Indian Oaks-Aldrich Estate circa 1984
With a very informative interview in 1983, we learned of the status of the Aldrich mansion at that time. Since then there have been further changes. This is a report on the status of the mansion as it was under the management of the Warburton Agency.
Down through the years, Indian Oaks property has had but two uses, that of a private residence for the Aldriches and as a place for spiritual training. In the 1980s there have been some changes. The estate is no longer a seminary. It is now designated as “Our Lady of Providence Center, Warwick Neck.”
In 1983 James H. Marshall, vice president of the Warburton Agency, the firm managing the real estate, explained that plans for the future use of the property included accommodating people in the manor house for retreats, seminars and conferences; special training programs for business and government leaders; a possible retreat area for college students, religious orders and senior citizens; and sponsoring cultural programs such as music and religious art.
At the time, Marshall stated, “The Warburton Agency has been asked to be the management agent for the foreseeable future. This entails overseeing daily operations, repair and renovations of buildings and grounds, as well as expanding the function of the property as a center for spiritual training and renewal. The status of Bishop Hendricken High School remains unchanged and, along with the Warwick-East Greenwich Regional CYO Center, may grow in the future.”
Fortunately, a great deal of the manor house remained intact while the estate managers were engaged in the very expensive process of cleaning and sealing it against the elements in order to preserve it. All the rooms were cleaned, repaired and upgraded to meet current building codes. Wherever possible, mindful of its historical significance, the owners attempted to bring the house back to its condition at the time when Senator Nelson Aldrich lived there. They hoped to obtain furnishings representative of the period and were searching for a suitable portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Aldrich to hang in the great house.
“Perhaps permission will be given to open the manor for tours, but not in the near future,” Marshall said when asked about that possibility.
When asked what some of the major problems on the estate were, Marshall quickly and emphatically said, “Vandalism. The gardener’s cottage and stables have been terribly vandalized by incredibly thoughtless persons.” To combat this, the Warburton Agency has tightened security and now has around-the-clock protection.
In commenting about the other buildings on the estate at the time, Marshall added, “The tower and the underground supply tunnel have been sealed off. The ‘tower house’ is an apartment occupied by the CYO director and the stable area is used for maintenance and storage. The ‘northeast gatehouse’ is a private residence. The much heralded ‘boathouse’ will remain dormant for awhile. At the present time there is a caretaker living there. When the main property is in operation, the boathouse will again be utilized.” In commenting further, Marshall pointed out that the “caretaker’s cottage is in excellent condition and that the stable and paddock sites adjacent to it may become offices or maintenance areas. The heavily vandalized gardener’s cottage may be restored and utilized for specialized programs which require privacy or autonomy.”
In 1984 this comment was made by William Warburton Sr. of the agency. Thanks to the foresight of the church, Warburton, who ranks the Warwick Neck property as the “most challenging assignment” his agency has undertaken, and to James Marshall’s special talents, Indian Oaks is quickly becoming a great asset to Warwick and all of Rhode Island. Today, under its present management, the mansion is used for seminars, wedding receptions and social functions.
What was once a rich man’s sumptuous estate to be shared only with the privileged “power elite” has been transformed into a vital, useful area. The flowers and greenhouses are gone, but the magnificent view remains and, as recent history of the house points out, “The Aldrich Mansion is opulent, dynamic in appearance and breathtaking in its style and design/ Today, we are able to relate to the fabulous “Golden Years” of Sen. Aldrich, the heritage of the past, and at the same time witness the estate really becoming a “friend to man.”
Since 1984 a number of changes have been made. In the 27 years since the interview with Mr. Marshall, the estate has undergone some major changes. Fortunately, the integrity of the estate has been kept.