Jamestowners & Their Military Neighbors

Living in the Center of a Bay Surrounded with Military Activity

This summer’s exhibit in the Jamestown Historical Society museum at 92 Narragansett Avenue is Jamestowners and the Military on Narragansett Bay.  The new exhibit builds on last year’s history of the forts on Jamestown to show in greater detail how living in the center of a bay with so much military activity affected the day-to-day life of Jamestown residents.

Where Jamestowners Work

In the early 20th century, the Naval Torpedo Station on Goat Island in Newport and its torpedo testing facility on Gould Island – which is part of Jamestown – employed approximately 20 percent of Jamestown’s work force.  Seaplanes, sometimes moored at Potter’s Cove, dropped test torpedoes in the East Passage.  At the beginning World War II, army and navy installations occupied over 400 acres in the town.

Museum Schedule

Visit the museum this summer and learn more about Jamestown’s military past and what Jamestowners did during World War II. 

The museum is open on weekends from 1 to 4 in the afternoon until June 19. The museum opens officially for the summer season on June 19.  Throughout the summer, it will be open from 1 to 4 each Wednesday through Sunday. 

From Labor Day to Columbus Day, October 10, we return to the weekend-only schedule. 

The society welcomes anyone interested in being a docent at the museum and greeting our visitors.

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The Great Creek and the salt marshes on either side of it separate the north end of Conanicut Island from the village. In 1950, the Jamestown Garden Club recognized the value of the marshes to the environmental health of the island and initiated a project to save them.

At a meeting of in August 1950, the club members decided – at the suggestion of Helen Marshall Eliason, chair of the club’s Committee on Public Relations – that the club’s project for the coming year would be to purchase the “Conanicut Salt Meadow” along the Great Creek east of North Road and give it to the town to be held in perpetuity as a wildlife preserve.

The price of the 271⁄2 acres of marsh was $750. The Jamestown Garden Club allocated $400 toward the purchase. An early contribution from the recently formed Quononoquot Garden Club gave both financial and moral support. Townspeople pitched in generously. By mid-January 1951, $1,337 had been collected. After the purchase of the property, the remaining funds were put aside for the purchase of surrounding land as it became available.

The voters accepted the transfer of the marsh at the Financial Town Meeting on May 7, 1952.

The garden club followed up its successful drive to save the salt marsh with a statement of purpose that incorporated its aims. “This is not nature tailored to a park but a wild area to be kept in its own pattern with no intrusion of foreign material. We hope that the native American scene will be preserved through these small windows opening on a past which is rapidly disappearing and will remind Americans of the undisturbed beauty of their land as their forefathers knew it.”