Adelaide Knight's prize flowers and cattle
The formal gardens and pathways at the Knight Estate on East Avenue
were greatly prized by the Knights and were the objects of much
admiration. This magnificently landscaped area extended from the main
house to the greenhouse and windmill.
Bob Jodrie, one time supervisor for the Knights, recalls that over a half acre beyond the greenhouse was set aside for growing fresh vegetables. He remembers, "Huge carrots from special seed were grown for the horses. Some of these were so large that it was impossible to pull them from the ground and they had to be dug up." He added in a 1984 interview, “Potato fields, hay fields, apple orchards, pear and peach trees, strawberry and asparagus beds, and raspberry bushes helped to complete the ‘gentleman's farm’."
Many hands needed to keep up the estate
Edward "Bob" Phillips, a prominent Warwick Realtor, is another of many who have fond memories of the estate. When he was a boy, the Knight estate was known as the Natick Farm and Ed's father, George H. Phillips, was the supervisor for a portion of the grounds. Ed explained that his father was head gardener "on the south side of the road, in charge of the gardens and greenhouse." He explained that, "Mr. Graves had responsibility for taking care of the north side of the road, and a man from Greenwood cared for the cows, and Milton Mason was in charge of the horses."
The need to excel
The Knights were all interested in raising cattle and, after Webster Knight died, his daughter Adelaide and her brother, Robert Lippitt Knight, maintained that tradition. Robert L. Knight raised Ayreshire cattle on his 600-acre farm in Cranston and his uncle, C. Prescott Knight, owner of the Greyholme Farm on Arctic Hill, raised Guernsey cows.
Milking shorthorn cattle
Adelaide, in sole possession of the East Avenue Farm, decided to raise a brand of livestock called "milking shorthorn cattle." "These animals," Ed Phillips recalled, "were show cattle and won many prizes at fairs throughout New England." At times the barns at the Natick Farm were used to hold "cattle shows" and often Adelaide competed with her brother and uncle.
These "shorthorns" were housed in well-constructed barns that once stood near and around the present day Rhode Island Mall. In 1961, the livestock barns were torn down as the bulldozers began clearing the area for Sears & Roebuck to build their store. Once again the need for modern retail stores overcame the agricultural past in Warwick. East Avenue, once a pleasant, quiet rural road, soon became a modern highway to the shopping center.
Ed Phillip's mother, Mrs. George H. Phillips, recalled that the original barns were burned in 1927. She said that, "Except for one valuable bull, all the livestock were killed. The bull had escaped in the nearby woods and was recaptured the next day."
Ed Phillips went to work for Adelaide Knight in 1937 and remained in her employ until leaving to enter the armed services in World War II. He recalls that Adelaide was the only Knight living on the estate during his tenure there. His first encounter with Miss Knight came when Ed, as a teenager, found a Collie pup wandering on Bald Hill Road. Ed and his father brought the pup to the Knight Farm where Adelaide took a liking to the animal. Ed proudly added that the Collie became Miss Knight's constant companion.
While Ed worked primarily on the farm, Adelaide often gave him special tasks to perform. At Christmas he would be sent to help decorate the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pontiac or the Knight Memorial Library on Elmwood Avenue. Occasionally, he was sent to work on the property of one of Miss Knight's friends and was usually kept very busy.
The story of Adelaide Knight and the Knight farm will be continued.
This lovely windmill, which provided water to the main house via gravity flow, is one of the oldest buildings on the Knight Estate. It is an excellent reminder of the methods used to bring water where it was needed in the 19th century.