"Miss Adelaide's Farm"

When I began writing about the Knight estate, a number of readers called to share their memories and most identified the Knight Estate on East Avenue with Adelaide Knight, only daughter of Webster Knight, one of the most influential early twentieth century businessmen and politicians.

A rose for each lady

Some of the ladies from Warwick remember visiting the main house and recall that Adelaide, or her nephew, Royal Knight, would conduct them to the greenhouse. Here, George H. Phillips, the head gardener for many years, would obligingly answer their questions and then, with a flair, would cut roses and present one to each lady.

A generous patron

While Adelaide Knight was basically a shy person, nearly everyone in the Natick Pontiac section knew her by sight and recalled her generosity and her philanthropy. Following the death of her father, Webster Knight, in 1933, Adelaide became the dominant figure at the East Avenue farm. During the 1930s and 1940s, the estate was known as the "Natick Farm" or "Miss Adelaide's Farm."

While inheriting her father's interest in agriculture and philanthropy, Adelaide Knight developed a personality and life style far different from that of the flamboyant Webster Knight. She was a Christian Scientist, never married, and preferred to live alone in the main house on the estate. Unlike her father, she did not actively engage in politics and shunned the publicity that usually accompanied her gifts to the community.

Ed Phillips, well known Warwick realtor, his father, George H. and his grandfather, Alvin T. Phillips, all worked for Miss Knight and were well aware of both her generosity and her idiosyncrasies. Ed noted that Adelaide was especially liberal with gifts to her workers at Christmas time. He recalls that, as a teen ager, he would always receive "something extra special" such as a much sought after baseball glove or a nice sweater from his employer.

Fringe benefits

Phillips emphasized that working on the Knight Estate was "a good job to have during the Depression." While the pay was not high by the standards of the day, there were fringe benefits such as fresh fruit and vegetables from the Knight garden and extra pay for special tasks. The Phillips also lived in a house on Blade Street in Natick, not far from the Knight Farm.

Stories about Miss Knight also emphasize that while generous, she was also frugal. Her house was heated by a coal stove and furnace. Miss Knight would most often buy the large size coal, which was less expensive, and have the "boys" on the farm use hammers to break the coal into small pieces. Not only did she save on the price of coal, she also kept the young workers from having too much "idle time" on their hands.

Hands-on supervision

Adelaide Knight was familiar with all aspects of farming and was as much at home in Lew Dawley's blacksmith shop or watching her expert masons build and maintain the stone walls on the estate as she was in presiding over a formal afternoon tea party. When not supervising, Adelaide would often don her work clothes and venture into the flower garden to weed and pick spent flowers from her plants. Until her death in 1948, she was closely associated with the various cattle and horse shows in New England. One of the most interesting areas on the estate was the well-maintained race track.

Ed Phillips recalls how picturesque it was to see the horses go up East Avenue to the track across the street and how he would help wipe down and walk the horses under the direction of Milton Mason, who was in charge of the prize animals.

The story of the Knight Estate will be continued.

Ed Phillips and his father and grandfather were well acquainted with this lovely carriage house when it contained both horse drawn carriages and, later, automobiles.
Photo by Don D’Amato