When I first began writing for the Warwick Beacon in 1983, John Howell and I discussed the feasibility of writing about Warwick’s historic homes. We worked to plan out a series that we hoped would attract the attention of many of Warwick’s interested citizens. Fortunately, the stories were well-received and, as a result, we published two booklets in 1985 with a number of Warwick’s historic houses in them. The most important thing I can remember from that early period is that when John told me, “You know the greatest satisfaction you will get will be from the people that you meet when you do these stories.” These were very true words.
Now, more than 25 years later, John asked me if I would take some of these same stories that I had written back then and bring them up to date. As I was already visually-impaired, my daughter, Terry Spencer, volunteered right away to help with the writing and putting these stories together. I have to say that Terry has found the same rich satisfaction that I have in seeing these beautiful homes and the wonderful people that we have interviewed.
Since we began we have found that we have interviewed Jean and Steve Tyson (the Greene-Bowen-Tyson house), Jeanne Smith Haronian (Sunnybank), Patrick Berek (the Remington House) and Paulette Turcotte (Aldrich Mansion). Now we have conducted interviews with Adele Anthony and Dennis Pacheco and we are bringing the Peter Greene house up to date.
The Peter Greene house, built circa 1751, is at 1124 West Shore Road, on the corner of Economy Avenue. It is one of the most significant historic houses in Warwick and we received great pleasure in the recent interview, which took place on Oct. 22, 2011.
My first contact with the Peter Greene house came in 1983 when the home was owned by the Hebert family. I found out quickly that Michael Hebert was a great font of knowledge not only about the house itself but also about archeology, the Early Colonial Period and Native Americans and he really gave me a new sense of history and understanding. Since Michael’s ownership the house has had a number of different owners. Unfortunately, not too long ago, the home was abandoned and, as a result of the ravages of time, wind, rain and vandalism took its toll.
Fortunately, in 2008, Adele Anthony became very interest4ed in it and found out the house had been abandoned and was up for foreclosure and contacted the necessary people to purchase the home. Interestingly enough, one of the bank representatives saw the house and stated that he thought it should just be destroyed. Fortunately, Adele and Dennis did not agree and have put in many long hours of hard work to bring it back to pristine condition and restore an important part of our heritage.
<*C>Peter Greene house, circa 1983
@T_Basic:Thanks to Mike Hebert, we got our first insight into the house and the early part of the history of Warwick dating back to the 18th century and even further back in some instances. The following is part of the interview that took place in 1980 with Hebert.
The easiest way to get to Conimicut Point is to travel along West Shore Road and turn down Economy Ave. When you do, you will most likely notice a large colonial farmhouse with a classic center chimney with the date 1751 painted on it.
In 1983 this house had just recently become the home of Michael and Arlene Hebert and their 18-month-old daughter, Elise. Mr. Hebert was overjoyed at being able to own a two-century-old home. At the time of this interview, he was an archaeologist and the field director for archaeology at Wilbur Smith and Assoc. Part of Michael’s work was to evaluate various historical sites in the state. When new roads are built or when old ones are upgraded to meet the demands of our times, areas of historical importance may be in jeopardy. So much of our heritage has been lost in the names of progress and practicality that it is very important to preserve what is left. That was Michael’s job.
The Heberts have found one of these important historical sites in their house and property here in “Old Warwick.” They live close to Conimicut Point and to what was once called the “Tenement on Conimicut.” The term had a much different meaning back in the 1650s, for then it was used to designate one of the original 51 shares of the “four-mile common.” The original purchase of Shawomet (Warwick) by Samuel Gorton and his followers included all the territory between two parallel lines. One line was drawn from Occupasapatuxet Cove and the other from the southerly end of Warwick Neck. These lines extended west for about 20 miles to the present day Connecticut border. The eastern portion of this land, excluding Warwick Neck but including Apponaug, was called “four-mile common.”
This area was divided among 51 men who qualified to be “proprietors.” All lists of these proprietors began with the name Samuel Gorton and ended with the “tenement of Conimicut.” This share was granted to Thomas Thornicraft. According to the first book of Warwick records, he received “8 acres of land on Quinemoke…upon condition that he shall maintain a sufficient fence.” This fence, often called a “water fence,” was to extend across the head of the neck at Conimicut Point from Mill Cove for about 900 feet north to the shore of Narragansett Bay. In this fashion it fenced off about 200 acres of excellent meadow land. This area was very important for survival in the early period as it provided the Gortonists with an area to graze their cattle in comparative security from the marauding Indians and wolves.
Stephen Arnold, one of the largest landholders in Warwick, bought this land in 1680 and four years later willed it, along with all his land at Conimicut Point, to his daughter, Elizabeth. She was the wife of Peter Greene, captain of the “Train Band” of local militia. The “tenement” in 1684 was next to the land that originally belonged to Greene’s grandfather, John Greene, the surgeon. John was one of the “purchasers” who, along with Gorton, founded Warwick. The marriage joined the tenement lands to the Greene property, where the house stands today. While it is possible that Captain Peter Greene (1654-1723) may have built a house on this property as early as 1714, it was more likely built by his son, Major Peter Greene (1682-1767) or by his son, John Greene (1711-1800).