2008-10-09 / Island History

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright

September was a hectic—but satisfying—month. House Tour

Our House Tour weekend, Sept. 12 and 13, was very successful. The three houses on view, Birdview (1888) for Friday's "members only" party and Riven Rock (1911) and Onarock (1896) for the public tour on Saturday, are all wonderful examples of Jamestown summer architecture a century ago. Over 75 members attended Friday's party and more than 225 visitors enjoyed Saturday's tour. The whole weekend was great fun.

Dedication of Land

Agreement display

The display in Town Hall of the 1657 Conanicut Island Land Agreement—the pre-purchase contract among the men who were negotiating to buy Conanicut and Dutch islands from the Narragansett— was dedicated on Sept. 18. At the dedication, Harry Wright, vice president of the Jamestown Historical Society, explained the history and significance of the document, and Ken Newman, the chairman of the committee that designed and installed the exhibition, thanked the many people involved.

Rosemary Enright, president of the Jamestown Historical Society, shows off the 1657 Conanicut Island Land Agreement now on permanent display in the Jamestown Town Hall. The installation was dedicated on Sept. 18. Photo by Dick Allphin Rosemary Enright, president of the Jamestown Historical Society, shows off the 1657 Conanicut Island Land Agreement now on permanent display in the Jamestown Town Hall. The installation was dedicated on Sept. 18. Photo by Dick Allphin Julio J. DiGiando, the Town Council president, responded to the historical significance of the event, expressing pleasure at Jamestown's dedication to preservation and highlighting the recent acquisition of rights to farmland on the island.

Lots of people were involved in creating this new home for the document, which the society bought in 2005. Bill Burgin of Burgin Lambert Architects, Inc, designed the niche in the west wall of the hallway between the Town Clerk's and the finance offices where the document is kept. The McDonough family financed the viewing case designed to protect the document from light, dust and other environmental hazards.

Jack's Electric donated the installation expertise. The Jamestown Rotary Club and the Jamestown Lions Club both contributed generously toward the construction of the display and the forthcoming literature about the document. A historical society team led by Harry Wright and Rosemary Enright, along with Emmy Lutes and Kendra Davis, seniors at North Kingstown High School, developed informative materials to surround the document. Design consultant Adams Taylor of Newport designed and installed the display.

The next time you're in Town Hall, lift the sliding door on the case that protects the document and look back 350 years.

Dedication of Whale

Rock Memorial

Sept. 21 was the 70th anniversary of Jamestown's most devastating hurricane. That Sunday afternoon, in a ceremony on the lawn behind the lighthouse, the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association (BLMA), the Foundation for Coast Guard History, and the Friends of Whale Rock Light unveiled a plaque to the memory of Walter Eberle, the assistant lightkeeper at the Whale Rock light, who died in the storm.

The day was beautiful, with a warm sun and a light breeze, as we heard David Robinson, a Jamestowner and marine archaeologist who was a driving force behind the memorial, tell the story of Eberle's devotion to duty. Eberle had gone out to the lighthouse early to relieve the keeper. The only communication between the lighthouse and the shore was the continued shining of the light. Early the next day, his wife got the word by telephone: "The light is gone." And looking over Robinson's shoulder, we could see the remains of the Whale Rock lighthouse's caisson still standing on the rock near the mainland side of the West Passage. Gone, indeed.

Volunteers

September marked the end of our regular hours at the windmill and the museum. The windmill closed on Sept. 14; the museum stayed open on weekends only through Sept. 28.

We could not do any of this without a great group of volunteers. Over 100 Jamestowners volunteered this year. The museum was open three hours a day for 65 days—always with a volunteer on hand to greet visitors. A volunteer opened the windmill each weekend day from mid-June to mid-September. Volunteers cataloged and/ or updated records for over 5000 items in the collection, monitored the house tour, ran the programs, and in general helped take care of everything for which the society is responsible. Thank you.

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