Pawtuxet’s National Register homes.
Warwick, Cranston and Rhode Island are very fortunate in having a number of well-preserved, well-maintained Colonial and Federal-era structures. Many of these buildings have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and help us to understand our land and interesting history that spans three centuries of development.
Among the earliest houses that can be seen are the Captain Crandall house (1690) and the Ephraim Bowen Stillhouse (1720) on North Fair Street. On Post Road there remains the James and Malachi Rhodes house (1734), the Sylvester and Mary Rhodes house (1700), the Captain Thomas Remington House (1740), and the Carder Tavern (1740). All these and a few others were built before the Revolution. Also along Post Road is the very important Christopher Rhodes house (1800) that reminds us of the early Industrial Revolution, the Masonic movement and the politics of the early 19th century.
There are many more historical sites such as the Bank Café, the Pawtuxet Armory on Remington Street and houses on both sides of the bridge. These emphasize the village’s role in the 19th and early 20th century when it became the terminus of one of Providence’s street car lines. This led to Pawtuxet’s development as an important recreational and suburban center.
In the first two decades of the twentieth century there were still many more horses and carriages than there were automobiles, but the trend towards the motor car was sure and steady. The first automobile in the area was here in 1898 and it was a steam-powered car. By 1901, an electric "truck" was already making deliveries in Providence, and by 1920, the gasoline-powered automobile was here to stay. From less than 800 automobiles registered in Rhode Island in 1900, the number had grown to well over 40,000 by 1920. This meant an increased popularity of Warwick as a resort area and, as a result, the communities of Lakewood and Pawtuxet grew as suburban entities.
During World War I, Pawtuxet residents had high hopes for a much better world and hoped this was truly “the war to end all wars.” Unfortunately, the enthusiasm and patriotism once felt by Rhode Islanders turned to bitter cynicism by the 1920's. The poor foreign policies of President Warren G. Harding's administration, coupled with the failure of Rhode Island manufacturers to improve and update their holdings, saw the beginning of the end of the once predominant textile industry along the Pawtuxet River.
In addition, many residents were stunned by the passage of the 18th Amendment in January of 1919, which prohibited "the manufacture, sale or transportation" of intoxicating beverages. There was disbelief, disappointment and a sense of being deprived of a liberty of conscience and free will. Warwick never did become "dry" in reality, and it would appear that if all 1520 federal agents hired to enforce the Volstead Act were stationed in the Pawtuxet Valley, the flow of liquor would still have continued uninhibited. Pawtuxet, as many other villages in Rhode Island, became infamous for smuggling and bootlegging.
This phase ended in the early 20th century and the village experienced steady growth as new and faster methods of transportation brought about more development. Physical changes over the years resulted in Pawtuxet’s demise as a major seaport. In time, industry moved from the village, and in the late twentieth century, a major network of super highways and roads bypassed the area. As a result, Pawtuxet was able to escape the destruction of historic places and maintain the fabric that made it such a charming late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century village.
Today, Pawtuxet residents take great pride in their village. They have their own monthly newspaper, a village organization, and especially they have citizens who love the village and intend to keep as is to preserve its rich heritage.
The story of Warwick’s resorts and recreational areas will be the subject of this website in 2010.