In My Footsteps
Trip 48: South Kingstown, RI
May 13, 2010
Just across the Jamestown Verrazzano bridge sits a small town that seemed to have all of the comforts of home for me. When driving around South Kingstown I got the feeling that I was on Cape Cod. The only way I can explain it was that it was like seeing the most beautiful sections of Route 6A, but stretched out to encompass the entire town. It ended up being the perfect rural area to enjoy on a warm sunny day.
For being a small town that many may not have even heard of before South Kingstown is chock full of historical sites. Chief among them is the site of the Great Swamp Fight during King Philip’s War in 1675. This was a battle between the combined colonial militia and the Narragansett tribe of Native Americans. The battle, a victory for the colonial militia, ended up being the crucial turning point which led to the defeat of the Narragansett tribe only a year later.
Normally when I travel to a town my GPS system takes me to the ‘center’ of that town, normally the Town Hall. For South Kingstown it was the same. The Town Hall is usually a beautiful structure in a scenic area and it was here. After getting my bearings I headed for the Old Washington County Jail, known today as the Pettaquamscutt Historical Society Museum(above). Located on a small shady hill the first thing I noticed about this granite structure was its colors. Besides the grey stone the building is trimmed in black and red, it is quite a sight. The original jail was built in 1792 and closed in 1956, along the left side of the building sits a stone citing the former name of Kingston, RI as ‘Little Rest’ founded in 1792. The museum contains many early-American artifacts donated by locals from their own personal ancestral collections. The rear jail cells have been restored and are open to the public.
A quick drive up the road is the Old Washington County Courthouse which looks more like a gothic cathedral than a courthouse. It is no longer used for the judicial system, that takes place at the McGrath Judicial Complex on Tower Hill Road in the Wakefield section of South Kingstown. The building is amazing and the surrounding grass holds many pieces of art which makes sense as the building now houses the Courthouse Center for the Arts at Historic Washington County Courthouse.
Although South Kingstown is a rural area it is made up of many small villages much like areas of Cape Cod. Included as part of South Kingstown are the villages of Kingston, West Kingston, Wakefield, Peace Dale, Snug Harbor, Tuckertown, East Matunuck, Matunuck, and Green Hill; it can get a bit confusing to a first time visitor.
There are many historic homes in South Kingstown that are neat to check out including the Cottrell House and Hale House. Tops on my list after paying a visit is a place just called Red House(above, left). Located on Post Road this historic home, built in 1732, is a beautiful shade of cranberry red. As with many spots in this town it is in a very quiet area. With only the sound of my idling car it made it easier to take in my surroundings.
Another historic spot in a very quiet area is the Perry-Carpenter Grist Mill(right). Built in 1703 by Samuel E. Perry the mill was originally located some 500 feet east of the current site on the south shore of Perry’s Mill Pond. It was moved to its current location along Moonstone Beach Road in 1825 with a sluiceway dug to bring pond water to the mill to allow for the grinding of Rhode Island Whitecap Flint Corn. The mill became known as Carpenter’s Grist Mill in 1874 when the Carpenter family became owners. It is still in use today and its corn is used to make Carpenter’s Rhode Island Jonnycake Meal.
Matunuck Beach Road, located on the west side of the entrance of the Block Island Ferry, is filled with hundred year old homes, not to mention the beautiful string of beaches. East Matunuck State Beach is located just to the east, easily accessible on Succotash Road. South Kingstown Town Beach is located where Matunuck Beach Road reaches the shore. I parked down at the Deep Hole fishing area(left) to allow me to take a walk along Matunuck Beach Road and enjoy the beautiful homes and sights. This spot also has a great view of Point Judith Lighthouse located in nearby Narragansett.
Much of the Matunuck village is farms; places like the Cottrell House on Waites Corner Road sit on the periphery of expansive farms. Taking these drives along the rural roads and taking in the wide open spaces made the entirety of this trip enjoyable. There are many places to see in South Kingstown but you do not need a set itinerary to get a feel for what this place is all about.
Small towns are a real treat for me as it reminds me of my home and South Kingstown is an ideal spot to spend a day or more with its many beaches and farms. There is so much history scattered all over the many villages that make up this place that it will likely take more than a day to see it all. I highly recommend taking the time to visit South Kingstown and enjoy a glimpse of so much untouched countryside so nearby. Have fun and happy traveling!
References: South Kingstown, RI Official Website