 at the age of 72. At that time Susan transferred ownership of this house to her other adult son John Browning Rose who was a grocer, with a life estate allowing her to live out her days there.  Unfortunately John Rose ended up in financial difficulties and lost this house to the Wickford Savings Bank in 1899. The Rose family relocated to Richmond after this sad turn of events and the house was purchased from the bank by the Talbot family and folded into their extensive real estate holdings at this intersection, which was by then known as “Talbot’s Corner.”

 The Talbots used this house, like so many other nearby properties, as an income producing rental property while they owned it. The Boss Farmer/caretaker was responsible for rent collection and maintenance of these rental properties for the Talbot/Porter clan, who lived in Providence when not summering here in Wickford. It stayed in the ownership of this family until the eventual breakup of the Talbot’s family holdings in 1947; at that time it was purchased by Nathaniel and Helen Hendrick.

Nathaniel Hendrick was a local businessman who had very diversified interests. He was a real estate developer, real estate sales agent and appraiser, a landlord with extensive rental holdings, a well respected local auctioneer, and operated a home heating oil delivery business. He remodeled this building, into rental units upstairs and set up his home heating oil business office in what the Spink clan had called the “basement room” with its entry door right on the side of West Main Street. He was an active member of the local Masonic Lodge as well.  Nathaniel Hendrick died two days before the 1954 hurricane hit Wickford; this building stayed in Hendrick family ownership until 1972. Later owners, which included the Randall, Conaboy, House and D’Ambra families, have maintained it as a rental property. It is now owned and cared for by John Russo who lives in this ancient little home. If there is anybody out there who knows anything further about the mysteries of this fine little Cape. I would love to hear from you.

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

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