To the Editor:
In response to the article “Pawtuxet area project requires council action” published Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, the 2.5-acre site off Narragansett Parkway was known for a century or more as “the Swedish Village.” Swedish immigrants first settled in Pawtuxet in the mid-1800s camping on the country club estate known as Choppequonsett of 200 acres owned by the heirs of Nicholas Brown III.
The benevolent Organization of the Swedish Workingmen’s Association was founded Oct. 4, 1903, with the idea of maintaining a campground as a healthy environment for children and sick members of Swedish families. The association’s 100 members officially incorporated on July 13, 1904, and began a long tradition of meeting every summer weekend at their campground on Narragansett Bay. In addition to picnicking and swimming, an old resident, Ernest Bloom, recalled activities including singing, dancing, spirited baseball games, wrestling matches and horseshoe throwing. Each year on Labor Day, a “field day” was held that featured water sports, a parade, a dressed-doll contest, dancing and singing, and a big supper at the Workingmen’s Association Community Hall. The day – and the summer season – ended with a bonfire.
The campground association was so successful that in 1912, an enlargement was made to the community hall. At the end of the following summer, their bank account stood at an impressive $4,000. Many members leased land on the campground and built summer cottages, and the area became known as Swedish Village. Some liked it so well they winterized their cottages and lived there year-round. Their children attended grade school at the Pawtuxet Grammar School in the village. A number of the cottages can still be seen today, along Narragansett Parkway between Canonchet and Naushon Avenues; Scandia Avenue runs through the center of the old campground.
Henry A.L. Brown
Mr. Brown is the Warwick Historian. The area he writes about has 24 cottages and a store that Centerville Builders proposes to clear as the site for single-family homes and condominiums. The development requires council approval.