Webster Knight creates a beautiful "gentleman's farm" on East Avenue
During the period that Webster Knight, one of the wealthiest mill
owners in Rhode Island, dominated Warwick's politics, his estate on
East Avenue grew more beautiful and well known among horticulturists.
Webster Knight, like his father, Robert, was well known to the many
mill hands in Natick and Pontiac as he often visited the mills. Like
his father, Webster continued to use the trademark, "Fruit of the Loom."
The Logo – Fruit of the Loom
According to material published by the company, Robert Knight was responsible for the creation of the internationally known logo. He was dissatisfied with the method of marking bolts of cloth, which was done by stenciling in ink. The name of the firm, as well as the weight and construction of the material, was often so poorly marked that it was indecipherable. Knight wanted a method that would clearly identify his product so that it would be understood by even those who could not read and write.
The story often told is that Robert Knight was impressed with a still life painting of fruit by the young daughter of a friend of his and decided to make that painting his trademark. In time, people began asking for "cloth with the fruit on it," and "Fruit of the Loom" became a world famous logo for the Knight firm's product.
Webster Knight applied the same demand for excellence to his estate that he and his father did for their textile business. Webster had a number of buildings erected on his East Avenue farm in Warwick to insure the best conditions for his livestock and prize horses.
The Out Buildings
Bob Jodrie, who supervised the farm for many years, recalled the time when the farm hands would gather corn to feed the animals and place it in the corn crib, husks and all, for storage. The crib still stands today and is in excellent condition. Bob explained that the openings between boards was to allow air to pass through and the wire containers were to keep out pests. The corn remained usable for a long time in the crib and was used to feed the prized Ayreshire cattle and Morgan horses.
Near the corn crib is the old "wash house." This building was used to wash and sterilize large milk containers. Further along the lovely stone walled lane are the box stalls once used for young studs and brood mares, and beyond the stalls was the lush pasture for these animals.
Other interesting buildings that still stand on the estate are the cider mill, wind mill and greenhouse. The cider mill housed a press that was operated by using a team of horses for power to turn the press that would squeeze the apples. The windmill was used to pump water from the deep artesian wells, sending the water to the main buildings via gravity flow.
Beautiful trees and flowers
Along with the practical aspects of the farm there was a great deal of beauty. The roads were made of very fine gravel with gutters fashioned by hand out of stone. In addition to the handsome "bluestone" walls, the well-kept carriage house, windmill, and other outbuildings, were many trees, shrubs and flowers.
Once spring arrived, the area became alive with magnificent displays of flowers and bushes that had been started in the large greenhouse. The "3 zone" greenhouse was designed so that the full time gardeners could raise potted plants of all types, including orchids and other flowers for cutting. They propagated their own seed and maintained large cold frames for "hardening off" the flowers and vegetables in the spring.
The story of the Knight Estate will be continued.
One of the most important buildings on the estate was the gardener’s cottage. It led to the greenhouse where prize flowers were grown.
Photo by Don D’Amato