History of Rhodes on the Pawtuxet

Steeped in tradition and alive with history and charm, Rhodes on the Pawtuxet surrounds guests with a rich history of events, celebrations and jubilation.

Russell Morin Fine Catering had been providing catering food service to Rhodes on the Pawtuxet for years. In 2008, Rhodes on the Pawtuxet and Russell Morin Fine Catering decided to take the relationship to the next level allowing Russell Morin Fine Catering to begin selling Rhodes on the Pawtuxet as one of their own venues with a sales office on premise. Shortly after that, in 2010 Rhodes on the Pawtuxet took the final step, by turning the keys over the Russell Morin Fine Catering allowing them to use their expertise in events of all ranges to begin to take Rhodes to the next level, and have 100% control of the venues operations and the facility itself. Aaron Messina has been General Manager, overseeing the entire operation, and heading the Sales Team, since February of 2010. Aaron was brought on board charged with the task of resurrecting Rhodes on the Pawtuxet, and propelling it into the future as a multifaceted, historic event venue paired with the region’s most premier and well reputed catering company. It is a venture like none other. The largest, most historic event venue in the State of Rhode Island paired with the Southern New England’s most well renowned, and accolade catering company. We had a vision of what we could be, and now, two years later in 2012 we are seeing that vision actualize right in front of us and our clients, guests and community is telling us so.

The Rhodes on the Pawtuxet Gazebo (c.1880) and the Ballroom (1915) are the only extant buildings of what was formerly an even larger complex of recreational and social facilities located just north of Pawtuxet Village, on the northern bank of the Pawtuxet River in Cranston. The development of Rhodes on the Pawtuxet reflects clearly the evolution of Pawtuxet recreation-based industries from earlier textile and shipbuilding industries. Pawtuxet’s natural advantages of pleasant locations and water access on the Pawtuxet River and Pawtuxet Cove soon led to the development of recreation as an industry there.

Even before this, in 1872, Thomas H. Rhodes had recognized Pawtuxet’s recreational appeal when he opened his modest one-story frame pavilion for clambakes and flat bottom boat rentals. “Rhodes on the Pawtuxet”, as the operation was soon known, quickly expanded to include facilities for dancing, rowing, and canoeing. By 1898, the year of Rhodes’ death, various alterations and expansions had been made to the structure until finally, during that year; the newly incorporated Rhodes Brothers enlarged the grounds and built a new Casino for dancing. Scarcely three years later, in 1901, a second new and larger Casino was built, the earlier one having already been outgrown.

Rhodes became a center for social and recreational activities. Thomas Rhodes’ earliest clambakes were generally given for business or social groups. This tradition of using Rhodes for organizational and social functions continues to the present day. The Rhodes Ballroom housed balls, dances, political dinners, flower and dog shows, antique shows, and auctions, among other activities. The new present Ballroom opened to the public in August 1915 with 10,000 in attendance. Five months earlier, fire had engulfed most of the Rhodes complex.

One of our favorite memories relates to the light bulb-lit flag that still hangs in the Ballroom with 25 stars on it (the actual number of states that had joined the union at the time). It is said that during many of the military balls and social dances that were held here, the women would stand beneath the flag as a signal to the men that they were single and available!

Rhodes on the Pawtuxet was designed in what contemporary accounts termed a “modernized Renaissance” style. It is a hipped roof structure, with a central projecting cross-bay flanked by ornamental motifs. The main entrance is through a central two-story tetra style pedimented portico and was once crowned with a statute of Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance, who now decorates the front drive of the venue entrance.

The Gazebo is a one-story, gable-roofed structure built in the late 1870’s or early 1880’s as a “waiting room” for horse-drawn streetcars bearing merrymakers traveling from Providence to Pawtuxet and workers to their jobs in Providence. The Gazebo remains much of its original simple Queen Anne detailing including scrolled brackets, heavy turned corner posts and open railings.