In the early 1940s, when you drove east over the recently completed Jamestown Bridge, the land before you was open farmland. The entire landscape changed in 1946 when James G. Head and Sydney Rowe formed the Federal Building and Development Corporation. Head and Rowe envisioned a colony of summer cottages at the foot of the bridge. They planned sandy beaches and parks for barbecues and clam bakes within easy reach of Providence and points north.
The company quickly bought up the Tefft, Gladding, and Maxfield farms and, later, the Hammond farm and subdivided them into over a thousand house lots measuring between 7,200 and 11,250 square feet and costing $995 to $3,995. In the first three years, a thousand lots were sold and 110 cottages were built.
The developers did not supply any infrastructure for the community. Each cottager was responsible for pumping their own water from their own on-site wells. Wastewater disposal required individual septic systems.
Other infrastructure could not be handled on a site-by-site basis. Electricity was brought to the area in 1949 but required individual commitment to share cost regardless of use. The roads had been transferred to the Town of Jamestown without a commitment for maintenance. Head’s Beach belonged to the now moribund development company.
In 1950, the residents of the area formed the Jamestown Shores Association to deal collectively with the infrastructure issues. The association brought pressure on the Town to maintain the roads. In 1994 the town bought Head’s Beach to be a part of the town park system.
By the early 21st century, many of the original cottages were reconstructed or replaced with large, year-round homes. By 2020, Jamestown Shores was the second most densely populated area in Jamestown. The ecological effect of developing the small lots and the need for open space and water conservation has led the Town in association with the Conanicut Island Land Trust to acquire over 80 lots.
Additional information concerning Jamestown Shores can be found in Jamestown, A History of Narragansett Bay’s Island Town, written by Rosemary Enright and Sue Maden. The book can be purchased by clicking on JHS Museum Store. The authors’ article on the subject can be found in this 2013 online issue of The Jamestown Press.