Jamestown Historical Society Exhibits in Town Hall

The Town of Jamestown is very proud of its history, and Jamestown Historical Society exhibits are used throughout the Town Hall building to explain the town's past.

Land Agreement Prepurchase Contract, 1657

The potential buyers of Conanicut Island signed a prepurchase agreement as they prepared for a "full and firm purchase" of Conanicut and Dutch islands from the Narragansett.  The original document was acquired by the Jamestown Historical Society in 2005 and is displayed in a specially designed, sealed case in the first floor hallway of the Town Hall.  The exhibit includes a transcription of the document, panels describing its content and identifying its most influential signers, and an enlarged copy of the 1658 map showing the land allocation following the purchase.

Jamestown in the Resort Era: 1875-1930

In the mid-1870s, steam ferries between Conanicut Island and Newport ushered in Jamestown's era as a summer vacation destination. At the height of the era, Jamestown’s year-round population of 1,000 hosted 2,500 summer vacationers every season. The town grew and prospered as a playground for summer visitors until the 1930s when the depression, the automobile, and the impending war in Europe changed the way people spent their free time.

A permanent exhibit in the back stairwell of the Town Hall celebrates this era of Jamestown's history. The photographs in the exhibit show many of the hotels of the era and provide a panoramic view of the East Ferry waterfront as it looked 100 years ago.

History of Jamestown's Town Hall

For over 200 years, Jamestown lacked both a formal Town Hall and a Town Clerk’s Office.   A Town Hall was built in 1883.  By 1914, town business overflowed the orginal building and a Town Clerk's office was built on the front.  Over the years, other town services were moved to other buildings.  Finally, in 2006, the town built a new Town Hall and renovated the original building to become the Council Chamber.
 
The story of Jamestown's evolving seat of government is told through a series of pictures and documents on the front stairwell that leads to the Town Administrator's office.

Art from the Jamestown Historical Society Collection

Throughout the second floor of the Jamestown Town Hall are pictures, maps, and charts of Jamestown from the society's collection.  Of specicial interest is the design drawing for the stone water trough and fountain that stood at Narragansett and Conanicus avenues at the turn of the 19th century.

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Browse through time

  • 1884
  • 1914
  • 2007
Jamestown’s First Town Hall
After over 200 years without a designated building in which to conduct town business, a Town Hall is built on Narragansett Avenue.  The building houses the council chambers, the Town Clerk's office, and the police department.
Town Clerk’s Office Added
Town business overflows the original building.  An office for the Town Clerk is built on the front of the Town Hall.
A New Town Hall
The original Town Hall is renovated and becomes the Council Chamber.   A connected building houses the town offices.  The prepurchase agreement among the purchasers of Conanicut and Dutch islands, which the JHS bought in 2005, is put on permanent display in the new building.  Several exhibits of historic artifacts are mounted throughout the building in the years that follow.