Jamestown Historical Society

137-Year Transformation from Boardinghouse to Condos

This article was written by Rosemary Enright and Sue Maden for The Jamestown Press on January 18, 2024.
Share this Page

Abbott Chandler, a 30-year-old merchant mariner who had made nine voyages around South America to the Pacific Ocean, arrived in Jamestown about 1880.

He began a business renting rowboats and sailboats from his floating pier south of the wharf at East Ferry. In 1887, he hired Charles Bevins, who designed many of Jamestown’s summer cottages, to build a boardinghouse for seamen.

The building was a trim three-story shingled structure at 73 Conanicus Ave. between Knowles Court and Shoreby Hill. Although the Chandler House, as it was called, quickly expanded its clientele, it remained essentially a private residence with rooms to rent. Chandler’s 32 bathhouses near the inn were an added attraction to day visitors.

Chandler House, later Harbor View, about 1900. From a glass negative.
Chandler House, later Harbor View, about 1900. From a glass negative.

When Chandler died in 1909, his widow and children inherited the building. They sold the property to George Wales to create an inn in 1921. Wales, the son of William Wales, had spent his childhood at Beavertail Lighthouse.

He had been keeper at the beacon until about 1910 when he moved downtown.

The inn’s unobstructed view of Narragansett Bay led to its new name, Harbor View. With its picturesque location just across the road from the beach, and within walking distance of East Ferry, the inn attracted vacationers of all sorts.

One of the earliest was Edward Fisher, of Pennsylvania, who wrote to Chandler’s son in May 1921: “I heard you sold your place to a Mr. Wales and that he is going to open up a hotel there. Would you do me a favor and ask him if he could let us have two rooms with board for 3.”

J. Howard and Irene Bowen purchased the inn in 1928. They kept it afloat through the Great Depression by providing a safe, friendly summer place for single women, many of them teachers. In addition to the restaurant in the inn, the Bowens had a summer restaurant, The White Nook, on the waterside of Conanicus. They were among the first to apply for a liquor license after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933; they received the second license ever issued in Jamestown.

The Hurricane of 1938 had a devastating effect on the Bowens’ property. The porch and facade of the Harbor View were severely damaged. The White Nook disappeared completely, along with much of the land on which it had stood.

The site of Richardson’s Garage and the White Nook restaurant following the 1938 hurricane.
The site of Richardson’s Garage and the White Nook restaurant following the 1938 hurricane.

The inn survived World War II and the 1940s, but in 1950, Iona and Walter Dailey purchased the building and opened it as the Harbor View Nursing Home. The home accommodated 21 patients, mostly from the island. An Oct. 16, 1950, report in the Newport Daily News told of an open house “to show the newly equipped establishment for the care of chronics, invalids, post-operatives, medical and elderly patients.”

Harbor View was a skilled care facility with registered nurses on duty and attending doctors, who made regular rounds. The food was cooked on-site with the main meal served at noon. The place was spotless.

It also was a personal place. Every room was decorated differently and had homemade curtains in the many windows. Chairs were upholstered, making for a comfortable, homelike atmosphere.

Visitors were welcome to come in at any time and often stopped in the kitchen to greet workers there. Adding to that ambience were the many dogs and cats who also lived there. It was a cheerful place for patients and convenient for their families.

The nursing home continued to function well until 1975 when it was determined, according to the Newport Daily News, “the building is too old to renovate as a medical facility to meet state and federal requirements.” Since its opening 25 years earlier, about 375 sick or elderly Jamestown residents had lived there.

The owners did operate an inn-type hotel for a short time before selling the building. During the next few years, many plans for its use were presented. None passed inspection by the zoning board of review. Finally, in 1984, the building was razed.

On its site today is a five-unit condominium, each unit with a stellar view of Narragansett Bay.

Related Articles

Jamestown Historical Society Launches Dynamic New Website

The new improved JHS website jamestownhistoricalsociety.org was unveiled last week after months of work by several dedicated JHS volunteers.

George Whitley, Rhode Island Jonnycakes

George Whitley spoke about the history of this special corn and the milling of it, and he made jonnycakes with flint corn for all attendees to enjoy.

Ceramic Pot

This small ceramic pot with its lid is believed to have come across the bay in the house that became the Bay Voyage hotel.