In praise of dilapidated houses near RI Rte 8

Chepatchet, a village within Glocester, known to some as “Foster-Glocester” because neither Foster or Glocester, adjacent to each other, has a school population large enough to be on its own, but has one school district through the merger of the two. Chepatchet is situated in the northwest corner of Rhode Island, at the junction of Routes 102 and 44, and means “where rivers meet”.  Apparently it is also where two routes meet.  It was established in 1710. Just don’t try to find it on Route 8. Chepatchet had its fifteen minute of fame as a result of an X-Files episode in the 1990’s proclaiming it to be the fictional youth summer home of Fox Muldar. On that X-Files episode Chepatchet was said to be “20 miles on Rhode Island Route 8”.  But you won’t find it there because there is no Rhode Island Route 8.

Last Sunday, August 24, about 11:30 am, I took a drive out to Chepatchet to investigate its Main Street to see if it had changed much since the last time I was there, probably a decade ago.  There weren’t many people there even though it was a beautiful summer day.

It looked pretty much the same to me and was perfect for my purposes. It looks a lot like a little downtown in Vermont, with its antique shops, Stage Coach Tavern Restaurant, Brown & Hopkins General Store “in continuous operation since 1809”, and a few sole proprietorships offices like Attorney at Law Bradley L. Steere.  The Stage Coach Tavern, an Italian restaurant on Putnam Pike looked like it had seen better days, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for in my trip back to Chepatchet.

I took pictures as I like to draw houses, storefronts, storage sheds that are run down, spent, used, dilapidated or otherwise show signs of age. Roofs that have caved in, clapboards which have lost their color, siding that is worn, rotted out window sills, shingles broke or disheveled were found in abundance, just as I hoped.  Domiciles and offices that are in disrepair is housing that tells a story.  It’s had a life. It may be even abandoned. Like I always say, one man’s unkempt and dilapidated housing is another man’s treasure. 🙂

On my way to Chepatchet, before I got there, I passed the entrance to the New England Trunkline Trail in Franklin, which I’ve biked on a few times, though each time it was too muddy to go very far, and was not a lot of fun.  It occupies an abandoned railroad corridor running about 22 miles, and runs all the way into Connecticut!  The trail needs a lot of work. I didn’t walk or bike on it this time because I was a man on a mission!

Along the way, as it was a Sunday morning, I listened to a small part of a sermon from Boston University on 90.9 WBUR about the value of having hope rather than harboring despair. It reminded me of the only time I had ever gone to a church, about fifty years ago, in Tiverton, Rhode Island staying with a Wayland friend, Larry McGourty, Jr, whose family was Roman Catholic and had a summer house there, right on the water. Larry and I hung around together for several weeks that summer, smoking cigarettes, stolen from his mother’s purse and generally getting into mischief. Something happened and shortly after our return to school, Larry got kicked out for something to do with wearing Beatle boots. (Larry Sr., his father, was president of Thom McAn Shoe. Don’t ask me how I remembered this.).  Could I find Larry Jr. through Facebook?  Maybe I can find out what happened; it’s a mystery to me.

My parents were not keen on my hanging around with Larry either; he was just another one of my many friends over the years that my parents disapproved.  In Natick, they didn’t like me playing with Kathy Faigen, whose mother was rumored to be alcoholic, nor Jimmy Whitcomb or David Stanley.  David’s little sister, only an infant, drank a bottle of Drano one day, and her father had to fly home from a business trip in Dallas to attend to her at the hospital. I don’t know whatever became of the little girl.  I hope she’s okay.

My parents were always undercutting my choice in friends. For me, it was just fun to play with Larry, Kathy, Jimmy and David. On reflection, I probably picked these friends because they had imaginations and were fun to be with, and I could get away from my over controlling parents.

But I digress again.  Where was I?  Oh yes, I was on the road to Chepatchet.

Past Franklin, I got onto Rte 102 and passed the legendary Wrights Chicken Farm (legendary for those who live or drive through Burrilville, a town of 16,000 made up of five villages including Pascoag, where we as a family went every Sunday to visit my aunts and uncles and my cousins, roasting marshmallows, playing ping pong and water skiing.

After Wrights, I listened to one episode of the Moth Radio Hour about a hooker (self-described as “a Jew from Jersey”) who auditioned to escort in Singapore, but eventually made it to Brunei (a sovereign state on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia) entertaining the Sultan and Crown Prince of Brunei. The Prince had multiple wives she said, and apparently was interested in a few others including the author of the story, Jillian Lauren. Her story was excerpted from her book “Some Girls: My Life in a Harem”.

Finally, I arrived in Chepatchet. Wise guys characterize Rhode Island or “Little Rhody” as “the gateway to Massachusetts”, but for those who keep an open mind, Rhode Island packs a lot of history, beauty and charm in its little size. What’s more, if you go to practically any tourist site or look at any brochure to discover where and how to “visit Rhode Island”, the charms of Northwest Rhode Island will rarely be found. You’ll have the old mills, rivers, antique shops and local haunts all to yourself.



















Published by Richard Halpern

Retired (but busy) after a lengthy career in business marketing, communications and research. Worked at four start-ups and one turnaround. Now volunteer doing prospect research for a climate activity and social advocacy non profit, amongst other things.

2 thoughts on “In praise of dilapidated houses near RI Rte 8

  1. There’s a Rt. 8. You just didn’t see it because the aliens clouded your mind with their sinister cloaking device.


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