Jamestown Historical Society News
June started off with our grand centennial gala: the culmination of our 100th year. On June 1, more than 150 guests – many of them dressed “to the nines” in period costumes from the early 20th century – gathered at Onarock on Walcott Avenue for an evening of celebration for 100 years of success in our mission.
Onarock, designed by J.D. Johnston who later built Clingstone, was built in 1896 for Samuel Walter Woodward. Steve and Tricia Frary have been working to restore Onarock to its original condition for more than five years. They have succeeded beautifully, and the house was a perfect setting for the party.
The wide central porch overlooking the East Passage far below contained comfortable wicker furniture, as it would have in 1912. Land and seascapes from the Frarys’ and society’s collections decorated the walls. Flowers arranged by Suzi Andrews and plants on loan from the Secret Garden brightened the rooms and porches. A tableau on the wide main staircase featured clothes and accessories from Period Pieces, a Jamestown collector of 19th and 20th century clothes.
Maids in black dresses, lacy aprons and caps served the signature champagne punch and hors d’oeuvres. The seven-piece Très Moutarde orchestra – a local group that specializes in the music of the early 20th century – played dance music in the large living room. Long dresses swirled as some of the couples took to the dance floor to learn the one-step.
The party was a fitting end of an anniversary year of looking back on 100 years of Jamestown Historical Society history.
Other important events are still to happen in June. The windmill opens on June 22 and will be open each Saturday, Sunday and holiday from 1 to 4 p.m. through Columbus Day. If you haven’t been to the windmill since last June, you’ll be interested in the new “furniture” that replicates the vat and hopper that would originally have been in the mill.
The Quaker Meetinghouse on Weeden Lane just south of the windmill will be open for visitors on June 22 during the same hours. The Conanicut Friends meet there every Sunday at 10 a.m.
A new exhibit at the museum – “Architectural Styles of Jamestown, 1700-1950” – officially opens on June 23. Jim Buttrick, who spoke to an enthusiastic audience about the lost buildings of Jamestown last year, is our curator. The exhibit identifies different architectural styles as they are exemplified in Jamestown homes and uses both historic and current photographs to point out what makes each style unique. Examples of architectural elements that help define a style, such as decorative posts, brackets and windows from recent renovations are displayed. Original architectural records enhance the exhibit.
Buttrick will conduct a preview for docents on June 22 at 2 p.m. He will conduct tours of the exhibit to the general public on June 23, July 7 and Aug. 25.
The back room of the museum building remains the Ferry Room, and new memorabilia has been added to enhance the visitors’ understanding of the days when water transportation was the only way to the island.
As usual, the museum will be open to the public free of charge from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday through Labor Day, and on weekends and holidays through Columbus Day. A free booklet that captures and expands on the information in the exhibit will be available to visitors. The exhibit and booklet are partially funded by a legislative grant sponsored by Rep. Deb Ruggiero.
There is also a new exhibit in the society’s display case at the Jamestown Philomenian Library. The exhibit displays maps and information about the six subdivisions developed by “Real Estate” Dan Watson, whose story was featured in the May 29 history article in the Press.
Last August the society issued a self-guided walking tour of Narragansett Avenue. The pamphlet points out the historic buildings and places along the street that was once called Ferry Road and was the link between the ferries that crossed the East and West passages.
This spring, a second tour guide joins it. “A Self-Guided Walking Tour of Historic Sites in Jamestown Village” takes the foot traveler to the points of interest along the East Ferry waterfront and at the Four Corners intersection of North Road and Southwest Avenue.
Both pamphlets were funded by the Rhode Island Foundation and are provided free of charge. They can be found at the Jamestown Museum, the Chamber of Commerce, the marinas at East and West ferries, and at many other outlets around town.
Battery Day on May 18 was a chilly, windy day, but nonetheless a resounding success. Sounds of cannon from the Artillery Company of Newport echoed across the West Passage. Captain Tew’s drum and fife played as the honor guard of veterans, Cub Scouts and the re-enactors from Captain Tew’s Company and His Majesty’s 54th Regiment of Foot marched onto the field. Major William Blodgett, aka Paul Brunelle, commanded the activities. Rev. Kevin Lloyd, rector at St. Matthew’s Church, gave the invocation.
The Jamestown Community Band played the national anthems while the flags of Great Britain, France and the United States were raised. Norman Desmarais, in a uniform of the French army, talked about the battery and the other Revolutionary War fortifications in Jamestown. The activities concluded with a skirmish between the British and American forces and artillery volleys across the bay.