Thanks to Nelson Aldrich, much of the significant events in the United States in the late 19th century come form Indian Oaks on Warwick Neck Ave. During his long tenure in the Senate, Aldrich formulated nearly all the tariff legislation passed by Congress. Near the end of his 30-year career, as chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, he formulated a financial plan for the country that was the basis for the Federal Reserve System. Along with Senators William B. Allison, John C, Spooner and Orville H. Platt, the Rhode Island senator became part of the “Four” who controlled the Republican Party, which controlled Congress. Congress, in turn, controlled the U.S. during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Many major decisions that affected policy were made at meetings of “The Four” at the boathouses of Warwick. Historians can only guess at the secret dealings and political maneuverings that must have taken place in that upper office that overlooked Narragansett Bay. Presidents Chester Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and William H. Taft all found that Aldrich was the man with whom to deal if they were to function effectively. His control of finances and his political expertise made him a most valuable friend or an awesome enemy.
Biographers have also recorded another side of Aldrich’s personality and life – that of husband and father. In the period shortly after the Civil War, he married Abby Chapman Greene. They had eight children: Edward, Lucy, Richard, Abby, Stewart, William, Winthrop and Elsie. Throughout his busy career, Aldrich managed to find sufficient time to play with his children and was the happiest when the entire family gathered at the Teahouse at Indian Oaks. His biographers tell us that he created his magnificent estate with the family in mind. When the children married, Indian Oaks became the center of tremendous activity and happiness and the busy world of politics and finance was forgotten for a little while. Two of the most celebrated events held at the Warwick Neck complex was the wedding of Abby to John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1901 and the marriage of the Aldriches’ youngest daughter, Elsie, in 1914. Abby was married in the Teahouse and Elsie in the recently completed Mansion House.