Archive for the ‘Attractions’ Category

Rumstick Point Marker   Leave a comment

The Rumstick Point marker as it appeared in 2008.

The Rumstick Point marker as it appeared in 2008.

A sedentary stone gathers some paint.
Corner of Rumstick and Chachapacassett Roads, Barrington

A large stone, part of a wall at the corner of Rumstick and Chachapacassett Roads, is adorned with a crude depiction of a pair of Indians kneeling beside a barrel, out of which jut two sticks. At center top are the words “Rumstick Point.” This curious artifact dates from around 1880 when Abbie Fessenden, who lived at nearby 153 Rumstick Road, painted it.

Chachapacassett Road delineates the northern edge of Rumstick Neck. Chachapacasset was the Wampanoag name for the area that includes Adams and Rumstick Points. It means, according to Thomas W. Bicknell in his History of Barrington (1898), “At or near the great widening.” Called Little Neck by early white settlers, it was first referred to as “Rumstick” in land records in 1698.

So where did the name Rumstick come from, and how does the image on the rock relate? Bicknell offered several different possibilities on the origin of the name.

First, he reported that a Brown University professor, Adrian Scott, had suggested a Norse, or otherwise northern European, origin:

Rumstokkr in old Norse was a bed-post, but in Provincial English there was a word, Ruinstich, adapted from the German language, or possibly the Dutch, and meaning the same as Mawe, i.e., an old-fashioned game of cards. The point might have had a famous game upon it by the first crew of sailors that bethought themselves to name it.

Bicknell noted that Providence bookseller and prolific amateur historian Sidney S. Rider also favored a Norse explanation, as did Norse scholars (no surprise), while he (Bicknell) had an entirely different idea:

But I should think this far more likely than either of the above, that the long slender point suggested the stick with which ancient sea captains stirred their toddy (differing from the common sailor’s grog, inasmuch as it was made of rum sweetened, and so needed stirring): hence English RUM-STICK.

Why Bicknell likes this explanation so much is hard to understand, as the neck of land in no way resembles a stick. But no matter. Having disposed of the “scholarly” theories, Bicknell went on to relate a pair of stories handed down over the generations:

Tradition tries to solve the mystery of so curious and equivocal a title, by saying that a barrel of rum floated high and dry upon the beach, and the treasure was considered of such great value that the event was celebrated by so free a distribution of the contents that the term high and dry could be truthfully applied for several days to all the dwellers thereabouts.

Another story goes, that while the Indians were removing the aforesaid treasure of “strong water,” for which they had a most wonderful liking, the hoops broke, the barrel burst, and the spirits of rum sank into the sand, while the Indians’ spirits sank within them, and in sad disappointment over their loss, they lifted up the mournful lamentation: “Rum stick here! Rum stick here!

This last, however little sense it makes, and notwithstanding how insulting it is to the character and intelligence of the native Wampanoag Indians, would seem to be the one that caught the imagination of Abbie Fessenden.

It should be noted as entirely coincidental that Barrington’s shores and inlets, possibly including Rumstick Point, played a part as landing places for rum runners during Prohibition.

The Rumstick Point marker has been repainted over the years by various public spirited individuals, so that we may continue to enjoy and wonder about it today.

The marker in 2014, in need of a touch-up.

The marker in 2014, in need of a touch-up.

While you’re on the Point, take a walk back along Chachapacassett Road, only a few dozen yards from the Rumstick Point marker, to find a boulder with a plaque marking the site of a spring that was known to be important to the Wampanoag Indians living in the area. The plaque calls it Massasoit Spring, after the Wampanoag sachem, but it’s probably the same “noted spring called Scamscammuck Spring” located “at the upper end of this neck” mentioned in Bicknell’s History of Barrington. A similar plaque marking the location of another “Massasoit Spring” can be found across the Warren River on Warren’s Baker Street.

Massasoit Spring plaque, as photographed in 2002 (left) and 2008 (right).

Massasoit Spring plaque, as photographed in 2002 (left) and 2008 (right).

As you drive back out along Rumstick Road, keep an eye out for number 66. Built in 1888, it’s known as the Fred F. Church House. But it was also the childhood home of the late monologist Spalding Gray. Gray moved from Rhode Island in the mid-1960s, and some of his earliest performance pieces were based on his memories growing up in the Ocean State. Known collectively as “Three Places In Rhode Island,” they include “Sakonnet Point” (1975), “Rumstick Road” (1977), “Nayatt School” (1978), and “Point Judith (an epilog)” (1979).

Fred F. Church House in 2006.

Fred F. Church House in 2006.

Our website architect, Dan Hillman, also lived on Rumstick Road from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, and lost a series of pet cats on that street. Imagine his surprise upon reading Gray’s memoirs of having also lost multiple cats to the crushing tires of speeding vehicles in the ’40s and ’50s. The Grays are long gone, but the house is still a private residence, so please be content to gaze in pleasure as you cruise past. And please be mindful of any perambulating cats.

If that isn’t enough to fulfill your local celebrity and morbidity quotients, double back to Nyatt Road and slink by the house at 1 Jones Circle. It’s the former home of Christopher Hightower, who, in 1991, brutally murdered the Brendel family—Ernest, Alice, and eight-year-old Emily. The story was featured in an episode of A'E’s City Confidential in 2005. Again, private residence; don’t be a douche.

