Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dixon House

From out of copyright book Westerly and its Witness by Rev. Frederick Denison 1878

Location of Westerly Steam Laundry

With special thanks for the collaboration of this project by Barbara Fallon

Westerly, Rhode Island, a coastal town in southern Rhode Island was home to many of my ancestors. Both my parents were born there and my maternal grandmother too.

It is not surprise that Charlie Stewart would take his wife and sons from the nearby Stonington, CT area to Westerly because of the thriving business opportunities there. Even though the New London Genealogical and Biographic Record lists that he founded the Westerly Laundry in 1890, it is likely that it was after 1891 when his youngest son, Dudley Wheeler Stewart was born in North Stonington. (The Westerly and Pawcatuck directory doesn't list the family or the business in the 1890 directory)

From the Rhode Island City Directory of 1892, I can see that the business was located at the rear of Dixon House. I used Google Maps to find the street which still exists, but it took my friend Barbara Fallon, a Westerly native, to point me to a Facebook groups photo collection which included a clip from a book, Old Pictures of Westerly Rhode Island by the late newspaper journalist, George H. Utter published in 1991. 

I next examined, Rev Frederick Denison's book, Westerly and its Witnesses, (out of copyright as it was published in 1878) and found a sketch of the hotel. Between these two sources, I have determined that there were buildings behind the hotel. It seems probable, that the Westerly Steam Laundry was really behind the hotel

The hotel laundry must have been the first customers of Charlie and his business partner, Howard W. Merchant. Mr. Mechant must have moved away or died because I can find no further record of him in Rhode Island.

The ad states that they have "all new machinery" in 1892, and that helps date the start of the business to 1892.

In 1900, Charlie, Ada and the boys live with their grandmother , Eliza Fish Denison Stewart. This is how the "Denison stories" came to be in my family history.    

So, today, we have a date for the start of the business! 

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