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Jamestown, Rhode Island

Jamestown, Rhode Island
Location of Jamestown in Newport County, Rhode Island
Location of Jamestown in Newport County, Rhode Island
Country United States
State Rhode Island
County Newport
 • Town Council Kristine S. Trocki (D)
Blake A. Dickinson (R)
Mary E. Meagher (D)
Michael G. White (D)
Thomas P. Tighe (D)
 • Town Moderator John A. Murphy (D)
 • Total 35.3 sq mi (91.5 km2)
 • Land 9.7 sq mi (25.1 km2)
 • Water 25.6 sq mi (66.4 km2)
Elevation 167 ft (51 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 5,405
 • Density 557.2/sq mi (215.3/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 02835
Area code(s) 401
FIPS code 44-36820[1]
GNIS feature ID 1220061[2]

Jamestown is a town located in Newport County, Rhode Island, in the United States. The population was 5,405 at the 2010 census. Jamestown is situated almost entirely on Conanicut Island, the second largest island in Narragansett Bay.


  • Geography 1
  • History 2
    • First inhabitants 2.1
    • Europeans arrive 2.2
    • The American Revolution 2.3
    • 18th and 19th centuries 2.4
    • Dawn of the 20th century to today 2.5
  • Demographics 3
  • Geological history 4
  • In popular culture 5
  • Notable people 6
  • National Historic Places and notable sites in Jamestown 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The Newport Bridge connects Jamestown with Newport, a city on Aquidneck Island

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 35.3 square miles (91 km2), of which, 9.7 square miles (25 km2) of it is land and 25.6 square miles (66 km2) of it is water. The total area is 72.55% water.

Rhode Island Route 138 is the only state highway in Jamestown, connecting the town and island to North Kingstown to the west (over the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge) and Newport to the east (over the Newport Bridge).


First inhabitants

Humans arrived in the area about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age, when they settled near streams and rivers. Ongoing melting of glaciers caused the sea level to rise, covering low-lying areas and eventually filling Narragansett Bay. The rising sea forced humans to higher elevations, and submerged most traces of the earliest inhabitants. The oldest human artifacts found on Conanicut Island date from around 3000 BC.

Europeans arrive

In 1524, the Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano and his crew visited Narragansett Bay. In 1636 or 1637, "Dutch Island" was used by fur traders. In 1638 the English made arrangements to use Conanicut Island for grazing sheep.

The original Jamestown Bridge, which connected Jamestown with North Kingstown, Rhode Island from 1940 until its demolition in 2006

Ferries were in operation between Conanicut Island and Newport by 1675. In 1678, Conanicut Island was incorporated as the town of Jamestown. There were about 150 residents. The town was named for James, Duke of York, who would become King James II in 1685.[3]

By 1710, many of Conanicut Island's current roads were in place. In 1728, the town of Jamestown built a windmill for grinding corn, which used the sea breeze for power since there was no source of running water to turn a waterwheel.

The American Revolution

On December 10, 1775, 200 British and Hessian troops landed at East Ferry on Conanicut Island and marched to West Ferry, where they burned the ferry house. As they returned to East Ferry, they destroyed many buildings, including fourteen homes; which caused more than 200 of Conanicut Island's 556 residents to flee to the mainland.

In December 1776, a British fleet arrived in Narragansett Bay and occupied Newport. The British took over the colonial militia batteries at Fort Dumpling (now part of Fort Wetherill) and the Conanicut Battery at Beavertail (just south of Fort Getty, at the end of Battery Lane). The British left Narragansett Bay in October 1779. As they departed, they destroyed the fortifications they had occupied, and burned down the Beavertail Lighthouse.

18th and 19th centuries

By 1784, Beavertail Light was back in operation. In 1787, Jamestown rebuilt the Jamestown Windmill and Quaker Meetinghouse that had been destroyed during the occupation.

Jamestown Windmill built in 1787

In 1800 Fort Dumpling was established on the site of previous fortifications overlooking East Passage. A tall stone tower atop the highest cliff could hold eight guns.

In 1872, the town of Jamestown commissioned a steam powered ferryboat. In May 1873, service was initiated between Jamestown and Newport. The availability of reliable and comfortable ferry service to and from Newport had a significant impact on agricultural Conanicut Island. Jamestown became a destination for both day trips and summer vacations.

