Pawtuxet’s Fair Mansion

The large, handsome 2 1/2-story house at 69 Fair Street in the Pawtuxet section of Warwick was very significant in the early 19th century.  The building is an excellent reminder of the time when the R.I. State Fair and Cattle Shows were held in Warwick.  From 1820 to 1848, the country fair was such an important event that Pawtuxet's "road to Spring Green" was re named "Fair Street." 

The Fair House, with its 2 story front portico, bracketed eaves and eye catching cupola had long been a Pawtuxet landmark.  The building developed from an original, simple gable roofed structure to one of the prominent residences of the village.  It was built in 1820 by William G. Budlong and his son, Anthony.  The Budlongs were skilled Pawtuxet craftsmen who were members of the Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry.  The Society was organized on Feb. 25, 1820 and was responsible for bringing the Fair to Pawtuxet and having the building erected to house the exhibits of participants in the Fair.  The Society came as a result of the determination of a number of prominent men interested in promoting agriculture and mechanical industry.  The Rhodes family was instrumental in creating the Society and the State Fair.

The Fair grounds encompassed the area bounded by present day Fair St., North Fair St., So. Fair St. and Atlantic Ave.  Premiums or prizes were awarded, various activities to attract young and old were included, and distinguished speakers delivered the Society's message.

The numbers attending the fairs grew and many were calling for a racetrack, larger stables and other improvements that would have been impossible in the restricted area in Pawtuxet.  In 1848, the Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry agreed that larger quarters would be desirable and the State Fair was moved from Pawtuxet to Narragansett Park.  The Fair House, which was used by the Society for only a few weeks a year, was sold shortly after the move.  From 1820-1848, it was not limited to use as an exhibit hall, for it also served as a meeting place and as a school.

John Brown Francis, Governor of Rhode Island from 1833-38 and Senator 1845-56, served as Treasurer of the Society and was one of the early proponents of education in the state.  His influence was used in getting the school established and he did a great deal to promote the movement to improve the school system in the area.  When the Fair moved to Narragansett Park, Gov. Francis encouraged the Society to donate a section of the Fair Grounds property for school purposes.  Later, the Pawtuxet Grammar School took its place as the local educational establishment. 

1.  Over the years, the Fair mansion, which once attracted large crowds, became a school serving the children of the village. In 1940, the King’s Daughters and Sons occupied the building that once housed the R.I. Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industries.  Since that time, it has served a number of different organizations and agencies, including the Bay Wind house, and a nursing facility (Gaspee Mansion Limited).
From the William Hall Library Collection. (Pawtuxet Images pg. 84 top)

2. The picture of the Pawtuxet Grammar School (ca. 1920) on South Atlantic Avenue, nearly opposite North Fair Street is from the Henry A.L. Brown collection.  It was demolished in 1938.  (Pawtuxet Images pg. 83 top)

3. These young scholars, along with their teacher, Olive Faguland, were at the Pawtuxet Grammar School in 1915.  The photograph was a gift of Olive Faguland and is in the Henry A. L. Brown collection. (Images – Pawtuxet pg. 82 bottom)

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