Jamestown Historical Society

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Jamestown Windmill

Hours, Directions & Details

378 North Road | Jamestown, RI 02825

The windmill will be open from 1 pm to 4 pm every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and holidays from May 24 through October 14, 2024, weather permitting, or by appointment. Send special visit requests to info@jamestownhistoricalsociety.org. The windmill may be closed during severe inclement weather. Admission is free, donations are welcome. The windmill is not handicapped accessible.

History of the Windmill

The first known windmill construction in Jamestown was in 1730 at Windmill Hill on North Road and operated by Nicholas Carr. The windmill lasted less than 30 years. However, the next windmill, built in 1787 at the same location, stayed in operation through 1896 and survives today. The historic structure is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 

The windmill filled a critical role in the early agricultural community of 500 people, producing milled grain for both home consumption and the growing commercial market in Newport. Both free and enslaved labor grew the grain. The enslaved Black and Indigenous community comprised one-third of Jamestown’s population when the first mill was erected. A revolution came and went, but when the town built the new windmill, many of those who harvested the grain – 24 out of 63 people of color in Jamestown – still remained enslaved.

Jamestown Windmill is a three-story octagonal structure with a domed cap or bonnet. The sails are attached to the bonnet which can rotate to capture the wind from any direction.

The original builders of the mill hand-hewed chestnut timbers for framing. Cedar shingles sheath the exterior. The JHS maintains the mill in working condition and completed major renovations to repair damage from weather and insects in 2000-2001. The wind shaft was replaced in 2022. The Jamestown Windmill, available by download or in pamphlet form, describes the operation and history of the mill.

Visitors can climb to the bonnet to see the gears that translate the force of the wind into the work of turning the millstones. Signage and displays funded by a grant from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities explain the history and the technology of the mill. Volunteer docents can answer your questions.

Teachers are invited to bring their students to the mill for tours. Contact the JHS at info@jamestownhistoricalsociety.org. Lesson plans for middle school students are available.

Windmill Day

The JHS celebrates Windmill Day in late July with fun for all. We raise the cloths on the sails and turn the bonnet so that the sails catch the breeze and turn. Tour the windmill and the nearby Friends Meetinghouse.  Enjoy live music, try walking on stilts, play quoits or cornhole, create some art, buy something to eat from the food trucks and eat at tables in the shady tent. Enjoy free cornbread, windmill cookies, and lemonade from the JHS. Park in the field by entering via Weeden Lane. Free admission, donations welcome. Click here for date/hours.

Evening at the Windmill

Plan to attend the Evening at Windmill fundraiser on the evening before Windmill Day.  Enjoy wine, beer, seltzer, appetizers, and wonderful views of the bay and bridge from the big tent. Attendees must register and prepay. Click here for date/hours/reservations.

Thursday, August 28, 2018
1787
1896
1904
1912
Jamestown Builds a Windmill
The freemen of Jamestown ask the Rhode Island General Assembly to give the town one-half acre of a farm that has been confiscated from a Tory as the site for a new mill. The request is granted on the condition that the town “erect and keep in repair a good wind-mill for grinding grain.” The windmill is built at once.
Windmill Ceases Operation
The Jamestown miller can no longer compete with the rolling mills in the west, which produce cheaper meal and flour by crushing the corn kernels between large steel rollers. He closes the mill.
Jamestowners Save the Mill
A group of Jamestowners interested in saving the windmill from destruction form the Jamestown Windmill Association. They raise money to buy the mill. They repair the worst damage from eight years of neglect.
Jamestown Historical Society Founded
The Jamestown Historical Society is incorporated to take legal custody of the Jamestown Windmill. The society has maintained the mill ever since.

Become a JHS Member

Help preserve & share the history of Jamestown, RI. Maintain the Museum, the Windmill, the Meetinghouse and the Conanicut Battery. Preserve the Society’s collection of documents, photographs and artifacts.