2010-02-04 / Island History

Battery grant

By Rosemary Enright
Some people driving across Windmill Hill recently have done a double take as they passed the windmill. The vanes are missing and the mill looks rather forlorn without them. A few have called to find out what’s happening.

Andy Shrake, the millwright who takes care of repairs to the mill, came over from Cape Cod at the end of the summer to look at some dry rot we’d noticed in one of the vanes. He decided that the best thing to do was to take the vane back to his shop in East Dennis, Mass. for repair.

Removing one vane isn’t really an option because the change in torque on the shaft – especially on the windy days we’ve been experiencing lately – would be dangerous. So he removed them all and will check each one to make sure that none of the other three vanes has a similar problem.

Andy promises to have the vanes up in the spring, so the mill will be looking like its old self for the summer season.

The vanes for the Jamestown Windmill have been removed for repair, leaving the mill looking strangely desolate without them. The vanes for the Jamestown Windmill have been removed for repair, leaving the mill looking strangely desolate without them. Quaker meetinghouse grant

The Quaker meetinghouse at North Main Road and Weeden Lane is, like the windmill, almost 225 years old. The water table in the area around the building is high, which keeps the ground under the building damp and is causing some structural weakness. Both the Historical Society and the Society of Friends have been taking preventive measures to reduce the threat, without affecting the historical value of the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the past couple of years – in addition to normal maintenance, such as painting – we’ve put in drains that funnel excess water down to Weeden Lane. The drains have reduced, but not eliminated, the dampness.

Just last week, we received a $1,500 grant from the Doris Duke Preservation Fund of the Newport Restoration Foundation to support our continuing preservation needs. The money will be used to shore up parts of the floor that are beginning to soften, to replace a closed attic window with a removable louver and screen for better air circulation, to repair benches where they are damaged or weak, and to re-shingle part of the outhouse roof.

We are grateful both for the NRF interest in our meetinghouse and for its contribution to our preservation efforts.

The historic Conanicut Battery is also always in need of preservation, but preservation of a different kind. Erosion is the main threat to the earthworks. While the earthworks were hidden beneath brush and shrubs, some of the erosion was controlled by their inaccessibility. People didn’t walk or play on the earthwork mounds. Rain and snow fed the plants, and their roots held the soil in place. Lawnmowers weren’t used to keep the grasses to a reasonable height.

Last year, in an attempt to replicate some of the natural conditions of the area, JHS planted a local grass that grows slowly, sets deep roots in the soil and does not need to be mowed. It is hoped that the unmown grasses will also keep people from climbing and sliding on the mounds.

To control the grass, the Society plans to burn it down every other spring.

The cost of a spring burn is about $3,300 and we’re grateful to Senator Teresa Paiva-Weed, who sponsored a $1,000 legislative grant to the Friends of the Conanicut Battery to help pay for it. Notifi cation of the award was received last week.

Successful winter program

Our first event of 2010, a talk about the Battle of Rhode Island by Larry McDonald, was a great success. Sixty people attended the Jan. 20 presentation, which was co-sponsored by the Friends of the Jamestown Library.

Larry, dressed in the uniform of Line Major for the Varnum Continentals, showed slides of the 1978 reenactment of the battle while he explained the strategy employed and the misunderstandings and miscommunications between the Continental and French troops involved on the American side. The Battle of Rhode Island, the largest battle fought in New England during the Revolutionary War, ended inconclusively with the English forces still in control of Narragansett Bay.

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