There are a couple of notable architectural anomalies to be seen on the Point. One is the stone water tower at 3 Stone Tower Lane, looking somewhat out of place in an otherwise suburban (if upscale) neighborhood. The adjacent house is a renovated barn. Both are a reminder of Howard P. Cornell’s “massive summer estate,” Stone Tower Farm, where he resided circa 1875 to the 1920s. The farmhouse burned down in the early 1900s, but another barn and the chicken coop, both renovated into dwellings in the 1950s, still stand at 6 and 14 Stone Tower Lane, respectively.

Stone Tower (left), windmill-ish tower (right), both photographed in 2010.

Stone Tower (left), windmill-ish tower (right), both photographed in 2010.

Another is the tower at the corner of Chachapacasset Road and Lorraine Street. This one looks like a windmill without sails, and given the area’s former rural nature, perhaps a windmill is what it once was.

Information

Cost: Free

Time required: Assuming an average lifespan of 78.7 years, it will only take approximately 1/41,392,186th of your life.

Hours: You may gaze upon the Rumstick Point marker twenty-four hours a day, but we wouldn’t advise lingering suspiciously.

Finding it: Coming from Providence, take exit 7 from Route 195. Merge onto Route 114 South (Wampanoag Trail) toward Barrington. After about 6.9 miles turn right onto Rumstick Road. Go another 8/10ths of a mile and turn right on Chachapacassett Road. The next left is Rumstick Road again. The marker is in the stone wall on the inside corner of the turn.

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Big Rooster   Leave a comment

New digs at Antonelli's, November 2013.

New digs at Antonelli’s, November 2013.

Big wings, big thighs, big breasts, oh my!
Antonelli’s Poultry Company, 62 De Pasquale Avenue, Providence
(401) 421-8739

Nothing calls attention to your business better than a freakishly large fiberglass animal.

This fantastic fowl originally graced the sidewalk in front of Sollitto’s Liquor Mart at 905 Narragansett Boulevard beginning around 1969, when, at the suggestion of his brother, Domenic Sollitto bought it at an auction for $200.

It was stolen at least twice, once in the early 1970s by a Brown University fraternity that employed a pickup truck to make off with the bird, and once in the late 1990s by less-resourceful Johnson & Wales students who tried to drag it away on foot. The Brown students reportedly got caught because a postman saw them muscling the ungainly 150-pound cock into their dorm, and reported the sighting to Sollitto. The safe return of the rooster was brokered by the dean of students a few weeks later. Supposedly a case of bourbon was suggested as ransom, but whether that was the dean’s idea or the students’, we don’t know. The J&W kids didn’t do nearly as well. They were spotted by patrons of a nearby bar who gave chase as the students humped the statue down Indiana Avenue. Thinking only of their own interests, the kids dropped the chicken, leaving a minor crack in its skin. As a result of these shenanigans, the bird was subsequently brought inside the store each night to remove the temptation to larceny.

Sollitto's flag-waving message, photographed August 2, 2003.

Sollitto’s flag-waving message, August 2003.

The rooster became a booster for belligerent American patriotism sometime after 911, with the painted admonition, “USA, LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT.” Prior to that, it bore the harmlessly capitalistic and far less jingoistic “SPIRITS LOW, SEE SOLLITTO.”

The rooster was featured in a Zippy the Pinhead cartoon on May 30, 2006, which poked fun at the idea of a barnyard fowl spouting outdated messages of narrow-minded patriotism. Zippy pointed out that chickens are more closely identified with cutting and running than with stolid, staightbacked, clear-eyed dedication to cause, and the rooster agreed that “Cutting and running [is] the new patriotism!” Maybe the punchline hit home for Sollitto, because a year or two later the bird had been rendered messageless.

Sollitto’s closed in 2013 and the rooster was sold to Antonelli’s Poultry on Federal Hill, marking a sharp shift in the bird’s promotional career. The connection between fresh poultry products and an eight-foot clucker are obvious in retrospect, and forty-four years of shilling for booze are easily swept under the henhouse, especially with the aid of a fiberglass restoration and spiffy new paint job by Bob Connell of Nick’s Auto Body

Wright's big rooster, photographed November 6, 2004.

Wright’s big rooster, November 2004.

A second giant rooster once stood in a prominent spot at Wright’s Farm Restaurant in Burrillville. A comparison of photos shows that Sollitto’s and Wright’s roosters appear to have hatched from the very same clutch of fiberglass eggs. If not brothers, they are at least close cousins. Wright’s rooster can still be seen, but it’s somewhat hidden on the roof of a shed at the back of the restaurant complex.

Are two big roosters enough for the Biggest Little? No, there was a third that used to hang out at Kiddie Land at Rocky Point Park in Warwick. It was purchased at auction by Chris Gasbarro of Gasbarro Liquors who, in 2007, donated it the Tomorrow Fund, which refurbished it and auctioned it off at their annual fundraiser on November 3, 2007. Its whereabouts are currently unknown.

All three roosters were likely manufactured by International Fiberglass of Venice, California, in the 1960s. According to Wikipedia, “boatbuilder Steve Dashew established International Fiberglass in 1963 by purchasing and renaming Bob Prewitt’s workshop, Prewitt Fiberglass. The oversized fiberglass men, women and dinosaurs began as a sideline. Increases in costs to deliver the lightweight but oversized figures proved problematic and business declined with the 1973 oil crisis. International Fiberglass was sold and closed permanently in 1976. The moulds for the figures, originally worth thousands of dollars each, were not retained and are now lost.”

Sollitto's questionable color scheme, photographed January 26, 2008.

Sollitto’s questionable color scheme, January 2008.

