2009-10-08 / Island History

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright

Summer’s over – or almost over. The windmill and the museum will be open just until this Sunday, Oct. 11. This is your last chance to see the “Educating Jamestown” exhibit at the museum. We’ll be dismantling it as soon as we close to make way for next year’s “Farming on Jamestown” exhibit. The windmill and the meetinghouse, of course, can be opened at any time on request.

BLMA celebration

The Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association is hosting a tower restoration celebration this weekend, Oct. 10 and 11.

Beavertail Light, originally built in 1749, is the third lighthouse established in the American colonies. The current lighthouse tower, built in 1856, was in sad shape when the BLMA began plans for its restoration several years ago. The first phase of restoration is now completed.

On Saturday and Sunday, you’ll be able to climb to the top of the tower and look down over the bay and the island. It’s an historic event in an historic spot. Come celebrate!

Library exhibit

A new exhibit, “Chronicles and Reminiscences of Jamestown,” opened in the JHS display case at the Jamestown Philomenian Library in mid September. The earliest chronicle is a series of letters written between 1874 and 1877 by Amandy, a Jamestown correspondent, to the Newport Mercury about developments in Jamestown. Amandy’s complaints have a familiar ring, although the details are different. She worries about the changes taking place: The steam ferry, a hotel and many new buildings.

The most recent material included in the exhibit is a 1990s memoir of Jamestown in the 1940s.

Because only portions of the chronicles are visible in the display case, the notebook on top of the case contains transcriptions or copies of most of the material.

2009 house tour weekend

This year’s house tour weekend – our only fund-raising event for the year – was a great success.

On Friday evening, Sept. 18, more than 75 people gathered on the porch of the Mallinckrodt cottage, drinks in hand, to gaze across Shoreby Hill green to the bay and Newport beyond. They toured the 1898-1899 house, admiring the graceful sweeping staircase, elaborate woodwork and arched windows. It was a beautiful night. Many thanks to Erica Gregg and Shawn Mayers, who managed the party, and our hosts, Jack and Betty Hubbard.

Saturday was cool and sunny – a perfect day for visiting the three Shoreby Hill houses on the tour. The most popular starting place was the 17th century Greene farmhouse, with its wide plank floors and low ceilings that immediately transport visitors to an earlier time. The Turnbull house, built in 1886, is only three houses south of the farmhouse and the Primrose cottage (1914-15) is about a block to the northwest, so many of the 150 visitors chose to walk between the houses and enjoy the autumn weather.

More than 40 members of the society worked in one way or another on the house tour. We can’t name them all here, although we deeply appreciate their help. Special thanks to Sue Maden for organizing the volunteers, Harry Wright and Rosemary Enright for researching and writing the house descriptions, Jim Buttrick for his architectural expertise, Mary Heath for organizing the event, and Alexandra DeKoranyi, Wooley and Art Dutton, and Mary Pat Ryan for opening their homes.


Sept. 26 was another gorgeous fall day, and the Conanicut Island Land Trust’s Heyday was a perfect opportunity for the JHS to share some history about Jamestown’s agrarian past. We set up a small exhibit at the Godena farm, with pictures of Jamestown when it was a faming community.

One picture is of the rocky hills of the Dumplings – between Mackerel Cove and the East Passage – before the houses that now dot Ledge Road, Blueberry Lane and Highland Drive were built. That was the Cottrell Farm. The land is clear and almost denuded of trees. Cows munch their way through the grassy pasture, much the way the Belted Galways do at the Neale farm today.

Sheep shearing at the John Jay Watson farm – now the Hodgkiss farm – proceeded much as it does today at the [Thomas Carr] Watson farm, according to a photograph from 1921.

The Heyday display was a taste of next summer’s museum exhibit about farming in early Jamestown, which is currently being developed.

Volunteer appreciation party

Each year, more than 85 members of the society serve as volunteers. There are lots of opportunities: We always need people to greet visitors at the museum or windmill, chat with guests during the house tour, help clean up the Battery, weed the garden at the museum, catalog material in the collection, design signs or posters for events or sites, maintain the website and serve on the allvolunteer board.

So each year, we thank our volunteers with a party. This year’s party was held last Sunday. Despite the drizzly weather, it was loads of fun. Volunteer and see. Call 423-2674 or email jhs@ jamestownri.com.

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