The Oscar Aylsworth House
Then and Now
Not far from Williams Corner, on the north side of Post Road in the direction of Apponaug’s Four Corners is a lovely, 1½-story, cross-gabled house that is sure to attract your attention. This blue Victorian era home on the east corner of Spruce Street was built by Oscar Aylsworth in 1886. Aylsworth was a successful “drummer,” or salesman, and the bracketed cornices and handsome bargeboards ornamenting his home indicate his affluence. Twentieth century additions and improvements have been made without sacrificing any of the house’s basic integrity, and it remains one of the nicest homes in the village.
Until her death in the latter part of the 20th century, this was the home of Aylsworth’s granddaughter, Apponaug historian Dorothy Mayor. During its 100-year history it has served as a boardinghouse, a family dwelling, a beauty parlor and a dress shop.
Oscar Aylsworth built the house to conform with the better structures of the late 19th century, which featured high ceilings and large windows. By this time, stoves had become very efficient and replaced the old fireplaces. When the house was built, the Aylsworths were regarded as one of the most fortunate and successful couples in Apponaug. Within a short time after the house was built, however, Apponaug was shocked to learn that Oscar and Georgianna Aylsworth were getting a divorce.
In 1893, as part of the divorce settlement, the beautiful home at 3165 Post Road became the sole property of Georgianna Aylsworth. Apponaug had become an important mill village by this time and large numbers of immigrant workers were looking for “room and board” in the vicinity of the mills. The establishment of such a large enterprise as the Oriental Print Works in the late 1850s had brought about a number of changes in what had once been primarily a seaport town. The purchase of a mill site in Apponaug by Alfred A. Reed and his partners in the Oriental Print Works included one large tenement house and one or two smaller ones. Hotels and boarding houses such as the Oriental Boarding House, owned by the village butcher, A.W. Hargrove, flourished in the early years of the Print Works. The mill attracted large numbers of workers and, unlike the early villagers, many of them were not of English or Scottish origin and were not Protestant but were Irish and French Catholics.
The increased activity saw Apponaug once again revitalized and returned to an important center for business and trade. Georgianna Aylsworth, finding it difficult for a divorced woman to make a living, decided to turn her lovely home into a “rooming house” to supplement her income.
The timing for such an enterprise was excellent. Twenty years earlier, in 1873, Apponaug had witnessed a decline in the prosperity of the Oriental Print Works. This was the year of a very serious “panic” or “depression” that had a devastating effect on Rhode Island. Shortly after that, in 1879, the man behind the success of the print works in Apponaug, Alfred A. Reed, died, and by 1883 the company ceased to operate. Fortunately, the company was able to resume operations after 1896. At that time it was known as the Apponaug Bleaching, Dyeing and Print Works Co. This company concentrated on the printing of staple cotton fabrics. The Print Works enjoyed a limited success until 1913 when, under the leadership of J.P. Farnsworth, it made a major change and began a period of unprecedented prosperity.
It was during the turn of the century that Mrs. Aylsworth rented rooms and provided meals for the workers at the mill. The enterprising Georgianna raised her own chickens and tended a large vegetable garden. She very quickly became noted for her excellent jonnycakes, chicken dishes and corned beef and cabbage. As the Apponaug Company, under the direction of Farnsworth and his colleagues, achieved success and stability, Mrs. Aylsworth found a degree of prosperity as well. The hours were long, however, and the work was difficult. Eventually, the house began to suffer from the intense use and large numbers of workers who came for “room and board.”
Georgianna’s sister, Anne Taylor, a very wealthy widow, provided a solution. She offered to move in with Georgianna and make the home a family residence once more.
The story of the Aylsworth house, Mike Carroll’s Shamrock Café, and other buildings of significance in Warwick will be continued.