You may well wonder, given their residence in Rhode Island, if these statues are of the famed Rhode Island Red breed of chicken. They are not. In fact, try as we might to find a picture online of a living rooster with a white body and a red tail, we came up empty handed. Perhaps, and this is just a guess, the paint scheme for both roosters was informed by depictions of the Warner Brothers cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn. The 2008 version of the rooster at Sollitto’s bore a green wattle and legs. You can’t tell us that ever occurs in nature. In any case, these fiberglass roosters are found all over the country, and given that they’ve probably been painted many times since their manufacture, they share remarkably similar color schemes. See Debra Jane Seltzer’s page of Giant Roosters, Chickens and Turkeys for more compare and contrast fun.

Information

Cost: Free

Time required: Allow one minute to gawk, more if you’re shopping for dinner

Hours: During business hours

Finding it: From Route 95 take exit 21 to Atwells Avenue. Go under the pinecone arch and turn right onto Dean Street. Turn left onto Spruce Street. Park. Antonelli’s is located in De Pasquale Plaza, a small pedestrian plaza on the left.

Other Big Things in Rhode Island

  • Big Blue Bug
  • Big Coffee Mug
  • Big Handtruck
  • Big Ice Cream Cone, Lakewood Ice Cream, 140-152 Chambly Avenue, Warwick
  • Big Milk Can
  • Big Paint Can, True Value Hardware, Route 44, Greenville, Smithfield
  • Big Rosary Beads, Jesus Savior Church, 509 Broadway, Newport

* * * * *

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Grave of Pookie   2 comments

She was a grand old girl, aged 77 in dog years.

She was a grand old girl, aged 77 in dog years.

Lucky dog.
837 Wapping Road, Portsmouth

“If there are no dogs in Heaven,
then when I die I want to go where they went.”
—Will Rogers

Ambrose Burnside. Stephen Hopkins. Richard Morris Hunt. Sissieretta Jones. Ida Lewis. H.P. Lovecraft. Metacomet. Elizabeth Alden Pabodie. Raymond Patriarca. Claiborne Pell. Matthew Perry. Oliver Hazard Perry. Anthony Quinn. Sunny von Bulow. Roger Williams.

You should know these names. They’re all famous, or were in their day. And to varying degrees, their fame shines on beyond their deaths. Apart from their notoriety they all have something else in common: whether they were politicians, actors, writers, singers, mob bosses, generals, Pilgrim offspring, architects, lighthouse keepers, Indian chiefs, or religious leaders—one and all, their mortal remains enrich the soil of Rhode Island.

And let it not be said that “royalty” shuns Rhode Island as a fitting place for eternal rest, for Pookie Windsor also sleeps her everlasting sleep beneath the comforting dirt blankets of the Ocean State.

You say you’ve never heard of her majesty, Pookie Windsor? Well, let me fill you in.

This photo, from Edward the Uncrowned King by Christopher Hibbert (1972), is captioned "The summer of 1934... Wallis Simpson and Pookie," but that can't be correct. Either the dog is Slipper, or the date is wrong.

This photo, from Edward the Uncrowned King by Christopher Hibbert (1972), is captioned “The summer of 1934… Wallis Simpson and Pookie,” but that can’t be correct. Either the dog is Slipper, or the date is wrong. Photo by Edward Windsor.

Pookie was the pet of the former King Edward VIII of England and his paramour, American divorcee Wallis Simpson—the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The couple began collecting dogs in 1934, and they brought them everywhere they went. Armchair psychologists speculate the dogs served as surrogate children, as the Windsors never had any human children of their own.

For the first several years of their marriage cairn terriers were the Windsor’s breed of choice. The first was a male brindled gray named Slipper, a present from Edward to Wallis at Christmas, 1934. Never properly house broken, Slipper was given the nickname Mr. Loo. Sadly, he was fatally bitten by a viper in Cande, France, in April 1937. Pookie, a cream colored female cairn terrier from Austria was added to the family next, followed by Detto, another male brindled gray, and Prisie (short for Surprise), a female brindled cream, both born in England. In the early 1950s the Windsors phased out terriers and switched to pugs.

Cairn terriers are so-named because they were used in the Scottish highlands to keep down vermin. The small, agile dogs were adept at searching cairns (man-made stone piles) and other tight spaces for rats and other rodents.

"Detto, Prisie and Pookie play with the Duke in the Hall. One of Detto's legs was broken recently when a taxi ran over him." From "Life Goes Calling on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor," Life Magazine, July 10, 1939.

“Detto, Prisie and Pookie play with the Duke in the Hall. One of Detto’s legs was broken recently when a taxi ran over him.” From “Life Goes Calling on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor,” Life Magazine, July 10, 1939. Photo by William Vandivert.

None of the couple’s pets were ever completely house trained, and servants were kept busy cleaning up after them. Anne Sebba, in her book That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, reported an example of how the dogs were spoiled and indulged: They “were often literally spoon-fed from silver bowls by the Duke or Duchess meals that had been especially prepared for them.”

And from The Duchess of Windsor: The Uncommon Life of Wallis Simpson by Greg King:

Wallis could not stand wrinkles in her bed… Once the bed was made, a plastic sheet was spread atop the satin eiderdown so that the pugs could climb onto the bed with Wallis; there she would feed them the hand-baked dog biscuits prepared fresh each day by her chef. Usually the pugs slept on the bed with her, although the Duke’s favorite might disappear through the boudoir to his own spot at the foot of his master’s bed.

