2010-09-30 / News

Preservation a concern for island rich in historic sites

By Geoff Campbell

“Clingstone,” also known as the “house on the rocks,” is one of several Jamestown sites being considered for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Geoff Campbell “Clingstone,” also known as the “house on the rocks,” is one of several Jamestown sites being considered for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Geoff Campbell Facing an abundance of historical and cultural “riches,” the Jamestown Planning Commission will confront some challenging preservation questions in the near future.

There are currently 13 sites in Jamestown on the National Register of Historic Places, as recorded in the town’s 2002 Comprehensive Community Plan. The location of the sites and the dates that they were registered can be found in the R.I. Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission’s 1995 publication, “Historic and Architectural Resources of Jamestown, Rhode Island.”

The 13 Jamestown sites include:

• The Great Creek Archeological District, Jamestown Archaeological District (12/10/89): “Listed on the National and State Registers…it also includes a portion of the Windmill Hill Historic District. Archaeologists believe that an ancient village may have existed here.”

The Dutch Island Lighthouse is one of 13 Conanicut Island sites currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Geoff Campbell The Dutch Island Lighthouse is one of 13 Conanicut Island sites currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Geoff Campbell • Windmill Hill Historic District: Eldred Avenue and North Main Road (10/2/78): “The 772-acre historic district…includes six farmsteads, 18th century burial grounds, an 18th century Quaker Meetinghouse, an 18th century windmill and miller’s house…[and] remains of several Indian settlements included in the Great Creek Archeological District.”

• Beavertail Light, Beavertail Lighthouse, Beavertail Road (12/12/77): “Records refer to a watch house at Beavertail as early as 1705. In 1749, a 58-foot wooden tower was designed by Peter Harrison, architect of the Redwood Library, Touro Synagogue and Brick Market in Newport. The present tower was constructed in 1856 and is of a unique granite work construction.” The fog signal box or “whistle house” was rebuilt on the foundation of the original lighthouse, which was revealed as a result of the 1938 Hurricane.

• Conanicut Battery, Access Beavertail Road (7/2/73): “The Rhode Island colonial forces erected this fort in 1776 to guard the west passage into Narragansett Bay. The Battery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in May of 1973…and is an example of a ditch and wall fortification.”

• Joyner Archeological Site, a.k.a. Hazard Farmstead (RI-706), Eldred Avenue (11/1/84): “The Joyner Site is identified …as a prehistoric Narragansett Indian site. Joyner is listed on both the national and state registers… utilized as an episodic logistical residential base camp from late summer through late fall.”

• Keeler Archeological Site (RI- 707), Eldred Avenue (11/1/84): “Members of the Carr family occupied this site from the late 18th century through the 19th century. Artifacts include possessions of this locally prominent Quaker family.”

• Ft. Dumpling site, Ocean Street (3/16/72): “The Fort Dumpling Tower was built about 1800 and throughout the 19th century, it stood as a spectacular and romantic landmark of the lower Bay. It was destroyed in 1898, when the Fort Wetherill complex was begun.”

• Artillery Park and Town cemetery, North Main Road and Narragansett Avenue (3/7/73): ‘This site was set aside as a burial ground in 1656 and contains a number of old gravestones.”

• Jamestown Windmill, North Main Road (3/14/73): “Included in the Historic Windmill Hill District, this post-revolution structure is overseen by the Jamestown Historical Society.” According to the JHS website, the Jamestown Windmill was originally constructed in 1787 and ceased commercial use in 1896. Today, “during the summer months, the Historical Society gives tours of the structure.”

• Friends Meeting House, North Main Road and Weeden Lane (3/7/73): “This 1786 structure was built by the Quaker fellowship of Conanicut. The Jamestown Historical Society oversees the care and maintenance of this structure.”

• Dutch Island Lighthouse, south end of Dutch Island (2/25/88): “Located on the 110-acre Dutch Island, the lighthouse was built in 1857, replacing the original lighthouse of 1827 at the southern end of the Island. The lighthouse is the only remaining structure on Dutch Island.”

