On the corner of... Beginning a new era

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 11:15am

Ed. note: The Block Island Historical Society was founded in 1942. To help celebrate its 75th year, the Society’s Diamond Anniversary, The Block Island Times will be publishing sketches and photographs of items in its collection. For those interested in joining or donating to The Block Island Historical Society, please visit blockislandhistorical.org.

The collection of the Historical Society is not entirely within the walls on the corner of past and present, nor on site. Placed at selected spots around the Island are a few markers, with the seal of ownership carved in their stone faces. 

Most were set in the early years of the organization, in the 1940s. One, on Corn Neck Road, is a tribute to Trustrum Dodge and his fellow settlers; others commemorate the significance of Pilot Hill, Fort Island, Fresh Pond, Harbor Pond, Mohegan Bluffs, and the site of the Sands Garrison House and Mill.

Another is at the foot of the hill to the airport, where Old Town and Center Roads meet, appropriately, at the locale of the old town hall, or civic “center.” The marker is flanked by millstones, and a great boulder, all on a patch of grass defined by curbing.

It was dedicated with some ceremony on Sept. 5, 1943 when, following the second annual business meeting of the Historical Society, the gathering “adjourned to Middletown where the Center Cross Roads Marker was dedicated. The speakers were: Lieutenant Governor Louis W. Capelli, and Miss Elizabeth Dickens. Miss Dickens related a childhood experience entitled “A V’yage With Grandfather.” (A day trip from their home on Dickens’ Point to the exciting shops of the old town center.)

“President Dodge pronounced the dedication:

“We dedicate this historic marker that those who pass this way may be reminded that for almost a century Block Island’s village was here in this valley and on its surrounding hills. This granite boulder is a symbol of those enduring principles which have guided the people of Block Island for nearly three centuries. These mill stones are a symbol of that industry and courage with which these same people have struggled with the forces of nature and have met a changing civilization.” 

Less than 10 years later, the airport was built and traffic increased on that corner, perhaps making the little collection of stones easier to pass for being on the way to something new and intriguing, meeting more of that “changing civilization” President Dodge had cited.