Built in the late 18th century the Oliver Watson House, located near the Phi Delta Gamma house, on the campus’ Farmhouse Road, is the oldest structure on the University of Rhode Island’s campus.
When the state purchased the Watson farm in 1888, to form an agricultural school, they also inherited the pre existing colonial, two-story farmhouse.
Since its establishment in 1794 the Watson House has served many purposes. The walls had seen the lives of at least 10 different families before the land was purchased and since then it has been used to house the farm manager, was converted into a female dormitory, then became the home of Lambda Chi, later a tea room and eventually a nursery school. In 1958 the Watson house became unnecessary with the foundation of a new Child Development Center and was left abandoned. Even after years of being left idle the house still stands today as a reminder of the University’s roots.
In 1963 plans were made and funds were raised to restore the building, all repairs were finished by 1964 and in the early 1970s the house was furnished in its original style to hold its original style from 1790 and 1840 before it was owned by the university.
Since the restoration the Watson House has not been in active use and is instead available by appointment for tours of the building. The old decor still holds true and an array of kitchen utensils, weaving looms, furniture and spinning wheels are on display to enhance the aesthetic.
While it seems new buildings are erected on campus every year and the incessant sound of construction on the outdated ones is something the campus community has become accustomed to, the Oliver Watson House is one building on campus that will never be torn down as it was here long before all the others and will remain standing to serve as a declaration of the university’s modest emergence.