Preserve America Community:
South Kingstown, Rhode Island
The Town of South Kingstown in southern Rhode Island (population 27,921) is located on land first settled by ancestors of the Narragansett Indians as far back as 2000 B.C. European settlement began around 1657, and the town was incorporated in 1723.
The most decisive battle of King Phillip's War between Native Americans and the colonists took place here in 1675. After 150 years of primarily agricultural activity, manufacturing, particularly of textiles, became the local economic base for another 150 years.
The presence of the University of Rhode Island, founded in 1892, has assisted yet another transition from an industrial to the current service-based economy.
Today, South Kingstown is rich in historic resources documenting its past, including its commercial center, surviving farms, and industrial villages. It has five historic districts and many individual properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including three village centers, downtown Wakefield, and the Potter Pond Archeological Site.
An illustrated inventory of the community's historic resources has been published, along with a history of the town. One recent project has been the conservation of The Weaver, a large bronze relief sculpture created by Daniel Chester French of Lincoln Memorial fame. Originally commissioned as a memorial to Rowland Hazard and his sons, key players in the development of the local textile industry, the relief's life-size figures are now part of a landscape of historically appropriate plantings.
The Museum of Primitive Art and Culture, which has its origins in a private 19th-century collection of ethnographic artifacts donated by the Hazard family, also serves as an educational institution focusing on Native Americans and Early Rhode Island Life. It serves 3000 school children a year, as well as offering programs for the general public, and publishes a walking tour of the mill village of Peace Dale.
The Pettaquamscutt Historical Society, located in the Old County Jail, operates a museum of 18th- and 19th-century life in Rhode Island. South Kingstown, as a Certified Local Government, has obtained grants to do archeological investigations and restore the historic Helme House.
Transportation Enhancement funding provides better access to historic properties via improved intermodal transportation, including the South County Bike Path, connecting the historic railroad station to Peace Dale Village and the Downtown Main Street Wakefield area.
Most recently, the South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce opened a Tourist Information Center in August 2004, promising a big boost to local businesses and enriched experiences for visitors.
For more information
Town of South Kingstown: www.southkingstownri.com
South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce: www.skchamber.com
Posted May 13, 2009