The Hulda Anderson House (1909)

Name of Owner(s): John and Sharon Lehman
Building Address: 936 Grace's Cove Road
Year Erected: 1909
Plat/Lot/Sublot: Plat 15 Lot 106

In 1909 the house was built on what came to be known as Swede Hill on Gracies Cove Road. The builder/owners were Claus and Anna Anderson from Worcester, MA along with Axcelia Ogren and Jacob and Alma Juck who owned adjacent land. The first recorded tax bill was $400.

In 1912, the tax records list Claus and Anna’s daughter, Hulda Anderson, for whom the house was named. The name “Sunny Side” first appeared in the “1913 Block Island Summer Cottage Directory” along with Hulda Anderson’s name.

In August of 1921, the Andersons sold Sunnyside to Mrs. Emma Matilda Johnson. Today, one of our antique dining room chairs still has a sticker under the seat with “Made for Mrs. E. M. Johnson by the Weybosset Chair Company, Weybosset, RI.” An ad in 1930 listing many Block Island inns and cottages lists “Sunnyside – Country and seashore, 5 minutes walk to private beach; light airy rooms, excellent home cooking – Tennis, fishing, etc. Phone 76-X”

Minnie served three meals a day and prepared them all single handed.

In 1932, Minnie Sack and her husband bought Sunnyside for $1.00 and other considerations including assuming a $2,000 mortgage. A listing of Island cottages includes Sunnyside that has, among other things, “free bathing, tennis, fishing, German-American Home Cooking and reasonable rates.” Minnie’s daughter-in-law Mary told us that Minnie served three meals a day and prepared them all single handed. Breakfast would be juice, hot cereal, pancakes or eggs and coffee; lunch was soup, seafood, pudding and coffee and supper was a meat dish with potatoes or pasta, homemade pie or cake and coffee. One day a week was lobster and one day was swordfish, mackerel or other fresh fish. The minimum stay was one week. We also heard that Minnie traded pies for fish with Joe Sprague’s grandfather. Mary also told us that she was at Sunnyside when the Hurricane of ’38 hit. The wind blew so hard that the beds vibrated and moved across the room.

In 1949, a list of Rhode Island inns and cottages lists Sunnyside as a summer-only cottage with a capacity of 35 for a minimum rate of $5.00 per day; $30.00 per week on an American Plan (three meals a day).

In 1968, the property was transferred to Minnie’s daughter, Hildegard and her husband Jacob Vargish, two doctors from New Jersey.

In December of 1978, a group of five couples who were friends from Connecticut bought Sunnyside from the Vargishes. All the couples and families could be there at one time and bets were taken all over the Island that the partnership would not last more than a year or two at most.

1998 was twenty years after all bets were off and Sharon and John were fortunate to be able to buy Sunnyside from the other partners. Many builders came to offer an opinion on how to preserve Sunnyside and every one said, “Burn it down and build a new house!” Sharon’s stubbornness, great vision and preservationist ideals gave the impetus to go about maintaining and saving one of the last original boarding houses on Block Island.

Gallery of images for Hulda Anderson House

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