Jamestown Historical Society


More Showings of We Took The Ferry

There will be more opportunities to view "We Took the Ferry", Bob Sutton's video capturing the adventures of high school students who rode the ferry to and from Newport each day.

  • The Newport Historical Society will be showing the video at the Colony House in Newport on Thursday, May 21 at 5:30 pm. The video will be introduced by Newport Historical Society's Librarian and Genealogist and Jamestown resident Bert Lippincott. DVDs will be available for purchase after the showing.
  • Rhode Island PBS will be showing "We Took the Ferry" during the Month of May. The dates and channels are
            Rhode Island PBS (36.1, Cox 8/1008HD, VerizonFios 508/518HD)
               Sunday, May 17 6:00 p.m.
               Saturday, May 23 11:25 p.m.
            Learn Channel (36.2, Cox 808, VerizonFios 478)
               Tuesday, May 19 8:00 p.m

Remember, you can purchase the DVD online. The online price of the DVD is $20 plus $3 for shipping and handling. Click on the link We Took the Ferry.

It is also available in the JHS vault in the lower level of the Jamestown Town Hall, 93 Narragansett Avenue, from 9am to noon, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Come visit us and see our collections first hand in the vault!


Royal Arcanum

Fraternal and charitable organizations were popular during the late nineteen century and early twentieth centuries. These organizations were founded on the values of virtue, mercy, and charity. Members were encouraged to work together for the good of the community and the family.

Jamestown's branch of Royal Arcanum, Conanicut Council #1147, was founded in 1889 and was active through the 1950's. It provided life insurance, annuities and a variety of social functions, some of which were held at the Town Hall. Items from Conanicut Council #1147 are displayed in the JHS case at the Jamestown Library.


Another Showing of "We Took The Ferry" - March 18th at the Jamestown Library
Animals in Jamestown" our newest Jamestown Library Exhibit

A Reprise of "We Took The Ferry"

"We Took the Ferry", Bob Sutton's video capturing the adventures of high school students who rode the ferry to and from Newport each day, will be shown again. The event is planned for Wednesday, March 18th at 7pm, in the Jamestown Library's meeting room.

Meanwhile, you can purchase a copy of the video. The price of the DVD is $20 plus $3 for shipping and handling. It is available in-town and online.

It is also available in the JHS vault in the lower level of the Jamestown Town Hall, 93 Narragansett Avenue, from 9am to noon, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Come visit us and see our collections first hand in the vault!

Animal Stories from Jamestown

Our newest JHS exhibit, in the JHS display case in the foyer of the Jamestown Philomenian Library captures some tales about Jamestown animals - from dogs to skunks to whales - that are so much a part of the fabric of the town.

Several of the stories told in the exhibit are about the travels of our independent canines.

Until the late 19th century, Jamestown was an agricultural - mostly pastoral community. Animals were central to its economy and its life. Into the early 21st century, dogs roamed freely and the need for leash laws was hotly debated.

A switchboard located at 42 Narragansett Ave., now home to the Island Heron. Operators Dot VonHoffer, Janice Whitehead Flechter and Marilyn Crowell on duty.
Jennie Clarke in front of the New England Telephone & Telegraph Co. building at 34 Narragansett Avenue. The Jamestown switchboard was in the building from 1922 to 1964.

From Operator to Dial Tone

One hundred years ago, in the Winter of 1914-1914, the Newport Telephone Company installed a Jamestown switchboard to be manned year-round.

In the Fall of 1964, 50 years ago, there were 950 telephone subscribers in Jamestown. These subscribers were instructed how to dial a telephone call. Jamestown was the last town in Newport County to hear a dial tone. Before 1964, all calls had to be placed through an operator.

Photographs and memorabilia from the JHS collection commemorating these anniversaries, are now on display in the JHS display case in the entrance to the Jamestown Library.

Read all about the evolution of the telephone in Jamestown from attempts in 1883 to success in 1893 to the establishment of a Jamestown switchboard in 1914 to a dial tone in 1964 in Rosemary Enright and Sue Maden's article "From Operator to Dial Tone" in the Jamestown Press.

 Recipes or Receipts

Be sure to check out the newest JHS library exhibit - Recipes or Receipts.

The words recipe and receipt are both derived from the Latin recipere, to take or receive. Both words are used in documents owned by the JHS to describe the process of turning raw mwterials into comestibles. The exhibit includes some of the society's hand-written, mimeographed, and printed collections of favorite recipes (or receipts) and samples from them. Click here for those recipes.

