The dream in 1820 to build a Greek revival on a hill in Pawtuxet has been reincarnated almost 200 years later.
With the cutting of a ribbon Monday, Fair Street welcomed new residents to the neighborhood and a new role of the mansion that was the center of the state fairgrounds almost 200 years ago. Fair House developed from a simple gabled roof structure to one of the most prominent structures of the street. John Brown Francis, Governor of Rhode Island from 1833-1838, served as treasurer of the Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry that built the house with funds raised by a state lottery. Francis was one of the early proponents of education in the state and encouraged the Society to donate a section of the 12-acre Fair Grounds for school purposes.
On Monday, Fair House officially became home to 10, previously homeless residents.
Laura Jaworski, Executive Director of House of Hope CDC, welcomed more than 50 people including city council members, neighbors and Mayor Scott Avedisian to the ribbon cutting ceremony for Fair House. Since last July, House of Hope has served more than 1,000 Rhode Islanders, targeted homeless services, including Street Outreach, and housed more than 170 individuals, Jaworski said.
Working closely with the local office of housing and community development, City Council, planning board and the Warwick Historical District Commission, House of Hope brought the house and with $2.5 million in state and federal funding transformed it, with an addition, into 10 housing units. The work was performed by Stand Corporation. “This is a big day for Pawtuxet Village and Fair House. To take this historically significant, architectural gem and turn it into individual apartments for the homeless is an incredible endeavor and accomplishment,” said Mayor Avedisian. Avedisian said he feared the house that had fallen into disrepair would be demolished and is thankful for House of Hope’s continuing efforts.
In Rhode Island, last year alone, more than 4,000 people experienced homelessness. The reasons for homelessness in the state vary, but the Chief of Housing and Community Development, Michael Tondra, assured that the solution for homelessness is coming through the availability of affordable housing.
Michel Chapman, formerly homeless, was present at the ribbon cutting, and explained how much the ceremony, House of Hope, and Fair House means to him. “When I found out that my son knew I was homeless, I knew I couldn’t go on like this. I reached out to help. The thing that really amazed me about House of Hope is the fact that they will help you; they gave me food, and I never even had to ask. That’s the big difference between their agency versus other agencies. I am very grateful for not only House of Hope, but everybody I don’t know who made this possible. Now my son can know that his own dad has a home.”
Several units in Fair House are furnished with twin-sized beds, nightstands, refrigerators, and hutches. A bowl and kitchen utensils lie on small wooden tables in two of the apartments. Each room has at least one large window overlooking the lawn, soon to be the site of community gardens.
But not all of the apartments are entirely furnished, and donations are greatly welcome. Needed donations include general household items, such as silverware, dishes, twin and full-size sheet, towels, cleaning products, and laundry detergent. Calls can be made to Dawn Santos at (401) 463-3324 ext. 206.
Ward 1 Councilman Richard Corley explained how House of Hopes actions have touched the community. He said, “Homelessness is a sore of society that everyone keeps talking about, but now somebody [House of Hope] has done something about it, and it’s a very good step to repeat in the future.”
Michel Chapman, who will be living in Fair House, spoke about being homeless and what it means to now have a home.
TAKE YOUR CHANCE:
Warwick historian Henry Brown gave copies of 1821 and 1825 state lottery tickets that were used to raise money for the construction of the Fair Street mansion that served as the focal point of the state fairgrounds and the Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry.