Warwick has been fortunate to have a number of buildings that date back to the colonial period as well as the 19th century. Some of these houses have survived almost intact for three centuries. We can see the value that many of them have in displaying the architectural beauty of the time as well as our rich heritage. There are some of them, too, that have not only survived over a long period of time but that are a very important and integral part of modern Warwick in the 21st century. One of these houses that fit into the latter category is the Governor D. Russell Brown house at Oakland Beach. It has served not only to house the governor but also to draw attention to the beauty of the Oakland Beach area and Warwick’s waterfront.
D. Russell Brown, who was governor from 1892-95, selected this beautiful spot for his summer mansion. Brown helps us recall a time when the textile industry played such an important part in Rhode Island history. Wealthy mill owners often became governors for the prestige of the office, although many were “puppets” controlled by the legislature.
Joseph Carrolo, called Mr. Oakland Beach, found that he loved the area and he was impressed with the Governor Brown house. Fortunately, it was for sale and Carrolo made it his home while he developed it into a major amusement area. Shortly after the death of Carrolo, who lived to be 103 years old, enterprising entrepreneurs saw the house as an ideal setting for a restaurant. Since 1981 the house has served as a restaurant. It has undergone a great deal of renovation and has been known as The Island View Inn, Cherrystones and now Top of the Bay. Today, Top of the Bay is one of Warwick’s most popular restaurants and is owned by Elias Farhat and his partner, Sam Khouri.
When Terry and I awlked into Top of the Bay, we quickly realized we were entering one of Warwick’s finest late 19th century private homes as well as having the opportunity to enjoy fine dining and a magnificent view of the bay.
Over the years, the restaurant has not only undergone a number of owners but some major changes. The addition, a large dining room with a seating capacity of 150, has attracted many to appreciate our rich heritage and some of Warwick’s finest scenery.
It reminds us of the time when so many came to Oakland Beach to enjoy the sunshine, cool breezes and the magnificent amusement park that was once here. While the hurricane of 1938 and Hurricane Carol of 1954 destroyed the amusement center, the natural beauty of the area remains. From the time that it was known as Horse Neck to the present time Oakland Beach has reflected so much of Warwick’s history and the Governor Brown house is a visual reminder of how it used to be.
The story of Oakland Beach from its earlier days to today will be continued.