 Jamestown Ferries

Our newest exhibit of artwork from the JHS vault is now at the Police Station exhibit space. It displays several original drawings and paintings by Jamestowners of Jamestown ferry scenes.

Keeping House

Twice a year the JHS puts a new exhibit in the display case at the entrance to the Lawn Avenue School. This year's Fall exhibit, Keeping House, displays the evolution of housekeeping throughout the years. All of the photos are from our photo collection.













2014 JHS House Tour

On Saturday, September 13th between 10 am and 2 pm, the JHS will hold its annual house tour.  This year's houses are in the Ferry Meadows and Green Lane neighborhood. The houses on the tour are:    

Meadowside, 11 Friendship Street
Hedgerow, 16 Green Lane
26 Green Lane
Sea Haven, 56 Green Lane
64 Green Lane

Start your tour and pay at any of the homes. $20 per person. Children under 12 will be admitted free with an adult.  House tour guide.

 JHS Annual Meeting - Legendary Locals: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

On Thursday, August 21, the JHS held its annual meeting in the meeting room at the Jamestown Philomenian Library. 

Sue Maden and Rosemary Enright talked about their new book, Legendary Locals of Jamestown. Photos of the meeting and the book discussion can be seen here.

Autographed copies of the book are available from the JHS. The book costs $20 for members and $23.50 for non-members.

Jamestown Police Station Exhibit

The Jamestown Historical Society exhibits its larger sized original paintings and prints at the Jamestown Police Department.

A new exhibit, mostly in oil, of ferry boats and ferry wharfs is now on display.




Summertime Fun: Swimming in Jamestown

Year-round residents and visitors alike enjoy swimming in the Narragansett Bay. Our newest Library exhibit shows photos and objects from our collection - from a man's one piece wool bathing suit worn in the early 1900's to a T-shirt from the 33rd Annual Jamestown Penguin Plunge in 2009.

In the early days, Victorian era modesty dictated bathing costumes that covered women from neck to toe. The men had it somewhat easier, but were still expected to cover their torsos and thighs. Ladies’ hair styles demanded long hair, which in turn necessitated turban-like bathing caps. These changing styles of bathing outfits are shown in the exhibit.

Custom, convenience, and to some extent the law required that bathing costumes not be worn on the street, consequently, bathhouses lined the shores and piers to allow beach goers to change from street clothes. Private bathhouses were built in front of the Bay Voyage and the Bay View hotels, at Green’s Pier in the Dumplings, and at Camp Seaside at Conanicut Park. Ones planned by the Beaver Tail Country Club about 1940 never materialized.

The town built a large pavilion at Mackerel Cove that opened in 1928 with more than 150 bathhouses. The pavilion also contained a dance hall where dances were held three nights a week. The facility was washed away by the Hurricane of 1938.

In 1953, nine swimmers competed in a swim from Jamestown to Newport. Since 1977, Save the Bay has sponsored a similar swim to call attention to the need to keep the bay clean and a safe place for swimmers.

A sillier event takes place on New Year’s Day. From 1977 to 2010, the icy Penguin Plunge at Mackerel Cove benefited Special Olympics Rhode Island. In 2012, the event – renamed Jamestown First Day Plunge –moved to East Ferry and now benefits local non-profits.

The exhibit was prepared and installed by Rosemary Enright, Carol Lake, and Sue Maden. The exhibit can be found in the Jamestown Philomenian Library. 






 The Legendary Locals Get Together

"Legendary Locals of Jamestown" - a new book by Rosemary Enright and Sue Maden with photographs by Delia Klingbeil - is now available from the Society - $20 for members, $23.50 for non-members.

Recently, some of the "legends" from the book got together. Click here  to see more "living legends"....

All profits go to the Jamestown Historical Society, so support the JHS - buy your copy at the museum.

This June, the Arnold-Zweir Post 22 of the American Legion in Jamestown celebrates its 85th year. Ten years after the national American Legion was chartered, about 40 veterans, with their wives and sisters, met at the home of Captain Clarke to form an American Legion Post in Jamestown. The post number was 22, and in 1946 the members officially changed the name to Arnold-Zweir Post 22 in honor of Jamestowners Horace Arnold and Francis Zweir, who were killed during World War II.

Post 22 and its auxiliary have a remarkable history of community service.  They have organized parades and memorial services for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Their Drum and Bugle Corps, founded in 1930 and active through World War II, won many prizes. They have sponsored baseball teams, volleyball teams, and the Boy Scout troop. In 1957, Arnold-Zweir Post 22 built an 18-foot-high birthday cake in honor of the 300th anniversary of the purchase of Conanicut Island; the cake stood at the East Ferry waterfront and its 300 candles lit up the bay for the week of the celebration.

