2005-09-22 / Letters to the Editor


The lighthouse and housing

The comments following are my personal views and not necessarily those of the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association or any of its members.

Jamestown’s Affordable Housing Committee once again is proposing the use of the Beavertail Lighthouse as a revolving affordable housing residence.

They are under the impression that the town’s license from the U.S. Coast Guard, allows them to use the premises as they see fit. Nothing is further from the truth. Neither the Affordable Housing Committee nor the Town Council seems to recognize the status of the lighthouse or the terms and conditions under which the property can be used. The USCG license agreement prohibits any discriminatory or discretionary “use” of the site (affordable housing is discriminatory) and limits use of the site for “maintenance, recreational and historical” purposes only. “Affordable Housing” is a “use” that is in violation of that agreement and not consistent with intentions and the important needs of site preservation.

Beavertail Lighthouse is one of the most important visitor destinations this side of Newport and in southern Rhode Island. Thousands of people visit the lighthouse each year from every state and many countries. The site is registered in the National Registry of Historic Places. Originally built in 1749, it is the third oldest lighthouse in the country and considered by some as the most photographed and painted location in Rhode Island. It is the most significant compound of buildings on Jamestown and an unquestionable valuable asset to the people of Rhode Island. Historical content must be maintained with preservation being the overriding priority.

The residence and granite light tower were built 149 years ago in 1856 is maintained by the dedicated custodian residing in the dwelling and the BLMA. For the past 12 years, the BLMA has spent thousands of dollars of membership funds, donations, and grants in restoration and stabilization tasks, plus the enormous amount of time devoted by its volunteers and docent staff. It expects to spend even more as plans for museum expansion begin. Neither the state nor the town of Jamestown has allocated any funding for the preservation of the site. The USCG undertakes only emergency repairs to the rotating light and the foghorn signal.

The proposed periodic cycling of families in and out of site is counterproductive to addressing the preservation of these historic buildings. Preservation requires astute care in keeping quarters pristine both externally and internally without any further modifications. Experimentation by sequential occupancy of families moving in or out jeopardizes the integrity of the historical components of the building by adding wear/tear and possible accidental damage. This position is supported by many National Museum organizations, including the RI Historic Preservation Commission. Coupled with potential risk of damage by inhabitants, high heating costs of the uninsulated building (1,800 gals. last year), the site is not within walking distance of nearby stores or services recommended by the affordable housing guidelines. It is over four miles to town. More important, there is inconvenience for families to vacate when the light station is excessed by the government and museum expansion is initiated.

The lighthouse should not be considered as convenient living accommodations for the economically disadvantaged. The buildings require custodial services dedicated to preservation. The two uses are not compatable. The concept of rotating affordable housing families through this valuable and historic site is absurd. It’s analogous with sending the needy to reside in the White House or one of the Newport Mansions.

During the April 2005 government sponsored North East Lighthouse Conference, affordable housing inquiries were made to the General Services Administration property managers, the National Park Service, which is the officiating agency enforcing the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, and the USCG. Those three agencies’ and RIDEM stated that use of the site for affordable housing is not in the public’s interest. The congressional law covering homeless people and the umbrella, under which affordable housing is mandated, has been specifically exempted from the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000.

Jamestowners’ need to step back and appreciate what they really have at their front door. During the National Governor’s Conference held in Rhode Island two years ago, Governor Holton of Missouri visited Beavertail Lighthouse and upon departure said, “If this was located in my state, we would place a glass bowl over it.”

The Town Council and the Affordable housing Committee should reverse any “use” decision that compromises this public treasure and abide by the legal agreement executed with the USCG.

Varoujan Karentz,


Postcard thanks

We would like to extend our gratitude to Baker’s Pharmacy, Conanicut Marine Services, Jamestown Golf Course, Jamestown Hardware, Ocean State Scuba, McQuade’s Marketplace, R&R Gallery, and Xtra/Mart for their contribution and for making “Postcards of Jamestown,” Series 1, available in their stores.

We would also like to express our sincere appreciation to Bill Bucklin, Stephen Fasano, Nancy Mason, Victor Richardson, Walter Schroder, Maribeth Traer, and Catherine Willingham for providing their beautiful personal photographs of Jamestown.

The limited supply is almost exhausted. If anyone has not seen the set of eight cards in Series 1, may I suggest you stop in at one of the above merchants soon.

