On the corner of... The Statue of Rebecca

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 7:15am

The day after the Patriots win a Super Bowl, Rebecca wears a football jersey. A great fan of local sports, she also proudly wears the red and white of the Block Island Hurricanes after a significant game.  

“Who is Rebecca?” or “Is there some significance to the statue?” is an oft-asked question in the summertime. The length of the answer depends upon the asker's attention span.

Block Island in the late 19th century was plugged into the rest of the world in a way that amazes in this time when a day of no internet service borders on an island-wide crisis. The local chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union was part of a national network and, like their colleagues elsewhere, decided to have a water fountain installed in the growing center of commerce.

Set in place in 1896, the WCTU Fountain, known as “Rebecca at the Well,” was deeded to the town in 1939, accepted by a motion that merits quotation for its economy:

“Voted the deed of fountain square so called from the WCTUnion and Mrs CCBall to the Town of New Shoreham be accepted, approved and ordered recorded and that Arthur C Sprague be directed to renew the insurance on the Town Hall.”

In time, the water pipes feeding the fountain ceased working. A litany of mishaps befell Rebecca until it was determined layers of paint would not ensure her future. Today, the statue at the center of the Rebecca Rotary is a carefully crafted reproduction, installed in late 2001. The original, of a more fragile material, was removed, and almost lost but for the stalwart efforts of Seth Dulac and Jess Veldman.

Today, the original statue resides out of the weather, quietly watching over the stages of restoration of the building around her. She is home. Lucretia Mott Ball, Mrs. C.C. Ball, President of the local WCTU when Rebecca came to town, is the same Lucretia whose collection sparked the creation of the Historical Society 75 years ago.  

Come visit and learn more about Rebecca's long journey from Fountain Square to the Corner of Past and Present.