Island History

Bringing History to Life
Tue, 07/09/2019 - 2:45pm

Now that it’s summer, Block Island’s long history has demanded much attention at the Historical Society. The restoration of the Society’s home, the historic “Woonsocket House”, is now finished. McLaughlin Housewrights has led this phase of the project. Contractor Dan McLaughlin, with his expert carpenters, in conjunction with construction drawings by Tracey Dillon Architecture, are skillfully implemented a long-wished for building improvement at the historic Woonsocket House.

These improvements to the West Gallery include new foundation work, window preservation, new walls, floors, and HVAC to protect the Society’s fragile collection. This space includes an updated kitchen, as well as an insulated exhibit/event space that will be available to the museum and community year-round. 

The highlighted exhibit, “Block Island Beginnings” features the maritime history of Block Island. 

Additionally on display are the Society’s extensive collection of Manissean artifacts. Archeological research on the island has found evidence of human activity from 6,000 B.C., with year-round settlements becoming apparent around 500 B.C.  Executive Director Pam Gasner stated “the museum is honored to display and interpret the history and culture of the Manisseans prior to European settlement. We hope visitors come to learn more about these original inhabitants who lived here for thousands of years.” The museum is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

The Historical Society will host several special tours this summer. “The Island’s Attic”, a guided tour featuring objects from the archives and other island artifacts. Do not miss this chance for a guided tour of the museum and a peak at pieces from the Historical Society’s archives. Tickets are $15/Adults, $5/Children. Includes a free poster, postcard set, and admission to the museum.

Several off-site tours are offered as well. “Discover Victorian Block Island” is a weekly walking tour conducted by the Historical Society’s Intern John Fuller and Southeast Lighthouse Foundation’s Eliot Nerenberg. Beginning at the Chamber of Commerce benches, the tour strolls through town as the guides illustrate the dramatic changes to happen to the area following the construction of the stone breakwater. Also highlighted are the vivid histories behind several of the historic buildings that line Water and Dodge streets. Tickets $15/Adults, $10/Members, $5/Children. Ask about other off-site tours offered by appointment including cemetery, genealogy, Palatine Graves, Manissean Village site.

Please save the date: Annual Art & Antique Auction, on the lawn under the tent, Saturday, July 13 from 5 to 8 p.m. Silent auction bids close at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and are available online or day of the event at the Museum Shop Cold drinks and nibbles.

The Block Island Historical Society’s Annual Meeting will be on September 8, 2019 from 10:30 a.m. - 12 p.m. Location TBD. Breakfast at 10:30 a.m. for $10 per person, meeting is at 11 a.m. and presentation following the business meeting. Public is welcome.