Marilyn Dennis,


postcard co-ordinator

Relief for pets

The Humane Society of Jamestown has made a $1,000 donation to the Disaster Relief Efforts of the Humane Society of the United States. Since Hurricane Katrina, thousands of animals have been displaced and are in need of food, shelter, and medical attention. We urge our fellow Jamestowners to join us in supporting this cause. Please send donations to the Humane Society of the United States, Disaster Relief Fund, 2100 L. Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20037 Please specify on your checks to Disaster Relief Fund.

Nancy Crawford,

Humane Society of


Enjoyable visit

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Horsehead a few weeks ago. Experiencing one of this island’s special properties was a rare treat.

I would particularly like to thank the owners, the Wrights, for their generosity and tolerance. It must have taken a great deal of time and effort to prepare for hordes of visitors. I’m sure it was very difficult to have so many of us parking on your lawn, hiking about your grounds, peering at your family photographs, and passing through the very personal spaces that are your home.

How kind you were to welcome us, and to raise funds for the Jamestown Historical Society.

Karen Krider


A special place

I would like to congratulate the Jamestown Historical Society and Jane Bentley for another successful house tour and beautiful day. I would also like to send a special thank you to Harry and Josie Wright for so generously sharing their home. I think we all need to remember that unlike the houses owned by the Preservation Society, the homes on the Jamestown house tour are private homes that have voluntarily opened to the public by their owners. We are very lucky to have so many people on the island who have maintained these historic homes and are willing to share them with the public. Horsehead is truly a special place — thank you for inviting us.

Martha Yates


Thanks for help

I would like to thank all the people who helped me make the house tour at Horsehead last Saturday a huge success. First, a big thank-you to Harry and Josie Wright for opening their lovely home and grounds. We had a wonderful turnout and everyone was excited to roam the 20 acres on such a beautiful day.Thankyou to the docents David and Allison Bentley, Mary Jane Murphy, Emily Chamberlain, Lynn Bell, Chris Shippee, Dick Hines, Nancy and Bill Pollock, Mary and Dennis Webster, Karen Estes, Carroll Pruell, Janie Harris, Linnea Peterson, Rosemary Enright, Jane Miner, and Sue Maden. I could not have done it without them. Finally thank-you to all the people who turned out and supported this fund-raiser for the Jamestown Historical Society. A great day was had by all!

Jane Bentley, programs chairwoman,

Jamestown Historical


Lively discussion

Recently the Jamestown library orchestrated an opportunity for the eighth-grade class at Lawn Avenue School to meet with R. A. Scotti, the author of “Sudden Sea.”

The students engaged in a lively discussion with the author who graciously encouraged our students on multiple levels. The impact of this opportunity is immeasurable, and we truly appreciated Ms. Rowena Burke’s facilitation of this program and a number of programs that have enabled the island’s youth and community to access information from experts in the fields of meteorology, criminology and biology. Our students and staff truly appreciate how the library extended its resources to our students.

We are truly fortunate to live in a community that works together to provide such wonderful opportunities and services.

Maureen McGuirl,

Eighth-Grade Team,

Lawn Avenue School

Fund-raiser walk

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer is a 5-mile non-competitive walk to raise awareness and funds to fight breast cancer. This year it will be held on Sunday, Oct. 16.

Funds raised support American Cancer Society breast cancer research, education, advocacy, and patient service programs because this disease touches too many women we love. People of all ages are welcome to participate.

Take as long as you need to finish, or walk only as far as you can. Rain or shine, the event will go on — with opportunities for the whole family to have fun and make a difference.

Last year, 27 Jamestowners joined my daughter Cara and me on the Walking With Robin team to help find a cure for breast cancer. Cara lost an aunt at age 36 to breast cancer. Robin Kall, talk show host of Reading with Robin, lost her mother to cancer. Two island friends who are cancer survivors — Betty Gulley and Candy Langan — walked with us last year. So please join us this year for those you love. Wear your favorite shade of pink, loud and proud, because hope starts here.

For information about signing up, car pooling to the event, or to make a donation, call me, Mary Ann Liberati, at 423-0611 or email me at liberatm@verizon.net.

Mary Ann Liberati,


Pleasant experience

Our forefathers told us: “Taxation without representation is tyranny.”

This past week I experienced taxation with representation from Tax Assessor Ken Gray, and it made a difference.

Because a thank-you sometimes seems inadequate, I write this letter to Ken Gray and our Town Hall staff, where I left with encouragement, kind words and three tomatoes!

Arlene Seraichyk,


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