In 1975 the two organizations asked the town council to give them town land for a memorial to the men of Jamestown who had fought in the country’s wars, and the same year a memorial, now in the Artillery Grounds near the Jamestown museum, was unveiled. In 1996, the Town Council passed a resolution that granted Veterans’ Memorial Square at East Ferry to the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars in perpetuity. The resolution also stipulates that if the memorial ever has to be relocated, the town will do so only after consulting with veterans groups and holding public hearings.

An exhibit featuring photos and memorabilia from the JHS collections is exhibited in the newest library exhibit. Please visit the
library and enjoy the exhibit researched and prepared by Rosemary Enright, Carol Lake, and Sue Maden.

 Spring 2014 JHS Newsletter is now available here. It contains the latest JHS news and Summer 2014 Program Calendar.


 History of the Jamestown Town Hall

From 1883 to 2006, the Jamestown Town Hall has served as the center of our town's government.

A new exhibit in the Town Hall tells the story of our Town Hall, and how for over 200 years we lacked either a formal town hall or town clerk's office.

The Town Hall's front stairwell now has a permanent display of Jamestown Town Hall photos. There will be an Open House Monday, May 19th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Please join us.


 Fort Dumpling at the Police Station

In 1799, responding to raids on U.S. shipping by French privateers, the federal government purchased 6.5 acres of land just south of Bull Point - near the current site of the Fort Wetherill Boat Basin. The elliptical stone fort built there was called Fort Dumpling. It was never manned or maintained. The deteriorating stone tower, with its unparalleled view of Newport and the lower bay, drew artists from across New England.

The old tower was blown up in 1898 to make way for construction of Fort Wetherill.

Six of these artworks, inspired by the view and owned by the Jamestown Historical Society, can be seen in our current display in the foyer of the Jamestown Police Department.

First Issue of Jamestown Press

Jamestown Newspapers: 1910-2014

During most of its history, Jamestown hasn't had its own newspaper.

The first periodical, The Electric Spark, was published in 1910.  Next, came the Town Crier, followed by the Jamestown Gazette, then The Islander, and, currently, The Jamestown Press - known as the "paper of record" for the island.

This week we celebrate the 25th birthday of the Jamestown Press.  Read Rosemary Enright's article in The Press about The Press and all the newspapers that have served the Jamestown community.

For more details, visit our latest Library Exhibit, prepared by Rosemary Enright, Carol Lake, and Sue Maden.

Ye Olde Map of James Towne or Quononquit Island

Visit the Jamestown Philomenian Library and enjoy the many versions of this map of our town.

“Ye Olde Map” was created in 1928 in celebration of the 250th anniversary of the incorporation of the town. It was designed by Sylvester Clyde King, Jr., a commercial artist who lived in North Kingstown.

The map has been used for many purposes. Students at the Thomas H. Clarke School learned manual skills by craving the map into their carpentry projects. Walter Leon Watson, whose printing firm held the copyright, printed the map on the dust jacket of his 1949 history of Jamestown. And several organization have incorporated it in promotional and advertising materials.

When Narragansett Bay Freezes

It's been VERY cold lately.  Do you think the Bay will freeze over?  When was the last time it froze all the way to Newport?

Read Rosemary Enright and Sue Maden's article in the Jamestown and find out answers to these questions and others.

This Week in Island History

Do you know that every week, Sue Maden, has a new column about Jamestown History. The news is complied from the Jamestown Press and the Newport Historical Society.  Here is the latest column.

Jamestown Historical Society News

For the latest news, read Rosemary Enright's monthly Jamestown Historical Society News in the Jamestown Press.

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Jamestown Town Hall, Lower level
Tuesday and Thursday
9 a.m. til noon

As part of the JHS mission to "Collect, Preserve, and Share with others the heritage of Jamestown, Rhode Island", our newest Jamestown Library Exhibit shows a family history through archives. 

The story of the Weedens of Jamestown is traced through documents in the JHS archives.

The organizers of the exhibit were Holly Collins and Arlene Petit.  Holly and Arlene researched and selected the documents to be displayed.  Sue Maden and Rosemary Enright coordinated and installed the exhibit.  Holly, Arlene, Sue and Rosemary were assisted by many other JHS volunteers.


