Buttonwoods 4 - The Trolley brings change
While Moses Bixby and his Cranston Baptist Church Society had great success in creating a Buttonwoods Beach environment that they felt most comfortable with, another type of community grew up in an adjoining area. This was the Buttonwoods Campground and it grew as a result of the increasing ease of transportation that came in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
During the early 1870s, a horse car line was built from Apponaug and this made it possible for more people to get to Buttonwoods, but the numbers were still small. By 1881, the Warwick Railroad was extended to Buttonwoods, providing a direct connection to Providence, and now more people were beginning to get to the Warwick shore.
It was however, the transformation of the steam line of the Warwick Railroad to electricity in 1900 that was responsible for much of the development of Buttonwoods in the early 20th century. At that time, trolley cars made use of the old Warwick Railroad line and sped along from Cranston to Warwick Neck and across two bridges to get to Buttonwoods.
In an article entitled “Trolley Trips,” published by the Providence Journal Company, it was noted that the trolley left Exchange Place in Providence every 30 minutes from 6:18 am until 8:18 pm for the 14-mile trip to Buttonwoods. The round trip took two hours and cost 15 cents (without baggage.)
The 1900 article highly recommended the trip to Oakland Beach and Buttonwoods in the summer, noting that the route on the Suburban line had the largest and finest electric cars in the state. Some of the advice given to the passengers included:
“It is well to take always for a summer outing a wrap of some kind; as a cushion behind one’s back on a long trip will be grateful, and on the mildest summer afternoon the rapid motion makes a cool breeze.” In addition, the article warned that, “Masculine hats as well as feminine ones should be firmly secured…” It added, “though some conductors are obliging enough to go back for great distances in pursuit of apparently winged chapeaux, …they have no instructions to do so and may refuse.” The article went on to say, “The pleasure of the most exciting ride is lost when one has to hold a hat brim the entire way with an aching arm.”
The less affluent come to Buttonwoods.
Once the Warwick Railroad was electrified and extended to Buttonwoods, the less affluent citizens of Providence and vicinity could come to Warwick’s shores easily and inexpensively. Thanks to the foresight and thoughtfulness of Henry Warner Budlong, a summer at Buttonwoods became a reality for working-class city residents.