Baby Camp On The East Side

This additional tidbit concerning the fresh air movement in Providence did not fold neatly into my prior piece on the topic, but I just could not let go of the words “baby camp.”  This being Providence, a quick search of the address on Williams Street yielded enough interesting recent history to earn the Edward Carrington House a post of its own.

First, Baby Day Camp: In her history of the Visiting Nurses Association, A Century of Caring: VNA of Rhode Island 1900-2000, Cynthia Ferguson* noted how the PDNA (Providence District Nursing Association) had become great advocates of the fresh air movement, establishing a summer camp for poor city children in Massachusetts in 1907. Though considered a success, the next year funds were limited.

Instead, a day camp for sick babies was established on the porch and shady lawn of a large gracious house at 66 Williams Street, just blocks from the congested Fox Point neighborhood. Mothers brought their sick children to the camp early in the morning and retrieved them in the evening, along with enough milk for the night.

. . . For the four years that the PDNA ran the baby camps, no wards for babies existed in any of the city’s hospitals. In 1912, when this was no longer the case, the PDNA decided its money would be better spent on more nurses.

With regards to issues of baby care, like preparing milk formulas and how to respond to a crying baby, the nurses subscribed to the latest scientific trends. Those Fox Point mothers may not have welcomed all the helpful advice. (Some of those early baby formulas, and their delivery systems, were notoriously unsafe, not to mention time consuming.) Ferguson unearthed this gem from the Providence Sunday Journal, August 23, 1908.

“The average mother is almost hopelessly ignorant of the proper care of her child,” lamented one of the baby nurses when interviewed by a Providence Journal reporter.

More recently, this address made the news when the house came on the market. It’s architectural and historic significance — plus, location location location — had garnered a hefty asking price (RI Monthly 2.26.19).

And last December it made the news again when it was purchased by businessman Lorne Adrain for $4.6 million (ProJo 12.19.19).

Adrain said he plans to establish the Global Fellows in Courage in the building and use it to house visiting fellows from around the world. The program seeks to bring “emerging leaders together to create positive social change on an international scale while having a lasting impact on Rhode Island,” according to Adrain. The first cohort of five fellows is expected in the fall of 2020 and will focus on fighting human trafficking and child pornography, he said.

Adrain’s last post in March on the organization’s Facebook page would indicate that things are on hold.

Now for the full-Rhode Island: Adrain is the former husband of author Ann Hood and was a candidate for mayor in 2014.

*Complete disclosure: Cynthia Ferguson is my excellent sister and the real writer in the family.


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