Buttonwoods 1 – A different Resort
The steamboats in the bay were kept busy during the 19th century taking large numbers of merrymakers to the shore resorts of Mark Rock and Rocky Point. While this was considered a great boon to many, there were those who felt that they wanted to enjoy the beauty of Warwick’s shores, but frowned upon the style of living the popular parks and hotels offered.
One group especially felt the need for a different kind of resort for themselves and their children. In 1871, members of the Cranston Street Baptist Church in Providence sought to take advantage of the recreational possibilities in Warwick, but shied away from the popular but boisterous Mark Rock and Rocky Point resorts. Instead, they sought the quiet beauty of Buttonwoods.
Buttonwoods, originally part of the area known as Naussauket, was owned in large part by the Greene family in the 1680s. Its attraction as a pleasant seaside area was noted and the Kinnecom family started to hold clambakes there as early as 1830. It was during this period that the name Buttonwoods began to be used as there were many buttonwood trees in the area.
Buttonwoods –Early Period
During the early Colonial Period, James Greene, son of Surgeon John Greene, owned much of the area we today call Buttonwoods. In 1686, his son, also named James, built a house on his large farm which, somewhat modified, still exists today.
According to Oliver Payson Fuller’s History of Warwick, written in 1875, the east end of the house was made of brick, “the clay of which was taken from Warwick cove…the mortar was made of shell lime…” Fuller tells us, “A few rods from the building stands one of the ancient Buttonwood trees, from which the farm receives its familiar appellation of the Buttonwoods. This old tree measures, near the ground, seven feet in diameter.” The tree is long gone, but James Greene’s house and that of his son, Fones Greene remain to this day.
In 1806, the Greene farm was divided and the western section, which contained the older house, became the property of Henry W. Greene, while the eastern portion was passed to Fones Greene Hill. In 1871, the Buttonwoods Beach Association purchased 130 acres from H. W. Greene and Fones Green Hill for $22,000. In 1872, the association erected a hotel at Buttonwoods at the cost of $20,000. While the hotel no longer exists, many of the fine cottages built by the association stand today.