On the Corner of... Pots & Kettles
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.
A 1909 guidebook titled “Block Island,” penned by Beatrice Ball, included a list of “Places of Interest.”
Between the windmills — “deplorably out of repair and no longer used for making the famous Block Island meal, their quaint structure is still of interest.One, on the West Side, the other in the Centre, just back from the Old Road are easily accessible” — and the Wireless Station — “may be identified by the very high pole a little east of South Light. When in use it was an important station and during the last yacht races was the first to communicate with Lipton on his arrival from England” — one finds Pots and Kettles. “The name given to a spot on shore south of Clay Head where strange formations of clay and minerals, geode and peculiar stones are found,” she wrote.
By 1955, the description in Ethel Colt Richie's “Lore and Legend” was more refined: “At the foot of Clay Head Bluffs is found a peculiar formation of clay and iron which in past centuries formed a shell around pockets of sand. In time the clay shell developed a small opening through which the finer grains of sand escaped leaving the larger pebbles in the shell. The clay formation, in shapes like small stones colored with iron red, would rattle when picked up and shaken. The Island children delighted in finding these geodes to play with and gave them the more interesting name of “Pots and Kettles.” The beach at this point is still called “Pots and Kettles.”
In the mid-20th century the original chunks were still large, covering the shore from the toe of the cliff to the water line at high tide, with other chunks emerging from the sand of the beach and clay of the bluff. The slam of the sea, of roaring ocean storms, battered and cracked the seemingly indestructible fusion of stone and iron and clay and sand, creating those pieces which have been collected over the decades, a few of which found their way to the corner of past and present, where they sit in a case patiently waiting for some to ask “what are these?!”