It was an embarrassment to the Royal Family for a former monarch to be married to a twice-divorced woman, so the Duke and Duchess were essentially exiled from England. They lived for the most part in France, but traveled extensively, Newport being one of their frequent stops.

The Newport Daily News reported on one of their Newport visits in its society pages on September 17, 1943:

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, here for a weekend visit with friends, made their only public appearance today when the former King Edward VIII took a special review of Naval Training Station personnel at the Station at 11 o’clock this morning.

The Training Station display, which was marked by a large turnout, was highlight of a series of private entertainments that have been under way since the arrival of the Duke and Duchess late Saturday afternoon from Boston, to be house guests of Mrs. Duncan Douglas at ‘Cairngorm Lodge’ on Bellevue Avenue.

The Duke and Duchess, according to present plans, will leave Tuesday for Providence, where they take a train for stops in New York and Washington before he returns to his post as governor general in Nassau. Tonight they will be dinner guests of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt at ‘Beaulieu.’

Another Newport visit was noted in the Milwaukee Journal‘s society pages on August 5, 1945:

The event of the season was the arrival of the former king of England and the woman he loves, the duke and the duchess of Windsor. Aside from the formal dinners and dances in the evenings, the duke and his attractive duchess are having an informal holiday. He plays golf every day at the country club and she strolls on the avenue, shopping or walking along the cliffs and stopping in at Bailey’s Beach.

They probably will sail for England Aug. 6. Already many of their belongings have been shipped ahead. Conservative Newport citizens say they will be glad to see them go. For them the Windsors seem not to belong and royalty be darned.

Admittedly, anyone not born in Newport is a carpetbagger and remains an outsider until at least a quarter century of rather rugged residence.

A third visit was detailed in the pages of Newport Daily News the weekend of November 26, 1947. The Windors once more indulged in round after round of luncheons, teas, and dinners, including Thanksgiving dinner at Fairholme, the Newport mansion of their friends, the Robert R. Youngs.

It must have been on one of these visits in 1952 (unfortunately, not reported) that Pookie, by then almost sixteen years old, died. The Windsors decided to inter the pup at one of New England’s first pet cemeteries, located at Potts Canine Country Boarding Kennel in Portsmouth. The first burial took place there in 1938, and as of 1991 it was estimated that more that one thousand beloved companions had been laid to rest on the property. Only a relative handful of these are marked, Pookie’s grave being one.

It’s not known if the Windsors were visiting Newport at the time of Pookie’s death, or were merely in the area, or were passing through. We heard rumors that the pooch passed away while on a “cruise.” Also, that the Windsors visited the grave at least once in later years.

Pookie’s simple white marble stone is about midway along the front wall of the property.

POOKIE
A FAITHFUL
LITTLE FRIEND OF
EDWARD AND WALLIS
DUKE AND DUCHESS
OF WINDSOR
AUGUST 16TH, 1936
APRIL 12TH, 1952

Pookie died just around the time that the Windsors switched their canine loyalties from cairn terriers to pugs. But that’s just a coincidence, right?

Be that as it may, Edward passed away in 1972 and Wallis followed in 1986. They are buried together in the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore, Berkshire, England, a somewhat grander resting place than Pookie’s quiet country plot in the colonies.

The property at 837 Wapping Road in 2005, and again in 2013.

The property at 837 Wapping Road in 2005, and again in 2013.

Potts Canine Country Boarding Kennel became Bow Wow Villa when it merged with a pet grooming salon called Bow Wow House in the 1970s. The grooming business then spun back off in the late 1980s, becoming Perry’s Plush Pooch at another location. The Bow Wow Villa property was purchased by the Newport National Golf Club, and leased to K9 Instincts Dog Training and Kennel. Then in the early 2010s K9 Instincts moved to another location, leaving the property abandoned and overgrown. As of late 2013, the golf course’s plans for the property are unknown.

Slipper's grave. Date, source, unknown.

Slipper’s grave. Date, source, unknown.

Pookie’s is not the only Windsor dog grave left in the world. Slipper was buried, probably, near the Cande, France, chateau where he died, as evidenced by an undated photo. The remains of Prisie (1938-1949) reside at Chateau de la Croë, a villa on the French Riviera that the Windsors once leased. And several of the couple’s pugs are buried on the grounds of Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, in Gif-sur-Yvette, Essonne, France, although the grave markers (somewhat worse for neglect) have been moved to a corner by a garden fence. Le Moulin (The Mill) was purchased by the Windsors in 1952, and is now a sort of upscale vacation rental.

Information

Cost: free

Time required: allow 10 minutes for silent contemplation of the fleeting nature of canine existence.

Remember, this is a cemetery. Please be respectful.

Finding it: from Route 195 take exit 8 in Fall River, Massachusetts, to Route 24 toward Tiverton. Travel about nine miles and take the exit toward Middletown/Newport Beaches, merging onto Turnpike Avenue. After 7/10ths of a mile bear right onto Route 138 south (East Main Road). Go 3.5 miles and turn left onto Sandy Point Avenue, then turn right on Wapping Road. Go 1.6 miles to #837. Pookie’s grave is next to the stone wall beside the road.

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Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island: The Arcade   Leave a comment

Loved, boasted of and admired.
by John Williams Haley

This article comes from The Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island, Vol. I, pages 80-81, published by the Providence Institution for Savings, 1929. Transcribed by Christopher Martin.


The Arcade circa 1900. Postcard courtesy of Louis McGowan.

The Arcade circa 1900. Postcard courtesy of Louis McGowan.

