When it comes to important moments in Rhode Island’s history, Wickford isn’t necessarily the first place that comes to mind. Though North Kingstown is home to both Smith’s Castle and the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace, two important places in Colonial America, the focus in the village itself these days is more on shopping and dining along the waterfront. Local historian Tim Cranston and the HistWick historic organization are changing that: in April, they unveiled six historic markers at important points of interest around Wickford Village.
“We’re making people more aware of Wickford’s history, starting with the Narragansetts and up through Wickford as a commercial area and the sailing era,” says HistWick’s Mike Donohue. There are markers at the Updike House on Pleasant Street, the Narragansett settlement in Bush’s Cove, the grand houses of Main Street, plus markers about the rail and steamship eras. “At the end of the 19th century, there was a rail spur that brought people from Wickford across to Newport,” Donohue says. “We were a connection hub during that time for people going to Newport during the summer.”
“Wickford is known for art and history, and I was trying to find a project that married the two together,” Cranston says. “It really worked out with these recreations of time gone by.” Each marker has a short description of the spot’s significance, and a recreation done by a South County artist. The Bush Cove art was done by Narragansett artists Dawn Spears and Angel Smith, and others were created by Harley Bartlett, Deb Sabo, Lorraine Bromley and Don Beauchaine. “I think it’s important that kids are connected to where they live,” Cranston says. His family has been in North Kingstown since 1750. “It’s amazing how many folks have generational connections to communities. Some people don’t realize that their family was here in the 1800s, or even earlier.” More markers, once they find the right artists to create them, are in the works later this year. Wickford