Historical Collection & Archives
Ferry Boats & Bridges
Getting to Conanicut Island is important to Jamestown. Ferryboats were in service for over 300 years. The first bridge to connect Jamestown was built across the West Passage in 1940. The Newport-Pell bridge across the East Passage in 1969. A large part of the collection is the history of the ferryboats and
effects of the bridges.
Jamestown Summer Resorts
The Resort Era began with the introduction of the steam ferries in 1873. Hundreds of visitors came each summer escaping the congested cities looking for accommodations in hotels, rental cottages, summer camps and boarding houses. Items in our collection include signs, menus, hotel account books, over 1000 photographs of the summer “cottages” and hotels.
Our collection of Jamestown postcards roughly span the years 1900 to present day. The importance of postcards cannot be under estimated as it gives us a wealth of knowledge about how our neighborhoods and town looked and may be in some cases, our only record.
Colonial records include the original signed pre-purchase agreement among the men who acquired the islands from the Narragansett, a bill for the building of the second Beavertail Lighthouse in 1755, several Quaker marriage contracts, and documents about the town’s preparations for the American Revolution.
Until the late 20th century, the military – sensitive to its strategic location in Narragansett Bay – maintained forts and other installations on the island. Flags, signs, and records of the use of local forts for detention of prisoners of war, as well as photographs of the military at the various installations, record the federal government’s influence.
Papers and periodicals in the local history collection at the Jamestown Philomenian Library are included in the catalog. Programs from events, records of student awards, and articles about real estate transaction and artistic endeavors give insight into the public life of the town.
The early 1840s in Newport saw the rise of the “estate era” in gardening. Large tracts of land were purchased by people of means wanting to display their wealth by surrounding their estates with European style landscaping. In order to maintain these lavish gardens...
Behind the circulation desk of the Jamestown Philomenian Library are two square rigged ship half models. The half hull models are on loan to the Library from the JHS collection. They hung for a number of years in the lobby of the Gardner House, a large summer hotel in...
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...