Featured House: Driftwind

Fri, 09/25/2015 - 9:15am

For the first time since the 1800s, the Driftwind Estate built as a family home for Capt. Hiram F. Willis has come to the market for sale. It has been owned by the same island family since Capt. Willis had it built in 1884.

The property is also known as the “Capt. Hiram F. Willis House." It was built by John Rose, a local builder, and was originally designed as a five-bay façade, center-entrance, mansard-roof cottage. Today, the property includes an attached one bay garage and a two-bedroom guest suite above.

Capt. Willis was a fisherman during the 1890s and captained the F/V Block Island. By the early 1920s, he was described as one of Block Island’s leading wholesale fish dealers. He would eventually sell his business to the Providence-based fishery firm Rhode Island Fish Company.

Driftwind is a classic Block Island house that includes two beautiful single family homes located just on the edge of town, while also offering tranquility and privacy. The 2,530 square-foot main house is accompanied by the 1,146 square-foot bedroom cottage and a half-acre of land. The main house still possesses the charm of the 1800s, but has recently been renovated by Driftwood Interiors. It has seven bedrooms and four bathrooms, as well as a kitchen that opens up to a patio with an outdoor dining area. The kitchen is new.

The master bedroom has a lavish bathroom, including a large soaking tub.

The smaller cottage has also been recently renovated, with modern kitchen, dining area and living room — perfect for guests or visiting family members. The Driftwind Estate is within walking distance of the ferry and the downtown area. The property is located in the town's mixed use zone, so the home can be used as the family compound, a rental property or as a bed and breakfast. The property is still being rented out to visitors of Block Island.

It’s in a great location," said owner Melissa Pike. "Everyone who has ever stayed there loves the location, with the proximity to the beach, the movie theater. It's near downtown but it is still nice and quiet."

Melissa said that her company, Driftwood Interiors, recently renovated the property. "We completely gutted it and opened up the walls and gave it a better flow. We put some structural support to help open it up for a more modern family. There's a nice marble bath, glass shower doors, new kitchen cabinets, granite counters."

Driftwind has a rich Block Island history. The home was lovingly used to raise the direct descendants of Block Island’s original settlers as well as be a place of coming back for the many visitors that love Block Island.

Capt. Willis was married to Arabelle Dodge, a direct descendant of Trustum Dodge, who was one of the original settlers of Block Island.

Arabelle was also sister to Winfield S. Dodge, who owned Yellow Kittens and Winfield’s Restaurant. Winfield had a son also named Winfield and a daughter Gladys Dodge, who were born in the island home known as the “Captain Winfield S. Dodge House,” which is located across from the Historical Society.

Gladys was very close to her uncle Hiram (Capt. H. Willis) and Aunt Arabelle (Aunt Belle as she would call her), and would eventually inherit the property after they passed, as they had no children of their own.

Gladys married Fredrick H. Slate and had three children: Claire, Albion and Merrill. They were all raised at the Driftwind Estate. Gladys rented out rooms to subsidize money after her husband Fred passed away.

Gladys’s daughter Claire was only a teenager when her father passed away. She was left to tend to the washing, cooking and helping her mother after school. Claire would also waitress at Ballard’s restaurant during the summer of the 1930-40’s. And she would eventually inherit the property from her mother.

Claire continued to run the Driftwind Estate as a guest house for visitors of Block Island. She married Harold S. Pike and had two sons, Fredrick and Norris. She continued to let rooms until the end of her life when she passed away at the age of 93. She was loved by all that stayed at the Driftwind, sharing stories of her childhood growing up on the island.

Claire’s eldest son Fredrick had a daughter named Melissa who was also raised on the property, helping her Nana tend to the rooms. She is now grown and currently owns the property.

Melissa has lovingly restored both houses persevering the charm of the 1800’s yet offers lovely upscale amenities of today. Melissa recalls fond memories of helping her Nana at the house.

“I always loved hearing her stories of how things were on the island when she was younger. She would tell of how her uncle Winfield would give her and her brothers coins so they could catch the horse trolley to the beach and have a snack at the pavilion, or pay for a horse ride. She would recall of “Dodge Day" when her family would gather every year in front of her grandfather’s cape house which is now the town library and set off a cannon for “Dodge Day” celebration.

Melissa also recalls her memories of growing up on the property.

“Being so close to town was wonderful in the summer, the way the property is positioned, you feel encapsulated in privacy yet so close to all the fun of town. I would love hearing the sounds of the wedding music coming through my window from the hotels, and the smells of food from the restaurants near-by. The church bells will ring on Sunday and fill the property with a lovely tune,” she said. “At night I would always love hearing the foghorn blow on foggy nights. There are many happy memories within the boundaries of this spectacular island home called Driftwind," she said.

Driftwind Estate is priced at $2,450,000. For more information, call Lila Delman Real Estate International at (401) 466-8777.