THE city of Providence as we know it today, presents an interesting study in contrasts. In the very midst of historic sites that still seem to breathe the air of centuries gone by, rise towering structures of steel and stone that majestically dwarf their humble but honored companions. Everywhere about the city the rat-tat of riveting gun and the shrill whistle of a steam-shovel remind us that a continual transformation is taking place. A modern and magnificent Court House rises just south of College Hill, completely overshadowing that row of picturesque old buildings along South Main Street, places rich in the heritage of Rhode Island history, where some of the great industries of this community had their birth. There is one century-old building that seems to withstand the ruthless hand of time. Located in the very heart of the business district of the city, the Arcade seems to keep up with the times, and justify its existence almost at the very foot of giant sky-scrapers.

Years ago the Arcade was the show-place of Providence—loved by the children, boasted of by the citizens, and admired by strangers. At the time of its erection over one hundred years ago, there was scarcely a shop or business place of any kind in its vicinity on Westminster Street. The business section of the town was then on South Water Street and North and South Main Streets, and was known as Cheapside. The Arcade is said to have been inspired by the Madaleine of Napoleon in Paris, and at the time it was built several others were erected in this country. The Providence Arcade is said to be the only one remaining. It is built entirely of granite, and runs from Westminster to Weybosset Streets.

Each of the columns weighs thirteen tons, and, with the exception of those in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, they are the largest in America. It is still boasted that one of them was blasted out of the Bear Rock Ledge on the borders of the town of Johnston, and completed by the work-men in thirty days. James Olney agreed to haul the monoliths to Providence, and, after constructing a special low gear, and strengthening the bridge at Olneyville, he guided fifteen yoke of oxen, drawing their burden of twelve tons, through the woods. One column was broken in the moving, and after replacing it and getting the twelve others in place, the contractor announced that he was practically ruined. The broken column now stands on the Field lot in the old North Burying Ground.

When six of these pillars had been left near the Weybosset Street Bridge, the architects of the Arcade, Russell Warren and James Bucklin, assisted in placing them. Major Bucklin was in charge of the setting of each one. This task was completed in a single day. One man only was hurt when the building was constructed, and during the actual time the work was carried on, one man was killed. The Arcade cost $145,000. The east half was owned by Cyrus Butler, the west half, by the Arcade Corporation. Someone remarked at the time of its erection that “it was built on ground before then occupied by a nest of combustible sheds.” The news of the day referred to it as “a monument to the energy, good taste, skill and courage of its constructors, of which their descendants, and our city may well be proud.”

The Arcade interior, circa 1900. Postcard courtesy of Louis McGowan.

The Arcade interior, circa 1900. Postcard courtesy of Louis McGowan.

The fashionable folk of Providence were delighted with the fine things found in the Arcade displays—forerunners of the modern department stores—and a millinery shop most often visited was that of the “Three Sisters.” These sisters were devoted members of St. John’s Church, and greatly respected in Providence. The story is told of a member of that church who returned her bonnet to the milliners, asking that the bow on it be changed “to the congregation side,” as its beauty was wasted on a blank wall.

At the time of the September Gale the milliners were hastening with a brother, who was very ill, from their home on Mathewson and Weybosset Streets. The carriage in which they were taking him out of the reach of a rapidly rising tide was overturned, and it was with great difficulty that he was rescued from the water. A neighbor, on her return home after the flood had subsided, complained that her parlor rug was ruined with dead fish and slime, and that she found a “little dead swine” on the top of her piano.

The three sisters, as age was creeping on, sold their shop in the Arcade and moved to a rose-covered cottage in the country, where, familiarly called Aunt Ria and Aunt Patty, they were the fairy god-mothers of the community. Many a child climbed the haircloth sofa, examined the precious knick-knacks on the what-not, and sat in the comfortable living room, while marvellous [sic] doll’s clothes were designed from a never-failing supply of bright-colored silk scraps.

“Aunt Patty was very lame—a misstep on the stairs had caused this—so that she seldom went farther than her own garden. She was a dear, familiar figure to the villagers, seated on her little green wooden stool, weeding, or leaning on her cane to examine some new blossoms, while the winds played with her soft white curls, on either side of her sweet old face… Beneath the front steps dwelt a toad, which was very tame, and sat blinking in the sun while some child fed it with rosebugs… At last, growing too feeble to keep house longer, the beloved milliners moved again to town.”

So you see that when the historic landmarks of our city make way for modern progress and twentieth century ideas of beauty and efficiency, we gradually erase from our minds happy memories of some face, figure or event of the past. There is probably an interesting romance threaded in the true history of the old Arcade. Hundreds of business projects, thousands of clerks, and millions of eager shoppers have come and gone during the century of its existence.

Return to Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island index.


John Williams Haley (1897-1963), former vice president of the Narragansett Brewing Company, was best known for his weekly radio program, “The Rhode Island Historian,” which ran from 1927 to about 1953 on WJAR. Several hundred of his radio scripts were published in pamphlet form by the Providence Institute for Savings (“The Old Stone Bank”), and many were later reprinted in the four-volume Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island.


Editor’s Notes
More information on The Arcade can be found under Attractions.

An earlier, unattributed version of this article can be found in Old Providence: A Collection of Facts and Traditions relating to Various Buildings and Sites of Historic Interest in Providence, printed for The Merchants National Bank of Providence (1918). Portions of the second and third paragraphs also show up in The History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 3, by Thomas Williams Bicknell (1920).

