2010-12-02 / Island History

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright

The Jamestown Golf and Country Club. Photo courtesy of the Jamestown Historical Society. The Jamestown Golf and Country Club. Photo courtesy of the Jamestown Historical Society. Jamestown Golf Course

Searching through the society’s documents to answer historical questions posed by our members and others interested in Jamestown history is one of the fun things that volunteers at the society get to do. So, when we learned that the Jamestown Building and Facilities Committee, which is responsible for evaluating municipal facilities and recommending changes and improvements, had turned its attention to the Jamestown Golf Course clubhouse, we researched the history of the building.

The clubhouse is over 100 years old. The Jamestown Golf and Country Club was incorporated as a private golf club in 1901 – only 13 years after the first American golf course, St. Andrew’s in Yonkers, N.Y., was established. The club leased the farm north of the new Shoreby Hill development, then owned by Edwin Littlefield. The first lease included the use of two rooms in the Littlefield farmhouse, but two rooms were obviously not enough space for a club.

That September, the club’s founders asked Louis W. Anthony, a local contractor, to build a onestory clubhouse. Originally, the clubhouse stood on the south side of the golf course, near the tennis courts now owned by the Conanicut Yacht Club. It was 50 by 27.5 feet – about a quarter of the size of the current clubhouse – with wide, ground-level porches on three sides.

In 1951, almost 50 years after the clubhouse was built, the Lyons family, who had bought the club in 1946, moved the building to 245 Conanicus Ave., where it now stands, and sold the Whittier Road tennis courts to the yacht club.

The town bought the golf course in 1986. Since then the building has been used for many purposes, including becoming the temporary town hall while the new building was being built on Narragansett Avenue.

Exhibit in library

A new exhibit featuring objects that were added to the JHS collection during the past 12 months was installed in the society’s display case in the library in mid- November. Stop by and see the oil painting of West Passage by John Cook, the Dutch Island Light keeper from 1915 to 1927, and the other books, papers, pictures, and memorabilia of Jamestown that we have been given. Everything we’ve received is listed on top of the case, but only a selection of smaller objects could be displayed.

Thank You

Our pleas for recycled computers have been answered. Joe and Nancy Logan gave us Nancy’s retired desktop computer, and Joe Drago donated three laptops when his company, Integrated Management Systems, upgraded to the latest technology. The new equipment will allow us to expand our capabilities and greatly reduce the use of our most outdated systems. (One of the ones we’ve been using doesn’t have a DVD drive, which makes it hard to maintain.)

The JHS wants to exhibit as much of our collection of Jamestown memorabilia as possible. Two memorial stones in the collection were perfect candidates for permanent display outside. One of the stones memorializes “Staff Sgt. Murphy,” the canine mascot of the 243rd Coast Artillery, which was stationed in Jamestown during World War II; the other is a commemorative stone placed in front of the old Thorndike Hotel (where BankNewport is now) in 1906 for John Price Wetherill, a founder of the Jamestown Improvement Society. Ron Parfitt, Andrew Rushton and Bill Piva of the Jamestown Parks and Recreation Department came to our aid. They transported the heavy stones and sunk them in the ground in the garden next to the museum.

Thank you all very much.

Book Talk on Dec. 9

As a reminder, Sue Maden and I will discuss our book, “Jamestown: A History of Narragansett Bay’s Island Town,” and our collaboration in writing it at a joint JHS-Friends of the Library program at the library on Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. Autographed copies will be available then and at the craft fair at the Melrose School on Saturday, Dec. 4.

The book is on sale at stores in the village and around the area and at major bookstores at the cover price of $21.99. If you’re a JHS member and buy your copy through the society, the price is only $20, plus $3 shipping and handling if you want us to mail a copy to you.

The book is the perfect holiday gift for anybody who loves Jamestown. And all profits benefit the JHS, so you’re supporting the society too.

Oral History Project

This year’s oral history project to capture the recollections of people who were born before 1945 and grew up in Jamestown in the first half of the last century is well underway. Six interviews have been completed and more are scheduled in the near future.

If you are one of these pre- Baby Boomers, the Jamestown Historical Society wants to hear your story. Please call Sue Maden at 423-2167 or email her at sdmaden@ aol.com if you would like to volunteer to be interviewed as part of this JHS effort to chronicle the story of Jamestown.

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