2010-05-06 / Island History

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright
Summer is almost here! The windmill opens for the season on June 19. Visitors will be welcome every Saturday and Sunday, from 1 to 4 p.m., through Columbus Day. A more extensive program – including a demonstration of how to build a stone wall – is planned for Aug. 7, which is Windmill Day.

The new museum exhibit, “Farm Life in Jamestown: A Look at Our Farms, Past and Present,” will be officially unveiled on June 20, and the museum will be open Wednesday through Sunday, from 1 to 4 p.m., until Labor Day weekend and then on weekends until mid-October.

Whenever the windmill or museum is open, a volunteer is there to greet the public and answer questions. Deb Swistak has taken on the task of scheduling the volunteers for both sites this year. Next week, she will start calling volunteers from previous years to ask them to help out again. This is only the second year that the JHS has kept the windmill and museum open after Labor Day, and new volunteers are needed to cover the additional hours.

Being a volunteer at the JHS sites is not onerous. Spending a gorgeous summer or fall afternoon at the windmill, one of the most beautiful spots in Jamestown, is wonderfully restorative after a week of work (The windmill doesn’t open if it’s raining or if the field is very wet). The museum offers not just the exhibit itself, but the opportunity to browse the computerized database of the collection and to read our non-circulating material about Jamestown. We welcome all volunteers.

Formal orientations will be scheduled for both sites, and detailed instructions will be emailed (if an email address is available) or mailed to all volunteers so you’ll have them on hand. Email Deb at debswistak@cox.net or call 423-0492 to volunteer.


The first step in improved signage for the JHS sites is almost complete. New signs will soon be going up along North Main Road at the windmill and the Quaker meetinghouse, as well as on Narragansett Avenue in front of the museum.

The three signs, designed by Diane Harrison under the guidance of board member Caroline Frank, are identical in format and will identify the sites as Jamestown Historical Society properties.

Each sign is white, with a cape blue border and a slightly modernized version of the society’s logo in color, centered at the top. The current Friends meetinghouse sign, with hours for meeting, will be moved around the corner to Weeden Lane. Visiting times for the windmill and the museum will be attached below the identifying signs.

We hope that by “branding” the sites with these identical icons, we can make people more aware of the sites themselves and increase interest in history.

The next step in signage upgrade will be an outdoor sign at the windmill that explains the history and operation of the mill.

Early visitors

Although the JHS sites don’t officially open for more than a month, we’ve already had some special visitors. Today, Thursday, May 6, a group from Rotary International toured the museum, the land agreement document display in Town Hall, the windmill and the Conanicut Friends meetinghouse. The JHS always looks forward to these annual tours by foreigners to our soil.

On April 30, Christine Bernardo, a fifth-grade teacher at the Lawn Avenue School, took her students on a tour of historic Jamestown, with a stop at the windmill and the meetinghouse. The windmill is still without its vanes, so to make sure the young people knew what the windmill should look like, each one received a postcard showing the mill with vanes and sails in place. Andy Shrake, the millwright, has promised that the vanes will be restored by the end of May.

The students couldn’t go inside the meetinghouse – there is still repair work being done – but some of them toured the grounds and learned a little bit about what being a Quaker means.

The repair work has not delayed the annual re-opening of the meetinghouse for Quaker (Religious Society of Friends) services at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays, now through October. The Conanicut Friends Meeting always welcomes visitors to its unprogrammed worship.

Computers needed

The JHS needs two computers. The PastPerfect program JHS uses to catalog the collection isn’t designed to run on Macs, so we need PCs with recent operating systems – Windows 98 or later. If you or your company is upgrading to a new system, please consider giving us your old computer.

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