2008-12-04 / Island History

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright

As the board of JHS had hoped when we started the Capital Campaign almost two years ago, the proper storage we can now provide for the material we are given has encouraged more Jamestowners to make donations. This past year, 52 donors came forward with manuscripts, books, documents, pictures, and other objects that have been added to the collection. Starting this month, some of these new acquisitions are shown in our exhibit case in the library.

Several interesting acquisitions won't be on display because they are too large. Some of them follow:

The Floating of the

Governor Carr

The Governor Carr, one of the ferryboats that carried cars and passengers between Jamestown and Newport, left the dock in Jamestown during the 1938 hurricane when the rising tide made it dangerous to remain tied up. She was seeking better shelter in Newport, but she didn't make it. Soon after she left the dock, a line got caught in her propeller, and, without steerage, she was driven north across Jamestown harbor. She came aground beyond the Bay Voyage, near where the Conanicut Yacht Club is today.

Contractors funded by the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) spent over two months getting the Governor Carr off the rocks and refloating her. A WPA blueprint—WP #38153—documented the steps in the recovery process, from the shoring up of the ferryboat so that she stood upright, through the actual relaunching on Dec. 7, 1938. The JHS didn't know the blueprint existed until Jim Rugh found a framed copy at a yard sale in Newport last spring, and after fixing the frame, donated it to the society. We immediately displayed it on the back wall of the museum, near booklets of pictures of the ferries.

Lyons Market

Old time Jamestowners remember when many small food stores competed for customers in Jamestown: Pintos and Lyons on Narragansett to the east of North Road and Midway to the west, Santos on Southwest Avenue.

When Patti Vandal was talking to her former husband Albert Lyons earlier this fall, he mentioned that he had stored an old Lyons Market sign in her basement. Tom Lyons—Al's father—founded Lyons Market shortly after World War I, and Al thinks it is the original sign from the early 1920s.

When Patti offered us the sign, we had to think about where we would store it and when we could display it. Right now it is stored in the museum. We are examining how to preserve it.

The Horse Trough

at East Ferry

In the 1890s, the Jamestown Improvement Society, an organization of residents—primarily from the summer community— intent on making the town a more attractive place to visit, advocated the building of a water fountain at East Ferry. In 1896, they built an elaborate stone kiosk to encompass the only public watering place in the town for either humans or animals. The structure, built to imitate a classic well, had gaslights on the four pillars and a shingled roof. The drinking fountain and watering troughs were connected to the town water main.

We don't have exact measurements, but from photographs we estimate that the building was about 12 feet in diameter. It stood in the center of the intersection of Conanicus and Narragansett Avenues. The fountain was torn down in 1904 and a new fountain was commissioned that would, according the Newport Journal, "not be in the way as was its predecessor."

Among the gifts from Lenore and Clement DeLucia is an undated architectural sketch showing three views of a "drinking pavilion for Jamestown." Our immediate response on seeing the drawing was "that's our fountain!" Two horse-watering troughs and two dog troughs protrude from either side of the wall that surrounds the center pump. The Philadelphia firm of Rankin and Kellogg designed the fountain; Dr. George McClellan, president of the Jamestown Improvement Society, was from Philadelphia.

Our Accession Policy

The policy of the Society allows us to accept only items that relate directly to Jamestown, that are in sufficiently good and original condition to warrant the cost of preservation, and that can be responsibly preserved and cared for by the Society. Sometimes we have to say "no" to something we'd like to have because it doesn't fit one of those criteria. Perhaps the relationship with Jamestown is too tenuous. Or the size or condition of the object makes it difficult to for us to care for it properly. Or several copies of the same thing in good or better condition are already in the collection.

The JHS Collections Committee considers all those things before accepting a gift. If you have material you'd like to donate, please contact Sue Maden, the Collections Committee chair, at jhs@jamestownri.com or 423- 2167.

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