2013-08-01 / News

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright

The Jamestown Historical Society 101st annual meeting will be held Thursday, Aug. 8, in the Jamestown Philomenian Library meeting room. The talk by our noted guest speaker professor Ronald Onorato, chair of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Rhode Island, will begin at 7:30.

Dr. Onorato’s presentation – “Me, Myself and Jordy: The Special Appeal of Jamestown Architecture” – expands on the architecture theme set by Jim Buttrick, the curator of our summer museum exhibit, “Architectural Styles of Jamestown, 1700 to 1950.”

The “Jordy” in the presentation’s title is the late Dr. William Jordy, an author and architectural historian of national reputation. Dr. Jordy died before completing his comprehensive study of the architecture of our state, “Buildings of Rhode Island,” and Dr. Onorato edited the book for publication. Both authors’ knowledge and love of Jamestown’s shingle-style summer cottages are evident in the book.

Dr. Onorato earned his bachelor’s degree in art history from Rutgers and his master’s and Ph.D. from Brown University. He is nationally known as an expert on the architectural and sculptural heritage of Newport County from the colonial period to the present. He is a commissioner on the Rhode Island Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission.

Dr. Onorato is an engaging speaker who, according to his students, is “interested in making you care about his passions” and “wants to share all he knows.” Next Thursday should be an exciting and informative evening.

At the 7 p.m. business meeting that precedes the talk, the society’s president, Linnea Petersen, will review of the group’s activities during the past year. Also, the nominating committee will present the official slate of officers and directors nominated for the coming year. Six members of the current board are leaving – half because of the term limits in our bylaws, and half because of life commitments – so there will be many new faces.

House Tour weekend

Mark your calendars! Friday, Sept. 13, from 5 to 7 p.m. is the members-only House Tour preview party, and Saturday, Sept. 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. is the House Tour.

This year the preview party is being hosted at Thorncroft, a house that was built before the Civil War by members of the Watson family – the same family that once owned the Watson farm and all the land between the farm and Thorncroft on Narragansett Avenue. The house has seen many changes over the last 150 years. At one time it was a boarding house, but in the late 19th century, John Jay Watson, a noted arborist, inherited it and devoted himself to cultivating the rare trees and shrubs that still adorn the property.

Invitations to the party will be mailed to all society members in the middle of the month. RSVPs are required for attendance, although admission, $40 per person – which includes a ticket to Saturday’s tour – will be collected at the door.

Not a JHS member? Make a reservation anyway and join the society when you come to the party. Reservations will be accepted by telephone at 423-0784 after Aug. 15 (please leave a message) or by email at info@jamestownhistori calsociety.org.

Saturday’s House Tour features six sites in the West Ferry area. Three are houses built in the last quarter of the 19th century when Thomas Carr Watson, another scion of the ubiquitous Watson clan, subdivided his portion of the family farm for development. Three of the sites are art studios, one of which is in a house built in the same period. You’ll meet artists Jillian Barber, Peter Marcus and Jane McNally Wright, and see the tools that each uses to create their very different works.

This is truly a walking tour. All the houses are within three blocks of each other on Narragansett and Ocean avenues. Tickets for the House Tour alone are $20 per person and can be purchased at any of the historic houses.

Library exhibit

A new exhibit went up in the society’s case in the lobby of the library this week. “Summer Cottages for Rent” tells the story of houses that could be rented in the village in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Very different amenities were available at the different rentals. The Three Sisters on Conanicus Avenue – from south to north, Betty, Nina and Myra – were part of the Thorndike Hotel complex owned by Patrick Horgan, and renters had the privileges of hotel guests. Other “cottages” were the winter homes of yearround residents who camped out at smaller, less convenient shore cottages, stayed on their boats, or doubled up with friends for the summer. One house offered 14 rooms with one bathroom for $500 for the 1901 season – comparable to a minimum $11,500 (depending on how you calculate) in 2013 dollars.

On display are advertising brochures and photographs of some of the houses and their owners.

Special tours

This past month we had two requests for tours of the windmill outside the usual windmill hours of 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. One request was from a small family group that simply couldn’t be in Jamestown over a weekend; the other was from an organization that wanted to sponsor a private visit by their membership.

We are very happy to accommodate these and any requests from groups that want special tours of our sites, although we do ask that visits be arranged well in advance since our tour guides are all volunteers with many other commitments. Call 423-2674 or email us to make arrangements.

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