Captain Lemuel A. Dodge (1856-1906) was a very successful fisherman who owned the island’s first fishing schooner the Hattie Rebecca. He purchased that boat in 1875 then built his mansard-roof cottage with his wife Harriet in 1879.
The island was becoming popular with visitors from up and down the eastern seaboard who came to this summer resort. A consequence of that was that their design styles traveled with them. The mansard roof became very popular on the island for hotels and homes. From The Historic and Architectural Resources of Block Island, Rhode Island, the Captain Lemuel A. Dodge house (1879) continues a standard island form. Five bays wide and two bays deep, and incorporates both picturesque detail in its full width front porch and bracketed eaves and stylish bellcast mansard roof.
The prolific builder and architect of Captain Dodge’s house was John “Frank” Hayes. He built approximately 3 dozen homes and hotels around the island. Most of them still exist. When noticing a grand example of Victorian-style architecture it is likely that John “Frank” Hayes had a hand in it. His career spanned from 1880s until his death in 1936.
My family began looking for a summer home on the island in the mid-sixties. Our realtor was Dorothy Sullivan. We took many harrowing winter trips on the Sprigg Carroll to house hunt. All the homes that we looked at were not locked and were fully furnished. I was amazed as an 8 year old that the people were long gone but the furniture was still in their homes. Folks just didn’t take their furniture with them during that time; it was too difficult to get it off the island. My house is on Calico Hill*
I am the 4th owner since the original owner Captain Lemuel A. Dodge. Captain Dodge left his home to his son Norman E. Dodge and his wife Ann R. Dodge. Captain Norman Dodge was also a well-known fisherman on the island. This boat was call the Ruth Ann. The Dodge home was sold to Clarence McCarthy in 1964 and they sold the house to my family in 1969. There are still many pieces of furniture and china throughout the house that came with it. I plan on leaving those pieces for the next steward of this house. I have lived here nearly 50 years.
There is Victorian detail throughout the house inside and out; it is stunning. My husband Paul and I love this house and consider ourselves so lucky to own it and be able to care for it. Unfortunately, the maintenance never ceases. We understand all too well why new homes aren’t painted anymore! However, we are convinced that it is the paint that is really holding this place together. So, we just keep painting, around, around and around.
*The high ground just above the Block Island Historical Society building on Old Town Road is called Calico Hill. In 1831, legend tells of a ship wrecked on the nearby shores which had aboard cargo of calico. For days after the disaster yards and yards of salvaged calico were spread out to dry over this hill just beyond the Old Harbor and thereafter the folks of that area referred to as living on Calico Hill (from Block Island Lore and Legends).