2010-10-07 / Island History

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright
Have you climbed to the bonnet of the Jamestown windmill yet? If not, you still have three more days this year to visit the mill, which will be open this weekend, Oct. 9, 10 and 11, from 1 to 4 p.m. Those are the last scheduled visiting hours until next spring.

If you can’t get to the mill, visit www.jamestownhistoricalsociety. org to watch videos of our successful Windmill Day 2010. Sav Rebecchi recorded the day’s activities and posted three segments on the Jamestown Daily Record website at www.jamestownrecord. com. The JHS site furnishes a link to each segment.

A 10-minute video of a tour inside the mill follows the guides from the first floor, where they explain how the millstones work, up to the third floor inside the arched bonnet of the mill to look at the wind shaft and the huge brakewheel that translates wind power into drive power for the millstones. The video includes a unique view of the brakewheel in motion as the vanes of the mill turn in the wind.

Mike Minto of Conanicut Stoneworks has been hired by the JHS to repair the stone walls at the windmill and the Quaker meetinghouse. On Windmill Day, he took down some of the damaged 100- year-old wall and explained the reasons for the damage. On the video, Minto talks about the proper way to build a dry stone wall and some of what he’ll be doing to fix those at the windmill.

Dick Donnelly made jonnycakes – yes, that’s how we spell it in Rhode Island – for the Windmill Day crowd. He explains the derivation of the name and how the “r” got dropped from “journey cakes,” as well as how to make the cornmeal treats.

Although the mill is totally unheated, if you have a group that wants to brave the cold, we’ll take you through any time. To make arrangements, call the museum at 423-0784 or email jhs@jamestownri. com at least a week in advance.

Museum closing

The Jamestown Museum will also be open for the Columbus Day weekend during the same hours as the windmill. This will be your absolute last chance to see the current exhibit, “Farm Life in Jamestown: A Look at Our Farms, Past and Present.” It will be dismantled soon after the museum closes to make way for our 2011 summer exhibit.

House tour

The JHS annual house tour weekend, Sept. 17 and 18, was a great success.

At the preview party on Friday, Paul and Suzi Andrews proudly showed more than 70 delighted JHS members through the renovated 1898 “Red House” in Shoreby Hill.

On Saturday, more than 150 visitors enjoyed the house tour. For the first time in recent years, the tour included houses on all parts of the island, as well as from different eras of its history. The 1920s summer bungalow, “Gull’s Nest,” on Beavertail is very different in time and place from the restored 1680s Cottrell farm off Hamilton Avenue or the wonderfully preserved Victorian “Rossmere” in Conanicut Park at the North End.

Many of the house tour guests enjoyed not just the houses on the tour, but also the jaunt down almost the whole length of the island. Many commented that their normal routes did not take them to other parts of the island and that they enjoyed the outing tremendously.


Everything the JHS does depends on its volunteers. More than 100 islanders volunteered this year – some of them for two or three hours, many for more, a few almost full time.

Each member of the very active JHS Board is a volunteer and has a leadership role on a committee. The responsibilities of each committee are accomplished by an extended group of Board members and other committed volunteers.

On every day that the windmill is open – this summer, the schedule called for 36 days – or the Quaker meetinghouse is available, a society volunteer is there to tell visitors about the history and use of the building. The museum schedule is even more intense – it was open 68 days this summer, and each day, a volunteer greeted the visitors. Up to seven volunteers spend six hours a week in the vault all year round, cataloging and organizing the collections. At least 12 volunteers served as docents at each house during the house tour.

The Society is very grateful for every hour spent, and thanks the volunteers every fall at a party. We’d love to invite you next year. All you have to do is volunteer.

Would you like to spend three hours on a summer afternoon on Windmill Hill? Or greet new and old neighbors and friends at the museum? Or weed a garden? Or work with the JHS archives? Or maintain a website? Or do any other of the myriad things the JHS needs? Stop by the museum this weekend, send an email to jhs@ jamestownri.com or call 423- 0784. You can also make a note on your membership renewal, or talk to any member of the Board to let us know you’re interested.

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