Bear Rock Ledge quarry is located in the southeast quarter of the interchange of Route 295 and Putnam Pike (Route 44). It has been long abandoned and overgrown. According to Richard M. Bayles in his History of Providence County, Rhode Island, Volume 2 (1891), the site was later quarried by Emor J. Angell beginning in 1861, “and during the winter of 1867 and 1868 [he] quarried 6,000 feet of curbstone, from that locality alone.”

James Olney, described as both a farmer and a stone cutter, was born July 23, 1792, in Rhode Island, and died August 29, 1868, in Johnston. He is buried in Johnston cemetery #9.

The Fields Memorial, North Burial Ground, Providence. Photo by Quahog.org.

The Fields Memorial, North Burial Ground, Providence. Photo by Quahog.org.

The Field lot in the North Burial Ground is dominated by a monument made from the broken pillar. The monument consists of about a four- or five-foot section of the column, on its side, balanced atop a plinth. The monument is inscribed with the names of Field family members whose remains were moved to North Burial Ground from the family farm on Field’s Point in 1865.

James Champlin Bucklin was born July 26, 1801, died September 28, 1890. He is buried in Swan Point Cemetery, Providence. He was also the architect of Brown University’s Manning Hall (1833).

Cyrus Butler was born May 9, 1767, and died August 22, 1849. He is buried in North Burial Ground, Providence. He contributed much of the financing for Butler Hospital, which was named for him.

Return to Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island index.

Big Coffee Mug   1 comment

The Big Coffee Mug in June 2013.

The Big Coffee Mug in June 2013.

King Kong-sized caffeine delivery system!
1065 Eddie Dowling Highway, (Route 146), North Smithfield
(401) 338-7100
theiceboxslush@yahoo.com

Update, January 2014: The Ice Box announced it was closed, apparently for good, via Facebook message on the 15th. No reason was given.

Update, May 17, 2014: The Big Coffee Mug was either demolished or carted away around this date. Everything that once stood on the lot is gone, down to bare earth. We have no further information at this time.

This huge travel-style coffee mug, perhaps large enough for two to three people to enjoy a hot java bath at the same time, serves as the sign for a small drive-up establishment. The sign is also a fountain, spewing clear water from the spout on its lid (when it’s working). We think the water should be colored a rich, dark brown so that potential customers won’t be turned off by the thought of a weak brew. A bit of steam to add verisimilitude wouldn’t hurt either.

The cup currently promotes The Icebox, a summertime stand owned and operated by RISD student Brianna O’Keefe. She opened the place in August 2013, serving Richie’s Super Premium Italian Ice to help finance her college education. The Icebox re-opened for the summer in early May 2013 and Brianna added ice cream to the line-up soon after. Next up: milk shakes! Then, possibly, coffee, to capitalize on the Big Coffee Mug juju.

As we hinted above, the fountain is not working as of this writing (June 2013). Brianna would like to have it fixed, but that may prove to be difficult, as it seems the mug was built around the pump. Brianna has installed a fog machine on top of the mug, and she uses it occasionally to draw the interest of passing motorists (didn’t we just say that would be a good idea?). If anyone knows of a small, talented monkey-mechanic that can go down the spout and perform the necessary pump repairs, please contact Brianna at theiceboxslush@yahoo.com.

The Icebox's menu board.

The Icebox’s menu board.

Coffee and Cream in 2005, when the fountain was working.

Coffee and Cream in 2005, when the fountain was working.

Richie’s Italian Ice, by the way, in case you’ve not tried it, is very different from what you get at Rhode Island’s many frozen lemonade places. It’s much smoother, like a sorbet, or an icy sherbet (but with no dairy). And it comes in a wide variety of flavors, like Banana, Blue Raspberry, Bubble Gum, Coconut Cream, Cotton Candy, Mango, Orange Creamsicle, Pina Colada, and Watermelon. You can even mix and match flavors as you please for a small added cost.

The landmark mug hath been running over since at least 1991. Before The Icebox, it was the sign for Coffee and Cream, a stand serving donuts, muffins, sandwiches, and, go figure, coffee. Coffee and Cream closed in 2009, a victim, apparently, of competition from a new Dunkin Donuts location just down the road.

We’ve heard from a friend that long ago, back in the mists of time, the Big Coffee Mug was originally a Big Coffee Pot. The only physical difference, apparently, was that the pot had a pour spout on the front. Anyone who can corroborate this bit of information, or better yet, provide a photo, please contact us at stuffie@quahog.org.

Former site of the Big Coffee Mug, May 18, 2014.

Former site of the Big Coffee Mug, May 18, 2014.

Information

Hours: The Icebox was open 11am-9pm daily during the summer. Now it’s CLOSED and erased from the face of the Earth.

Finding it: From Route 295 take exit 9 to Route 146 north (toward Woonsocket); Go 1.8 miles; You’ll pass the Big Coffee Mug on the left, on the other side of the divided highway; Get in the left lane and take a U-turn at Sayles Hill Road; Return south on Route 146 about 275 feet to the Big Coffee Mug on the right.

Other Big Things in Rhode Island

  • Big Blue Bug
  • Big Handtruck
  • Big Ice Cream Cone, Lakewood Ice Cream, 140-152 Chambly Avenue, Warwick
  • Big Milk Can
  • Big Paint Can, True Value Hardware, Route 44, Greenville, Smithfield
  • Big Roosters
  • Big Rosary Beads, Jesus Savior Church, 509 Broadway, Newport

Back to quahog.org.

Piazza Marconi   1 comment

The monument marking Piazza Marconi, at the intersection of Atwood Avenue and Plainfield Street in Johnston.

