always dapper, Senator Nelson W. Aldrich

always dapper, Senator Nelson W. Aldrich

I’m fortunate to have rare and exclusive access to the former mansion and estate of Senator Nelson W. Aldrich (1841-1915), Rhode Island’s Republican Senator, for the purpose of research and to photograph and document the property for historic and preservation purposes. Estate photos are posted and updated on this blog’s Photo Gallery.

Aldrich was a very private individual who enjoyed his large, lively brood of eight children. Sadly, three other children died at very early ages, which was not unusual for the day.

Born on a modest farm in Foster, RI, Aldrich showed ambition at an early age and soon ventured to Providence–then an epicenter of the Industrial Age–to begin his career, securing a position with the state’s largest grocery wholesaler. During the Civil War he left the company to serve briefly in the Union Army, where he contracted Typhoid Fever, a serious illness from which he never fully recovered. When he returned to the wholesaler, he rose quickly through the ranks to become a partner. He was bored by business and eventually left the grocery for a career in finance and politics.

In 1881, Rhode Island’s current U.S. Senator, retired Civil War General Ambrose Burnside, died unexpectedly while in office and Aldrich was elected to replace him. This began his powerful political career that dominated politics in this country for 30 years. BTW: Burnside was not a native son of the Ocean State. He met his wife while in military training in the state and became a resident. His businesses failed, but he was elected governor and U.S. senator.

General and later, Senator Ambrose E. Burnside

General and later, Senator Ambrose E. Burnside

Aldrich’s legacy is his outline for creating the Federal Reserve, his sponsorship of the income tax, his ability to work with both sides of the aisle, his charm, intellect, and honor in keeping his word, and his magnificent vision for constructing one of the country’s most beautiful estates. The estate was one of the most expensive in New England and originally was 260 acres of botanical gardens with statuary, arboretum and manicured grounds.

Today the 70-acre property listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is privately owned by the Diocese of Providence and not open for public access or tours* (security guards are posted), but is used as an appointment-only exclusive venue for posh weddings and social events, business meetings and retreats.

*The only time the mansion is open to the public is for a luncheon in June and in December for holiday luncheons and dinner dances.  Please visit www.aldrichmansion.com for information and reservations.

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