Mrs. W. Berry


42 Division St. Newport, RI

Physical Status


Detailed History

The Mrs. W. Berry Tourist Home at 42 Division St. was owned by a mulatto couple, William T. and Mary Gustine Berry. They were born in Maryland and may have arrived in Newport early in the 20th century, along with many other African-Americans seeking refuge from the Jim Crow era. Born in 1868 and 1872, the pair were part of a unique generation from the South. They were born after slavery was abolished at a time when Reconstruction guaranteed some level of equality, even in the border state of Maryland. Census records suggest that they arrived in Rhode Island in around 1885, seven years after Reconstruction “officially” ended. On March 14, 1910, William T. Berry entered into an agreement with Bertrand G. Jamieson to purchase a house at 42 Division St. Jamieson was from Chicago and had purchased the property from Alice Carr that same day, suggesting that Jamieson was in some way helping the Berrys with the sale. The extent of the relationship between Jamieson and the Berrys in unknown. According to the US Federal Census, the Berrys had been living at 42 Division St. since 1910. That year, William was 42 and worked as a waiter at the Bellevue Inn (where he possible met Jamieson). Mary was 38 and worked from home as a dressmaker. Their names appear on the 1921 Atlas map as owners of 42 Division St. Their five children, all born in Rhode Island, were Guinice, 15, William L, 13, Edward, 11, Audrey, 8, and Altan, 6. Other residents in 1910 included Mary’s sister, Rebecca Nelson, who was 44 and worked as a stewardess at a club house. This sale went through four years later, on April 8, 1914. 10 days later, Berry transferred the property into his and his wife’s name jointly. He held the property until July 25, 1945, when he sold it to Leo B. Amado. The Mrs. W. Berry Tourist Home was listed in The Green Book for only one year, 1939. (Census data may suggest further thoughts.) Given the duration of their residency, from 1910 to 1945, it seems likely that serving as a Tourist Home either wasn’t worthwhile or wasn’t financially viable. As 42 Division isn’t a very large house and the Berry’s were a large family, it is also possible that they didn’t like opening their home to strangers.

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