On Monday, January 6th, at 7:00pm, the Monday Night Mystery Book Group, will discuss Dutch Island: a novel, written by Curt Weeden.  The plot revolves around several murders, the Dutch Island deed, and a man suffering from Parkinson's disease.  Everyone who has read the book, which is available through the libary, is invited to attend and to participate in the discussion. 

The Dutch Island deed, owned by the Weeden family, will be displayed at the library.

On Thursday, January 9th, at 7:30 pm, Curt Weeden, the author of Dutch Island: a novel will talk about his book, the Weeden family which helped settle Jamestown in the 17th and 18th centuries at the Jamestown Philomenian Library. 

For a introduction to the Weeden Family, see this week's Jamestown Press.

Plaque Mounted on Original Beavertail Lighthouse Foundation

Thanks to the generosity of Brookie Harding and the dedication of the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association, the slate plaque is now embedded in the recently stabilized lighthouse foundation.  The plaque was commissioned by the JHS in 1951 to mark the site of the original 1749 Beavertail Light.

Read all about it in the Jamestown Press.



Annual Exhibit of Donations Received This Year

Each year the Collections Committee, chaired by Dianne Rugh, approves the donation and acquistion of many items.  From December 2012 thru October 2013, we received items from over 100 of your friends and neighbors. 

Among them are a one-piece wool bathing suit, a radio tube found at the Connanicut Battery, and button from Bruce Keiser's retirement party.  These donations and 15 others are now displayed in our display case at the Jamestown Library.


Jamestown men announced their support of the United Colonies in this June 1774 document conserved in the JHS collection.

Conserving 18th and 19th Century Documents

In April 2012, the Society received a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation Ott Fund to clean, mend, and place in archival polyester envelopes about 70 18th and early 19th century documents in the collection. A follow-on grant has since been received from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities to conserve another 210 documents.  Read about the documents in the Jamestown Press.

A third grant, awarded by the Rhode Island Foundation Newport County Fund in May 2013, is supporting exhibits of the documents in the Town Hall and the Lawn Avenue school, as well as other exhibits in the library. Examine the exhibit at the Lawn Avenue School.

Photo by Mick Cochran

Improving Signage

at Windmill

How the Jamestown windmill works will soon be easier to understand. The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities (RICH) has awarded the Society $11,650 to improve the signage inside the 1787 structure. 

Under the grant, new and more attractive labels will replace the existing ones, and diagrams explaining the working of the mill will be added to relate the labeled mechanism to the actual milling operation. The second level, which was originally used for storage and is now empty, will be turned into a small museum of windmill history. Lighting will be added at all levels and used to call attention to distinctive features of the building and to the operations performed there. 

The schedule calls for the project to be completed by Windmill Day 2014, which is planned for mid-July 2014.

Antoinette F. Downing Volunteer Award

President Linnea Petersen and secretary Rosemary Enright accepting the Antoinette F. Downing Volunteer Award.

Each year, the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission and Preserve Rhode Island honor a “volunteer preservationist who has made a contribution through a lifetime of effort or through a single significant project.” The 2012 award was given to the Jamestown Historical Society and to its generations of volunteers for 100 years of dedication to preserving the history of Jamestown.


View "Me, Myself, and Jordy: the Special Appeal of Jamestown Architecture"
an address by Dr. Ronald Onorato
at the JHS Annual Meeting, August 8, 2013

View "Jamestown's Steam Ferries: 1873-1969"
 an address by Archie Clarke, III
at the JHS ANNUAL MEETING, August 9, 2012

Videos courtesy of thejamestownrecord.com

Sue Maden shows us the movable shelves in the JTN Vault ...
Help preserve Jamestown. Become a member today.

Visit the JHS exhibits in the Town Hall at 93 Narragansett Avenue.

View the JHS display case in the lobby of the Jamestown Philomenian Library at 26 North Main Road.

2012-2013 Annual Report


For our 100th anniversary, the JHS is collecting the histories of how and when people and/or their families first came to Jamestown. And what has happened since.
• Who in your family first came to Jamestown? When? Where from? Why? What did they do once they got here?
• What is the extent of the family (parents, siblings, cousins, etc.) presence in Jamestown?
• How many generations? How long did they stay? 
• Are they still here? If they left, why did they? Where did they go?
E-mail your family’s story to sdmaden@aol.com or 
mail it to Jamestown Historical Society, PO Box 156, Jamestown, RI 02835 or 
call Sue Maden at 401-423-2167. 
Please include contact information, such as email, street address, phone number. 

Photos of families with individuals identified by name and/or family relationship would be appreciated. All information will be added to the JHS collection.

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