On the corner of... John Rose & Co.

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 11:00am

The John Rose & Company, the gloriously asymmetrical building on Dodge Street that currently houses Lazy Fish and Persephone's Kitchen, was a shop and ship's chandlery, and a hardware store with a small lumber yard across the street. It was among a number of buildings constructed in the decades after the government breakwaters were built and the center of commerce gradually migrated from the geographical center of the island to the east harbor. 

In a summer guide book printed in 1909, John Rose & Company announced the arrival of a “Full Line of Block Island Souvenirs” including items unimagined by earlier generations: “Beach Pails and Shovels, Toys and Children's Playthings... in great profusion.”

It was on then-called Main Street, the island thoroughfare running from the landing, down present day Dodge Street, up Old Town, over Beacon Hill, along West Side Road and finally to the shore at Dorry's Cove, a spot overlooked by John Rose's own grand residence.

The store later offered everything “including the kitchen sink” and was one of those places with smoothly worn wooden floor boards and a quirky side addition, designed to fill its lot. Original features are still in evidence inside, and the exterior is remarkably intact. Built close to the street, where the horse car tracks ran, it had no deep front yard to be consumed by a storefront addition. Rather, the open porch on either side of the main entrance was enclosed, creating two large, glass-walled display areas. 

Houses did not yet have large glass windows but every store in town did, whether by original design or by addition; most, despite harsh storm winds, remain intact. 

The cash register, from a time gone by, came to reside at the Historical Society when the store closed in the 1980s and its then proprietors, Capt. John R. Lewis and his wife Alyce, retired. Rob, as most had come to call him, was a dedicated Board President and, perhaps, hoped the addition would encourage visitors to buy a membership or book, or just be caught by the spell of history on the corner of past and present.