The monument marking Piazza Marconi, at the intersection of Atwood Avenue and Plainfield Street in Johnston.

A signal honor.
Corner of Atwood Avenue and Plainfield Street, Johnston

The father of wireless technology, Guglielmo Marconi, was born in Italy, and performed most of his experimental work in England, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Massachusetts, and on ships at sea in the Atlantic.

So why is there a monument to Marconi in Johnston?

In the early 2000s Johnston’s population was about 46% Italian American. One of those Italian Americans was Johnston Mayor William R. Macera, and he happened to be a fan of Marconi. So it didn’t take much prodding on the part of Vincent Frattallone of the Italian cultural society Comitato Tricolore per gli Italiani nel Mundo (Tricolore Committee for Italians in the World (CTIM)) to convince Macera that Johnston should set aside a spot in town to honor one of Italy’s most celebrated native sons.

The suggestion was made in 1999, and within two years Macera turned the idea into reality. He chose the intersection of Atwood Avenue and Plainfield Street, on the border with Cranston, because the two towns share similar demographics. Because Atwood and Plainfield are both state roads he had to secure the approval of the General Assembly. Through that process he found out that the Cranston side already had a World War II memorial, so the scope of the project was scaled back to include only the Johnston side of the intersection.

Still, Macera had big plans, and he had a line on possibly the best possible dignitary to have at the dedication of such a monument, Marconi’s youngest daughter Princess Elettra Marconi. Macera met her in 1999 when she stopped in Johnston while touring the U.S. promoting a book about her father by her mother, Maria Christina Marconi, called Marconi, My Beloved.

The plans came together on April 25, 2001, the 127th anniversary of Marconi’s 1874 birth. The Johnston half of the intersection (really just a corner on the edge of a Walgreens parking lot), was dedicated as Piazza Guglielmo Marconi, reportedly the first “square” in the United States to be named for the inventor.

At the dedication speeches were made in both English and Italian, the American and Italian national anthems were played, and Princess Elettra, then seventy-one, spoke to the crowd via telephone from Bologna, Italy. Among the dignitaries present in the flesh were Johnston Mayor Macera, Cranston Mayor John R. O’Leary, Michele Frattallone of the CTIM, Providence Mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci, Jr., state Senator Joseph Polisena, and state Representative Mary Cerra.

(Side note: In case you were wondering, Elettra Marconi got her princess title from her 1966 marriage to Prince Carlo Giovannelli, and decided to hold onto it after they separated).

The CTIM had earlier presented Mayor Macera with a plaque honoring Marconi, and Macera stated at the time of the dedication that he hoped it would one day hang on the wall of the proposed new Johnston Fire Station #1 on Atwood Avenue. The station, he said, was to have a state-of-the-art communications center to serve both the police and fire departments. Macera intended that it would be called the Guglielmo Marconi Communications Center. But although the station was completed in 2004, the communications center was not included, and the whereabouts of the plaque are currently unknown (or at least unknown to this writer).

The marker erected in 2001 was only a modest ten-foot pole bearing a sign that read “Piazza Guglielmo Marconi,” but a year later, amid similar pomp and circumstance (including another call from the princess) a more permanent monument was installed on the north corner of the intersection.

The monument is a low pyramid of dark polished granite topped by a small metal transmission tower, complete with blinking red navigation light. Designed by Vincenzo Frattallone of the CTIM, it looks like a transmission tower because it is one, albeit with a very weak signal. Originally you could tune your car radio to 94.9 FM while parked nearby and listen to a recording of Marconi himself speaking on an infinite loop.

This strange design element disappeared from the monument some time after 2005.

This strange design element disappeared from the monument some time after 2005.

A small, enigmatic sandstone design element was affixed to one face of the monument. An email sent to the CTIM failed to elicit an explanation of its meaning, so we’re left to make our best guess. The element, which disappeared from the monument sometime after 2005, appeared to depict two coasts connected by the barely legible words “Atlantic Link.” A committee with a similar name is listed on the monument under Patronage. Sketchy information online (much of it in Italian) leads us to understand this was an organization dedicated specifically to increasing awareness of the 100th anniversary of the first confirmed transatlantic transmission of radio signals from North America, in 1902.

The town didn’t have to pony up any money for the monument. The building and installation were organized by the CTIM, and materials and labor were donated by local Italian American businesses and organizations. Power came from the Walgreens and the transmitter was maintained by the Providence Radio Association.

The 1953 Marconi Monument at Roger Williams Park.

The 1953 Marconi Monument at Roger Williams Park.

In October 2006 the princess dropped by to see and listen to the monument in person. She was in the states to celebrate the 104th anniversary of the Atlantic Link. While here she visited another local monument to Marconi, placed on the shore of Pleasure Lake in Roger Williams Park in 1953. Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline met her there and presented her with a key to the city.

Mayor Macera left office in January 2007 and passed away in April 2010. In August 2011 a water main break flooded the intersection of Atwood and Plainfield, damaging the transmission equipment in the base of the monument. As is often the case, the priorities of one administration do not necessarily carry over to its successor. Politics are politics, Johnston isn’t immune from the economic troubles faced by the rest of the country, and the relationships that Macera built with interested Marconi boosters didn’t survive him. The upshot is that there seems to be little interest in fixing the monument’s radio equipment at this time (2013).

But while the monument stands mute, it does still stand. Be sure to include it on your next radio-themed roadtrip. And think of Marconi whenever you listen to conservative talk  radio, download a funny cat video to your smart phone, or use your neighbor’s unprotected wi-fi.

