2011-03-10 / Island History

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright

The society’s most exciting acquisition of the past month was a painting by Francis X. West, who had his Red Elephant Studios on Cole Street in the early- and mid-20th century. Although the oil painting probably dates back to the early 1950s, in creating it West almost certainly used a photograph, now in the Jamestown Historical Society collection, that shows the East Ferry waterfront about 1900.

The East Ferry was very different 110 years ago. Three large hotels dominated the waterfront: The Thorndike Hotel, Gardner House and the Bay View Hotel. A windmill stood on the wharf beyond the ferry slip.

By the time West painted his picture 50 years later, only the Bay View Hotel remained, and even that had lost part of its tower. West would have remembered the three hotels and the cliff walk along Conanicus Avenue. Perhaps he drew on those memories to add color to the black and white scene in the photo.

Read more about West, his painting, and his career in Geoff Campbell’s article in the March 3 edition of the Press; look online at www.JamestownPress.com and search the archives.

Jamestown and the Silver Screen

Our “Jamestown and the Silver Screen” series continues this month with when we talk with Steven Feinberg, executive director of the Rhode Island Film and Television Office. Feinberg, a native Rhode Islander, spent 22 years as a Hollywood writer, director and producer. In 2004, he returned home to take charge of luring producers and directors to make films and television programs in Rhode Island.

He’s been very successful. Jamestowners will remember the trailers in the Portugeuse American Citizens Club parking lot and the yellow DIRL signs that sprouted up around the island while the movie “Dan in Real Life” was being filmed here in 2006. It was just one of more than 20 movies and television series filmed in the state in the last five years.

Feinberg has also made the state more “film friendly” by transforming the Cranston Street Armory into a soundstage and helping private investors build a 75,000-square-foot studio facility with production offices in Warwick.

Join us at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 31, in the Jamestown Philomenian Library meeting room, to hear Feinberg talk about “Movies and Rhode Island,” both the past and the future of filming in the state.

All “Jamestown and the Silver Screen” programs are listed on the JHS website, jamestownhistoricalsociety.org.

Conanicut Battery

There’s still snow on the ground at the Conanicut Battery on Beavertail as this column is written, but planning is going forward for a couple of important events there this spring.

Our biennial Battery Day at the Conanicut Battery Historic Park is planned for Saturday, May 14. At least three companies of re-enactors will participate. American Revolution re-enactors from Captain Tew’s 1st Company of the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment of Foot will set up camp on Friday night and will drill on Battery Day morning.

The Artillery Company of Newport will fire cannon salutes across the West Passage. The 14th Heavy Artillery, Rhode Island’s Black Civil War regiment that was stationed on Dutch Island, will join us for the ceremony that begins at 1 p.m.

The Jamestown Community Band is scheduled to play the national anthems of Great Britain, France and the United States, as the flags of the countries that occupied the battery are raised once again above it.

Mark your calendars. More details to follow.

When the Friends of the Conanicut Battery cleared the undergrowth on the historic fortifi- cations 10 years ago, they wrote a Vegetation Management Plan, along with the town. The plan defined the activities necessary to keep the area clear of undergrowth while at the same time protecting the contours of the earthen battlements from erosion and from destruction by modern grass mowers. The first part of the plan was put into effect two years ago. After much discussion with the Coastal Resources Management Council, the area was seeded with a native grass that grows to a uniform low height, demands low maintenance, provides good coverage, and has a low water requirement. The hydroseeding was accomplished with the help of a Rhode Island Senate grant sponsored by Sen. M. Teresa Paiva Weed.

This year, again with the help of a grant sponsored by Paiva Weed, the next step of the plan will be implemented. A controlled burn, conducted by Northeast Forest and Fire Management and monitored by the Jamestown Fire Department, will burn the grasses and the woody growth that invades the earthwork trenches.

The detailed plans for the burn are under review. The date is not yet determined.

The Carr Clock

The historical society was delighted to hear from Mark Carr last June that he had located what he thought to be the Claggett clock stolen from the Carr Homestead in 1977. We sent him a snapshot of the clock from our collection, hoping that despite its low quality it might be helpful in establishing the clock’s provenance.

We look forward to the successful outcome of the current legal battle to regain possession of the clock and return it to Jamestown.

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