Tucked away on Baker Street in Warren, this charming little building is now home to the Federal Blues, a “militia” who was founded in 1798, and now serves as a group of men and women who march in parades in Revolutionary era uniforms with rifles and drums. This building was actually the barn for the Baker-Merchant-Dewolf House and was built in 1860 to house the owners horses and carriage. The barn was located behind the home and was moved in 1990 to safety after the nearby church wanted to demolish it for its parking lot.
Located on Baker Street in Warren, RI, and next door to the similarly restored Federal Blues Building, the former Narragansett Engine Company Firehouse stands out as one of the most unique buildings in town. Constructed in 1846, the flushboarded two-story building features corner pilasters leading to a pedimented gable end roof. At the second floor tripartite rounded arch windows somewhat resembling a Palladian window are centered, providing an early victorian flair to the building. The structure was restored in the 1970s and now is home to the Warren Fire Museum which houses memorabilia and equipment from as early as 1802, when the Department was formed including helmets, leather fire buckets, uniforms, insignia, and photographs.. The museum even has two restored engines, “Little Button” and “Little Hero”.
This large mill complex on Main Street in Warren was built by the Warren Manufacturing Company in 1896. Due to a fire in 1895 destroying all three of the original mill buildings of the Warren Manufacturing Company’s built in 1847, 1860, and 1872. These five-story buildings, containing a total of 58,000 spindles, totally dominated the north end of Warren. Only the handsome Italianate stair tower survived. It rises today from the middle of the new mill complex which was rebuilt in 1896 and enlarged in 1902 and 1907. The current mills were designed by architect Frank P. Sheldon, a Rhode Island mill engineer and designer. The Warren Mfg Co. continued in operation here until July of 1930, when President William Grosvenor gave control to a bank. In April 1934, the Warren Textile and Machinery Supply Co. purchased the mill to be used as a machine shop and for the manufacture of reeds, roll coverings, and curtains; employment was between 300 and 500. It was later occupied by the American Tourister Company and has since been restored and converted to apartments.
Built in 1916, this two-story former theater just off Main Street in Warren, RI evokes the recent memory of small motion picture theaters in cities and towns all over the region. The theater originally featured a large marquee and more muted colors on the exterior. After WWII, as with smaller theaters all over the country, this cinema struggled against the larger chains which featured 10+ screens and modern amenities, and ticket sales dwindled. The theater was sold in the late 1970s and converted to retail use. Since the 1990s, the building was occupied by the Imagine Gift Shop.
A castle in Rhode Island! Well not quite. At the conclusion of the Dorr Rebellion, where a mini Civil War in the state occurred, the State of Rhode Island gave the Warren Artillery Company $1500 for their loyal support during the conflict for the construction of an armory. Architect Russell Warren was reported to have designed Armory Hall, which is a one-story gable roof, Gothic Revival structure with two hexagonal castellated turrets. The building’s two turrets stand on either side of large arched front doors and were designed to house two Revolutionary War cannon. These cannon, named Pallas and Tantae, were built in Strasbourg, France in 1862 and were also given to the Warren Artillery Company for their support during the Dorr’s Rebellion. During the American Civil War, the Warren Artillery Company served with the Ninth Regiment of Rhode Island.
By WWI, the Artillery Company effectively disbanded and Armory Hall was rarely used. After WWII, with large numbers of returning veterans, the American Legion Post in Warren purchased the building for just $10! Over the years the crenellations on the two turrets deteriorated and were removed. Since 2012, a group has been restoring the historic armory back to its former glory to be used for functions and events.
One of the best-preserved commercial structures in the state of Rhode Island has to be at 146 Water Street in Warren. Built in about 1880, the Late Victorian-Stick style building was originally home to a local dry-goods store. The two-story symmetrical building features three bays with a central, recessed entry, round arched windows, brackets, and a decorative parapet with a segmental arch. The building was used by award-winning author and illustrator, David Macaulay as his studio for many years.
One of the most interesting homes in Warren, Rhode Island, is located on Main Street. This home was constructed in 1753 by and for Jesse Baker (1733-1818) and was a modest 1-1/2 story gambrel roofed Georgian home. Mr. Baker owned a local wharf with his brothers and father and was also listed as a mariner who owned various ships. By the time of the Revolutionary War, he and his wife stood against the redcoats and offered their ships for the revolution. It is said that Mrs. Baker used blankets from her home to fight the flames from the British burning the nearby Baptist meetinghouse. The home remained in the Baker family for over 100 years until it was purchased by Dr. Joseph Merchant in 1868. Dr. Merchant, seeing the commercial character shift on Main Street, made additions to accommodate his residence and medical practice in the building. He had the modest home updated after the Civil War with Italianate features including the corner tower, entry tower with tripartite rounded arch windows above, dormer, and brackets (now painted orange).
Merchant’s daughter, Mary Jolls Merchant DeWolf accompanied him on house calls, traveling by horse and buggy throughout Warren, Barrington, Swansea, and Rehoboth. After contracting a serious illness from one of his patients, she graduated from high school a year late. In 1898, during the Spanish American War, she joined the United States Sanitary Commission, precursor to the American Red Cross, providing aid to soldiers. Mary formed the British Relief Committee when World War I began and her home became the center of Red Cross work in Warren when the United States entered the war in 1917. She served on the Warren Branch of the American Red Cross for over 35 years. Mary was a champion of women’s rights and the suffrage movement and had the unique honor of being the first woman in Rhode Island to register to vote when the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920. She passed away in 1947 at 421 Main Street, the home where she was born and lived for 77 years.
Located at 405 Water Street in Warren, RI, this two-story rubblestone structure is a lasting remnant of the industrial past of the quiet town. Originally constructed as a forge, the stone walls are about two feet thick. After the Civil War, the building was purchased by Francis Marble, who lived on nearby Washington Street. Marble converted the second floor to a meeting hall for seamen to drink and dine when home from months at sea.
This parged stone industrial building is one of the oldest remaining in Warren, Rhode Island and is directly related to the history of the town being the leading whaling port of the Ocean State. Built around 1837, this structure was built as a storage facility for Joseph J. Smith, a whaler and the wealthiest man in Warren by the 1850s. The stone structure was constructed to house the highly-flammable whale oil which he rendered from the blubber of those he killed off the shores of New England. By 1887, the structure was purchased by Joseph Stubbs, who ran an extensive oyster business and sold many of his catches to the gilded age estates in nearby Newport and Narragansett. The building is now occupied by a bicycle shop, showing the changing commercial character of Warren and many coastal communities all over the region. While the building may not be architecturally significant, it showcases the industrial and commercial history of the town.
The Maxwell House was built between in 1743 by the Reverend Samuel Maxwell. The house, which is the oldest brick dwelling in Warren, is distinguished by the distinctive Flemish bond pattern of the brickwork, its field stone foundation, and its large central chimney. Maxwell was born in Boston and was ordained a Baptist minister in 1732 and settled in Newport. He later moved to Warren and had this house built at the corner of Church and Water Streets. His eldest son, James, appears to have been willed the home after Rev. Maxwell’s death. James Maxwell was a sea captain and slave trader in the Triangle Trade and reputed to be one of the wealthiest men in Warren (he later built homes as wedding gifts to his daughters). James Maxwell likely gained much of his wealth by participating in the sale of slaves including some who had been listed as being aboard his own schooler Abigail, where in 1790, the Captain Charles Collins, purchased 64 slaves on the coast of Africa and brought 53 back alive. The Maxwell House is owned by The Massasoit Historical Association and is maintained as a working museum.