• Conanicut Island Lighthouse, 64 North Bay View Ave. (2/25/88): “Established in 1886, the lighthouse has been converted into a private residence.”

• Horsehead-Marbella, Highland Drive (6/16/99): “Horsehead…built in 1882-1884, is a large, private summer home on the promontory of Southwest Point. A significant example of Jamestown’s earliest development as a summer colony, it was designed for the Philadelphia industrialist Joseph Wharton by Charles L. Bevins, architect.”

A fourteenth site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places website as “Old Friends Archeological Site,” but it is not separately noted in the Comprehensive Community Plan or the Historic and Architectural Resources of Jamestown, Rhode Island (1995).

According to the 2002 Comprehensive Community Plan, two additional sites “have been formally determined eligible for National Register listing by the National Park Service, although they are not currently listed: Harbor Entrance Control Post at Beavertail Point and Jamestown Bridge Archeological Site.”

Town Planner Lisa Bryer said that, updating the 2002 CCP has led to a discussion of 16 additional historic sites.

Those sites were first designated “deserving of consideration and further study for entry in the National Register” by the R.I. Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission in Historic and Architectural Resources of Jamestown, Rhode Island (1995).

The publication explains that, “These properties have special significance in the development of Jamestown because they document the patterns of its development or because they illustrate the architectural history of the town.”

The sites being considered in- clude:

• Cajacet/Captain Thomas Paine house, 850 East Shore Rd.

• Conanicut Park historic district • The Old Green farm • Dutch Island historic district

• Fox Hill historic district

• Ocean Highlands/Walcott Avenue historic district

• Shoreby Hill historic district, Conanicus Avenue

• J. Bertram Lippincott House, 177 Beavertail Rd.

• Beavertail Farm, 601 Beavertail Rd.

• Carr Homestead, 90 Carr Lane

• Horgan cottages: 17, 19 and 23 Conanicus Ave.

• Clingstone, off Dumpling Drive

• Fowlers Rock, 340 East Shore Rd.

• Lyman-Cottrell Farmhouse/ Rock Hill Farm, 83 Hamilton Ave.

• Riven Rock, 113 Melrose Ave.

• Jamestown Town Pound, North Main Road

A complete description of each district or property can be found in the Historic and Architectural Resources of Jamestown, Rhode Island publication, which is available online through the Jamestown Philomenian Library website, at the library in what is commonly referred to as the “Purple Book” or on the commission’s website at www. preservation.ri.gov.

“The listing in the National Register is a tool to encourage the preservation and recognition of our national heritage,” and it is not meant to slow progress or limit the use of the property beyond what is in a particular municipality’s ordinances, according to Historic and Architectural Resources of Jamestown.

Rosemary Enright, who currently serves on the Planning Commission and recently finished a term as president of the Jamestown Historical Society, said that formal preservation efforts often have the “positive effect of raising the awareness of the historicity of sites or districts.”

According to the National Register of Historic Places website, listing a property or district “provides formal recognition of a property’s historical, architectural, or archeological significance based on national standards used by every state.”

Other benefits, as outlined by the National Register, include:

• Preserving historic resources

• Providing opportunities for specifi c preservation incentives, including grants, credits, easements and accommodations

According to the National Register website, eligibility involves meeting the “National Register Criteria for Evaluation,” including a review of age (sites must be at least 50 years old), integrity and historical significance.

The National Register nomination process most often begins with the state historic preservation office, the R.I. Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission.

Recommendations for registry can come from any number of public or private sources and can take time. According to the NHRP website, the “length of the state process varies but will take a minimum of 90 days.”

The subsequent federal review is allowed a minimum of 45 days.

Proper community notifications and public comment periods are required before the nominations are sent to the National Park Service for “final review and listing by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places,” according to the NHRP website.

Regarding potential downsides to listing a property, the National Register website says:

• National Register listing places no obligations on private property owners. There are no restrictions on the use, treatment, transfer or disposition of private property.

• National Register listing does not lead to public acquisition or require public access.

• A property will not be listed if, for individual properties, the owner objects, or for districts, a majority of property owners object.

• National Register listing does not automatically invoke local historic district zoning or local landmark designation.

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