State commission awards grant to URI’s historic Watson House for repairs, painting

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee 874-2116
State commission awards grant to URI’s historic
Watson House for repairs, painting
KINGSTON, R.I. –December 18, 2003 –The Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission awarded $14,625 to the University of Rhode Island for repairs to The Oliver Watson House. It is the only remaining building from the Watson Farm that became the home of the University.

The commission made its announcement during ceremonies on Dec. 9. As part of the award, the University will provide $7,312 toward the total $21,937 cost of the project. URI’s Alumni Association is providing an additional $400 for a sign.

This year, wintertime photos of Watson House by URI Photographer Nora Lewis adorn President Robert L. Carothers’ holiday card.

The state commission announced grants totaling $1.5 million for capital preservation work at 26 museums and cultural centers around the state.

University Architect Sandy Taylor, chair of the Watson House Committee, said the funding source is a $3 million bond issue approved by the voters last year for restoration work on historic sites around the state. Another round of awards totaling $1.5 million will be made in 2004.

“The committee members have been emailing me all day saying how pleased they are with the grant award,” Taylor said. The committee, which includes members from the University and surrounding community, was charged with preserving the house. Several members from the community volunteered to help ensure its future as a museum and a link to URI’s beginnings.

Forty-six organizations applied for funds in 2003.

The Watson House, which dates to 1796, is one of 80 museums, cultural arts

centers, theaters and historic sites that promoted the bond issue last year.

“State preservation grants assist arts and culture organizations with costly repairs and restoration work,” Edward F. Sanderson, executive director of the commission, said in a commission release. “The preservation of these particular

landmarks—theatres, museums, concert halls, historic sites—contributes to the quality of life in Rhode Island and ensures that our arts and culture facilities continue to inspire new generations.”

Taylor said the project will be put out for bids, and that he hopes work can begin in the spring. The project includes exterior painting, glazing and painting of the windows, interior plasterwork and wiring improvements.

Watson House now serves as a museum of antiques. After the farm was purchased in 1888 for the state’s agricultural school, the Watson House served the state college and later the University as a dormitory, daycare center, and sorority.

The white, wood shingled and clapboard house is located between the University Library and the Tucker (residence) Hall on Farm House Road. There are three rooms on each of the two floors that are furnished to reflect the general early 18th Century period. The foundation and chimney base are made of fieldstone. Stonework from an original well remains at the site.