Two distinct entities, the Newport Elks Lodge and the Henderson Home, both of which help veterans, are tied together like comrades-in-arms, but their affiliation remains little known to the average resident.
They unite again for historic reasons at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 27, at the Henderson Home, 14 Clarke St. site of the Ezra Stiles house when a flag raising ceremony and presentation will be made with the Newport Elks Lodge.
The Elks received an anonymous donation of a 20-foot-tall flagpole and flag, with the stipulation that it go to a veteran, according to JoAnne Ritchie, who serves both groups in a leadership role.
The Henderson Home is a cityowned rooming house for men 55-and-over, including four veterans. It boasts seven rooms and some shared bathrooms.
Other veteran supportive groups, like the Newport Artillery Company, the Navy Band, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Local Chapter, the Newport City Council, the Elks board of directors and the Henderson Home commissioners, as well as residents, will attend a small reception at the Newport Elks.
Ritchie is the glue holding the two groups together. She was named exalted ruler of the local Elks lodge for two years. She has been commissioner of the Henderson Home for three years; one of five commissioners appointed by the mayor to run it.
Operating expenses are provided by rental income, trusts and investments, with some support from the city.
“We have updated many things at the home, like new appliances, a new oil tank, insulation, new fire doors, and we are working with the fire department on upgrading the place,” Ritchie said.
Ritchie said the flag will fly on the flagpole in a selected corner for the ceremony, then will be handed to an individual veteran.
“The Elks are very connected to the cause of veterans,” she said. “We work with the VFW, Operation Stand Down, and other groups. The VFW is housed here because they no longer have their own place.”
A speaker from the Naval War College has been requested for the event.
“I am also inviting the City Council, with a color guard, possibly from the VFW,” she said. “The Armory across the street may fire a cannon, and we have a permit to block off the street.”
Newporter William H. Henderson obtained a small bit of immortality by getting his name placed on this home nearly 114 years ago. Under his directive and will, The Henderson Home for Aged Men was established in 1909.
Utilizing his bequest, the city bought the Ezra Stiles house, and it opened for residents in 1910. Today, the Henderson Home remains a haven for seven men.
The Ezra Stiles house was built in 1776 for the pastor of the Second Congregational Church across the street, now converted condos. The purchase of the land and buildings, and the cost to repair and adapt the property for use as a multi-unit home ran around $15,000. The house is on the National Historic Register.
Henderson was born in Newport on Nov. 1, 1810. He was educated in the private school of Judge Joseph Joslin in Newport, and spent some time at Brown University. He later went on to serve as confidential clerk and bookkeeper for Samuel Fowler Gardner, who was agent and treasurer of the three largest cotton manufacturers in Newport, the Coddington, Perry, and Newport mills.
Henderson went to Providence in 1848 and served as bookkeeper, secretary and treasurer for what would become the American Screw Co.He was a clerk of the Newport Artillery Co.
A portrait of Henderson hangs in the formal dining room, surveying the results of his legacy.