Friday, July 20, 2007

The Castle

Hearing that the castle was vacant and not looking so good, I took a ride by the other day and things did not look good at all. It was raining so I wasn't able to see much, but the door was ajar so I poked my head in and thought "Oh, no".
I had always known that the castle was there. During high school, my friend Faith lived just a few houses down so we drove by the castle many, many times. Because I'd always been interested in architecture I knew I'd love to go in the house at some point. In 1977, my father, my stepmother and I were able to go in while they were house hunting. The castle is 5 floors on 7 levels. The lowest level is the kitchen. One step up into a hallway (and a toilet room) which opens into the circular dining room. Up a half circular set of stairs into a huge living room. Also on that level is a round room which had a pool table in it. Across the living room is a 2 story high group of windows. Up another flight of stairs to a hallway with a bathroom, a big closet, another room with lots of angles and the roundness of the front turret. Also off the hallway is a closet with a small marble sink in it (there are 2 other sinks in bedroom closets in the other bedrooms). Up 3 more stairs into a round bedroom located above the pool table room. Up a circular stair to another round bedroom that has a balcony (in the 70's you could see downtown Providence). Up another circular stair to the top, a perfectly round room (which was my favorite). Looking out the windows of that room is dizzying you're up so high. I haven't even mentioned the nooks, crannys, built-ins, bookshelves, hidey holes, fireplaces (in every room) and other assorted beautiful characteristics which are throughout.
So, the first time I'm there, going up the stairs into the living room, I'm thinking this is the coolest house I've ever been in. I yelled down to my father that he's gonna love it up here. He came up the stairs and quietly said to me, "shhhh, we're buying it" so that the real estate agent wouldn't hear. That was the beginning of my love affair with that home. It proved to be the most impractical wonderful home ever. I did not live there, but I would stay there for a few months at a time, or for just a weekend. That was where we spent the Blizzard of '78. It was there in December, 1980 that my father yelled up from the kitchen asking if I knew John Lennon. He was watching Monday night football when they announced his death. I immediately went to the telephone and called in sick for the next day (but that's another story for another time). My four youngest brothers and sisters (I'm the oldest of 7) grew up there, from 10 years old through high school. My stepmother, Linda and I researched the house and found it was built in 1894 by artist Elisha Baxter (a founder of RISD). He sold it a few years later to George Wilhelm, who was the original brewmaster of The Narragansett Brewery.
I can't figure out why someone would abandon this home; sickness, financial troubles, who knows? What I do know is that I'm going to do anything that I can to get this place into the hands of someone who loves it and has the resources to bring it back to it's original beauty. So, I've been pretty busy with some research since. I know who owns it and that the taxes are paid current. I've talked with Don D'Amato, Warwick's official historian who had wrote an article about it when my father owned it. He wants to write a 'Now and Then' article in the paper soon. I've got some ideas about how and who to approach to save the old girl.
With my co-conspirators along today, we got a better look and, happily, things are not as bleak as they looked a couple of days ago. With the door being ajar, I knew the other day that I was going in, and today J and I took the tour, checking out the entire house from top to bottom. I wanted to bring some of WARNING stickers I have from my years in the security industry, but couldn't find them for today's visit. I will return with them soon. It's odd, there is still some food in the kitchen cabinets, some furniture (even from when my family lived there), the carpeting is the same(30 years!!) on the stairways, but I suppose that is a good thing knowing that the wood below has been preserved. There's some water damage, parts of some ceilings have come down, but nowhere near as bad as it could be. Kids have gotten in, but thankfully they haven't vandalized the inside, just the windows outside which have been boarded over. The original light fixtures that were there before are still there. There's lots of junk and crap around and the pool table is still there, but the structure itself seems to be as strong as the day she was built.
For me, it's nice to have a purpose in life. Something else to think about besides illness. I'm going to do my best to see this through to a happy ending.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How sad to see a house that was so beautiful looking so awful. I hope that the windows behind the plywood were not broken. THAT WOULD BE A SIN!