2007-12-20 / News

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright

Mid-winter is not usually a very active time for the JHS. The museum and windmill are closed. Few events are scheduled. We enter planning mode for the coming summer.

This year is different. We have watched winter closing in with some trepidation as the stonemasons hurry to complete the handicap access walkway. We know that we won't be able to do the landscaping until spring, so we're formulating plans to get everything cleaned up and looking beautiful for Memorial Day, when American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars members decorate the graves and the monument next to the museum.

Still, the renovation is going well. The stone walls have been repaired and replaced. The handicap walkway is done and looks beautiful. Councilman Mike White rode his wheelchair up the lower part of the ramp and complimented the design and the workmanship. He also suggested some improvements to our plans for railings that we will implement. The building itself is secured for the winter while we work to solve some cold weather issues with the water pipes.

The lock on the vault in the Town Hall is working and we can start moving our archives in as soon as the weather - and everybody's busy holiday schedules - permits.

Capital Campaign Drive

We are still raising funds to pay for the improvements we have started. Right after Thanksgiving, some of you received a special insert from the JHS Capital Campaign Committee in your Jamestown Press - an oversized, 5-by 7-inch envelope requesting your help. Due to a problem at the printer, the envelope wasn't inserted in every paper. This week we are trying again to reach all of you.

We know that many of you support the goals of the JHS and are proud of the Old Jamestown Windmill, which we own and maintain. We purchased the original 1657 Land Agreement document in 2005 and will soon be showing it in the Jamestown Town Hall for all to see. Taking care of historic sites and preserving historic artifacts and documents requires funding. Please take the time to read our request and donate to the campaign if you can.

You are also invited to become a part of Jamestown's history by writing a "Message to the Future." A blank "Message to the Future" card is inside each envelope. If you want, you can fill in the card and send it back with your gift - or if you have already contributed, just send the card. These "Message to the Future" cards will be put in a waterproof, fireproof, sealed Time Capsule and placed under the floor of the museum to be opened in 2057, the 400th anniversary of the purchase of the island.

Windmill Hill

Two years ago our next-door neighbor in the Windmill Historic District applied for a Special Use Permit to sell their home-fashioned glass at retail from their studio. The Jamestown Historical Society, as an abutter to the proposed retail site, opposed this. When the Zoning Board denied the application, the case was appealed to the Superior Court.

At the Town Council meeting on December 10, I expressed the reasons for our opposition as follows:

"The charter of the Jamestown Historical Society, as issued by the Rhode Island Secretary of State in 1912, says we were founded 'for the purpose or preserving old land marks and collection of historical relics.' At that time, the 'old landmark' we were focused on preserving was the Jamestown Windmill.

"The Historical Society supported the establishment of the Windmill Hill Historic District in 1978 to protect the hill and the farms from the commercialization we feared would result from the population boom following the opening of the Newport Bridge. Between 1970 and 1980, Jamestown's population grew by over 30 percent, from under 3,000 to over 4,000.

"Our mission as it is stated in our current bylaws is 'to collect, preserve, and share with others the heritage of Jamestown, Rhode Island.'

We have a fiduciary responsibility to continue to protect the windmill, the Quaker Meetinghouse, and - to the best of our ability - the entire historic district from commercialization. Support of a retail sale outlet for non-farm products on the property next to the mill would violate the trust that our members - past and present - have put in their board.

We continue to support the Zoning Board of Review and the Comprehensive Plan."

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