Jamestown Historical Society News
I hope you all saw Ken Shane’s article about the new exhibit at the museum in last week’s Jamestown Press. The exhibit – “Architectural Styles of Jamestown: 1700-1950” curated by Jim Buttrick – defines what makes a particular style unique and uses historic and current photographs of Jamestown homes as examples. You’ll recognize many of the houses pictured. Most of them still exist, although some have been drastically changed.
Original architectural records on display include the plans and cost for Half-Acre (1895) at 170 Walcott Ave. and a Ducker portable house (1896) on West Bay View Drive. The Ducker portable house that sat on a waterside lot on the West Passage cost only $1,211.07: $395 for the land, $570 for the packaged house kit, $39.80 in labor to put it together, and an extra $206.27 to build a chimney, which didn’t come with the original kit.
Examples of architectural elements, such as decorative posts, brackets and windows from recent renovations, are displayed around the room. The largest is a door from a house designed by Charles L. Bevins, who designed many of the shingle-style houses in Jamestown. Each half of the Dutch door is almost 4 feet high. A stained glass window from the southernmost sister cottage on Conanicus Avenue – originally called Betty – is on loan during the renovation of the building. Bob Flath constructed the light box for the window, the bases for the door, and for the posts from the Bay View Hotel in the rear of the room.
Curator Buttrick conducted tours of the exhibit on June 23 and July 7. He’ll be back on Aug. 25 to answer any other questions you might have. A free booklet also explains much of what is in the exhibit. The exhibit and booklet are partially funded by a legisla- tive grant sponsored by Rep. Deb Ruggiero. 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. The back room of the museum building remains the Ferry Room, devoted to capturing the days when water transportation was the only way to the island.
The windmill is also open free of charge from 1 to 4 p.m. on weekends and holidays through Columbus Day. The Quaker meetinghouse is open by appointment.
New back door
When the museum was renovated in 2007, the rear window on the east side of the building was replaced with a door. Before that, the only way out of the building was the front door or a window, and safety required a secondary entrance. The new door rotted through and had to be replaced – an estimated $1,000 expense. Thanks to Bill Burgin of Burgin Lambert Associates and Steve Ray of Steve Ray Construction, the society paid less than half that. Bill chipped in to purchase a higher quality door, and Steve installed it – including new hinges and painting – at no cost. The new door looks great.
Preservation of the historic buildings in our care is always one of the society’s top priorities. For several years now, the society and the Conanicut Friends Meeting have been monitoring the effect that water collecting under the 1786 Friends Meetinghouse is having on the 225-year-old floor supports. This month we received a grant from the Newport Restoration Foundation to install a vapor barrier in the crawl space beneath the building. Work will begin as soon as contracts are in place.
Professor Ronald Onorato, chair of the department of art at the University of Rhode Island, will be the guest speaker at our annual meeting on Aug 8. His topic – “Me, Myself and Jordy: The Special Appeal of Jamestown Architecture” – expands on the architecture theme set in the summer exhibit. The Jordy in the title is the late Dr. William H. Jordy, an architectural historian of national reputation with a particular regard for Jamestown’s architecture. His posthumously published “Buildings of Rhode Island,” edited by Dr. Onorato, contains a wealth of detail about Jamestown’s architecture.
The meeting in the Jamestown Philomenian Library meeting room will begin at 7 p.m. with a report from JHS President Linnea Petersen on the society’s activities in the past year. There will also be elections for officers and directors. Dr. Onorato’s talk will begin at 7:30 p.m.