"Mr. Hoxsie's Big Crop Is Grass" was the title in an article published by The Providence Journal in 1907 heralding the state's purchase of a hay farm along the swampy banks of the Queen's River in Exeter. Funny, I thought, considering the rumors I'd heard about the place in the early 2000s.
Mr. Allen N. Hoxsie was the estate's proprietor: a painter, photographer, businessman, and farmer whose homestead would form the center of Rhode Island's only public institution for people with disabilities and the house where Dr. Ladd and eight young men from the poor farm took shelter their first of many winters on the reservation.
The Ladd School — as it came to be known — and its larger campus grew up around the Hoxsie House, which in its second century weathered close to seventy-five years of history-in-the-making before meeting its fate with the wrecking ball. Today the dwelling's rotted remains may still be found by intrepid adventurers who know just where to look in the encroaching wilderness of the former farm's five hundred acres.
Immortalized on canvas by Warwick artist Kay Epstein, commissioned to portray the building's likeness in 1972 for the sum of just $175.00, the last known image and only painting of the original Exeter School for the Feeble-Minded once hung on a wall in Dr. Ladd's office. Framed by wood salvaged from the Hoxsie House's interior staircase, the painting itself was recovered from the scrap heap when the institution closed in 1994.
With gratitude for the man who saved this unique piece of state history, and through the magic of digital imaging, The Ladd School Historical Society is pleased to bring this near-perfect replica of the original artwork to new generations of admirers.