PIAZZA GUGLIELMO MARCONI 1874-1937 The Father Of Radio Nobel Prize in Physics 1909 William R. Macera, Mayor Town of Johnston, R.I. April 25th, 2001 Designed by Vincenzo Frattallone

PIAZZA
GUGLIELMO MARCONI
1874-1937
The Father Of Radio
Nobel Prize in Physics 1909
William R. Macera, Mayor
Town of Johnston, R.I.
April 25th, 2001
Designed by
Vincenzo Frattallone

Trustees and Sponsors.

Trustees and Sponsors.

Images of Market House and Market Square, Providence, RI   1 comment

I put this page together as a reference for Sheila Lennon’s May 10, 2013 Time Lapse Blog post for the Providence Journal.

Click on any of the images to view full-size.

Market House circa 1881. From Picturesque Rhode Island by Wilfred H. Munro

Market House. From Picturesque Rhode Island by Wilfred H. Munro (1881).

A view of Market Square during the Great Gale of 1815. From Providence Planations for 250 Years by Welcome Arnold Greene (1886).

A view of Market Square during the Great Gale of 1815. From Providence Plantations for 250 Years by Welcome Arnold Greene (1886).

Market Square circa 1830. From Market Square Memento by Ctizens Bank (1954).

Market Square circa 1830. From Market Square Memento by Ctizens Bank (1954).

Market Square circa 1835. From Market Square Memento by Citizens Bank (1954)

Market Square circa 1835. From Market Square Memento by Citizens Bank (1954)

Market Square in 1844. From Providence Planations for 250 Years by Welcome Arnold Greene (1886).

Market Square in 1844. From Providence Plantations for 250 Years by Welcome Arnold Greene (1886).

Market House in the 1860s. From Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island Vol. 4 (1944).

Market House in the 1860s. From Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island Vol. 4 (1944).

Market House circa 1880. From a stereoview.

Market House circa 1880. From a stereoview.

Market Square circa 1886.  From Providence Plantations for 250 Years by Welcome Arnold Greene (1886).

Market Square circa 1886. From Providence Plantations for 250 Years by Welcome Arnold Greene (1886).

View toward the harbor from Market Square, circa 1886.  From Providence Plantations for 250 Years by Welcome Arnold Greene (1886).

View toward the harbor from Market Square, circa 1886. From Providence Plantations for 250 Years by Welcome Arnold Greene (1886).

View toward Westminster Street from Market Square, circa 1886.  From Providence Plantations for 250 Years by Welcome Arnold Greene (1886).

View toward Westminster Street from Market Square, circa 1886. From Providence Plantations for 250 Years by Welcome Arnold Greene (1886).

Market Square, circa 1890. Photo by P.H. Rose.

Market Square, circa 1890. Photo by P.H. Rose.

View from Market Square toward Westminster Steet, circa 1890. From Market Square Memento by Citizens Bank (1954).

View from Market Square toward Westminster Street, circa 1890. From Market Square Memento by Citizens Bank (1954).

Market Square circa 1898. From Providence Board of Trade Thirtieth Year (1898).
Market Square circa 1898. From Providence Board of Trade Thirtieth Year (1898).

Market House, circa 1898. From Providence Board of Trade Thirtieth Year (1898).

Market House, circa 1898. From Providence Board of Trade Thirtieth Year (1898).

Market House circa 1911. From Points of Historical Interest in the State of Rhode Island by the Rhode Island Department of Education (1911).

Market House circa 1911. From Points of Historical Interest in the State of Rhode Island by the Rhode Island Department of Education (1911).

Market House circa 1930. From The Book of Rhode Island by the Rhode Island State Bureau of Information (1930).

Market House circa 1930. From The Book of Rhode Island by the Rhode Island State Bureau of Information (1930).

View of Market Square from College Street, circa 1954. From Market Square Memento by Citizens Bank (1954).

View of Market Square from College Street, 1950. From Market Square Memento by Citizens Bank (1954).

Market Square. Postcard from the Collection of Louis McGowan.

Market Square. Postcard from the Collection of Louis McGowan.

Market Square. Postcard from the Collection of Louis McGowan.

Market Square. Postcard from the Collection of Louis McGowan.

Market Square. Postcard from the Collection of Louis McGowan.

Market Square. Postcard from the Collection of Louis McGowan.

Market Square. Postcard from the Collection of Quahog.org.

Market Square. Postcard from the Collection of Quahog.org.

Market House. Postcard from the Collection of Quahog.org.

Market House. Postcard from the Collection of Quahog.org.

Market Square. Postcard from the Collection of Quahog.org.

Market Square. Postcard from the Collection of Quahog.org.

Market House. Postcard from the Collection of Quahog.org.

Market House. Postcard from the Collection of Quahog.org.

Market House, December 29, 1999. Photo by Quahog.org.

Market House, December 29, 1999. Photo by Quahog.org.

Market House, July 18, 2011. Photo by Quahog.org.

Market House, July 18, 2011. Photo by Quahog.org.

Market House, December 3, 2011. Photo by Quahog.org.

Market House, December 3, 2011. Photo by Quahog.org.

Photo by Quahog.org.

Photo by Quahog.org.

Photo by Quahog.org.

Photo by Quahog.org.

Photo by Quahog.org.

Photo by Quahog.org.

Market House, December 29, 1999. Photo by Quahog.org.

Market House, December 29, 1999. Photo by Quahog.org.

Photo by Quahog.org.

Photo by Quahog.org.

Photo by Quahog.org.

Photo by Quahog.org.