2014-04-03 / News

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright

A pril and May are months for making summer plans. And the JHS board is hard at work doing just that.

Work at the Conanicut Battery slowed to a standstill during the hard winter. A replacement plaque to mark the weeping beech that was planted near the park entry in 1976 – the original marker had disappeared – was ordered last fall. Installation is anticipated on the first nice spring day after fear of a sudden cold snap has passed. The marker says simply, “Liberty Tree, dedicated April 24, 1976, R.I. Bicentennial Commission,” with 2013 and the Jamestown Historical Society seal below. It will be affixed to a rock near the tree.

The plaque was purchased with a Rhode Island Senate legislative grant, sponsored by Sen. Teresa Paiva Weed. In March, the society received a similar grant to be used to improve the view corridor cleared last year to allow more of the West Passage to be seen from the battery’s earthworks. Stumps will be removed, and the area will be graded and reseeded with native grasses. The society can also use the money for poison ivy abatement on the parapets. Poison ivy has become a serious deterrent to the enjoyment of the historic town park, and the society is working with the town to discourage the growth of the poisonous plant by keeping the grass cut short in the large field and around the parapets. The parapets, however, require special treatment because their sloping sides cannot be mowed with the large mowers used in the fields.

Jamestown Press

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Jamestown Press, which was first published on April 21, 1989. To commemorate the event, the society’s April exhibit in the Jamestown Philomenian Library and the history article in the Press will tell the story of island newspapers over the years. We would welcome copies of Jamestown’s earlier homegrown weeklies – Town Crier, Jamestown Gazette and The Islander – to add to our collection. If you have copies that you’d like to give us, call Sue Maden at 423-2167 or come to the society’s vault in the basement of Town Hall on Tuesday or Thursday morning.

Town Hall

Last month, I wrote about the exhibit on the history of town halls in Jamestown to be installed in the front stairwell of the Town Hall. Everything is ready to go. The photographs, documents and signs will be installed in the next two weeks. Watch for an announcement of the official opening, but if you happen to be in Town Hall later this month, take a look.

Museum

The Jamestown Museum exhibit this summer will be an expansion of last year’s exhibit, “Architectural Styles in Jamestown: 1700-1950.” Architectural style is usually discussed as part of the description of a building. That description, however, does not tell us much about how the building fits into the history of a place. In last summer’s exhibit, curator Jim Buttrick started with the styles and considered their progression over time and some of the historical factors that influenced their development in Jamestown.

This summer he is spotlighting an additional influence.

Many of the most distinctive houses in Jamestown were built by people who summered in Jamestown and spent about nine months each year in other places: St. Louis, Providence and the Philadelphia area, in particular. The families built winter homes in these cities. This year’s exhibit compares the architectural taste the individual owners expressed in their two very different winter and summer place. We find that even with different architects in different environments, an individual’s particular stylistic preferences can be seen.

The museum will be open for a preview of the exhibit on Memorial Day, with the official opening on June 22.

Windmill

New signs for the interior of the windmill works are being designed. The signs will replace the labels that currently identify the working parts of the mill and provide more detailed information on how they all worked together to capture wind power and use it to grind corn. Working in the mill this winter was impossible, so progress on this project has been slower than expected. The new signage will be in place by midsummer.

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