The 1880s and 1890s saw a construction boom, with hotels, private summer homes and municipal buildings going up. The island's population tripled between 1870 and 1900.

Dawn of the 20th century to today

There was a burst of military fortification activity from 1890 to the end of World War I. The Spanish–American War, which began in 1898, was a catalyst. Work on Dutch Island's Fort Grebel began. The War Department bought 31 acres (130,000 m2) for Fort Getty and fortifications were quickly erected. Summer homes were condemned near Fort Dumpling to establish Fort Wetherill. More land was acquired at Prospect Hill, near the Conanicut Battery site, for an observation and fire control station. The Government established a torpedo station and test facility on Gould Island. Then, at the end of the First World War, the Conanicut Island fortifications fell into disuse.

The Jamestown-Verrazano Bridge, constructed in 1992, connects Jamestown with mainland Rhode Island

Meanwhile, Jamestown was a bustling summer destination. In 1903, it had nine hotels. But the golden age of large resort hotels was brief in Jamestown and elsewhere. Patronage rapidly declined in the nineteen-twenties. The Thorndike Hotel was demolished in 1938.

In 1938 a major hurricane caused much property damage and the loss of more than 300 lives in the Narragansett Bay region. It swept much of the sand from the Mackerel Cove beach, destroyed its popular Beach Pavilion and speeded approvals for a bridge to Saunderstown by destroying the West Ferry docks. The first Jamestown Bridge opened in the summer of 1940, replacing West Ferry service with a continuously available link to the west.

In 1941 the Gardner House, one of the larger hotels, was taken down after being idle for several years. A USO building was constructed on its site. (After the war, the building was purchased by the town and is now known as the Community Center. It was extensively landscaped and remodeled in 2002.)

World War II brought establishment or reactivation of military bases around Narragansett Bay, including Forts Getty, Burnside, and Wetherill on Conanicut Island, Fort Greble on Dutch Island, a torpedo factory on Goat Island and a torpedo station on Gould Island.

In 1969, the Newport (Pell) Bridge was completed, establishing Route 138 as a continuous highway from South County to Newport. With its completion, traditional ferry service was eliminated. (The bridge is celebrated on the Rhode Island commemorative quarters.)

Demolition of the original Jamestown Bridge in 2006

The Bay View Hotel, the last of the very large hotels, ceased operation in the 1960s. The building was demolished in 1985. Four years later, the Bay View Condominiums opened for occupancy. The building exterior was carefully designed to closely resemble the hotel. The Bay Voyage Hotel, operating as a time share resort, is the only survivor of the many hotels that once lined Jamestown's eastern harbor area.

In 1992, the Jamestown-Verrazano Bridge replaced the narrow steel bridge erected in 1940. It was accompanied by construction of a new western-end access road and a cross-Conanicut Island highway.


As of the census[1] of 2000, there are 5,622 people, 2,359 households, and 1,625 families residing in the town. The population density is 580.0 people per square mile (224.0/km²). There are 2,769 housing units at an average density of 285.7 per square mile (110.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town is 97.55% White, 0.78% African American, 0.21% Native American, 0.39% Asian, 0.00% Pacific Islander, 0.23% from other races, and 0.84% from two or more races. 0.89% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 2,359 households out of which 28.3% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.5% are married couples living together, 8.0% have a female householder with no husband present, and 31.1% are non-families. 25.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.9% have someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.38 and the average family size is 2.88.

In the town, the population is spread out with 22.0% under the age of 18, 4.3% from 18 to 24, 25.4% from 25 to 44, 33.5% from 45 to 64, and 14.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 44 years. For every 100 females, there are 94.6 males, and for every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 91.6 males.

The median income for a household in the town is $63,073, and the median income for a family is $77,990. Males have a median income of $50,185 versus $35,056 for females. The per capita income for the town is $38,664. 2.9% of the population and 1.7% of families are below the poverty line. 1.4% of those under the age of 18 and 3.1% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Students go to Jamestown public schools for elementary and middles school, but can matriculate either to North Kingstown High School of Narragansett High School.

Geological history

All of Rhode Island was part of a volcanic arc or micro-continent called Avalonia, which formed south of the equator more than 565 million years ago.

Avalonia drifted northward; eventually colliding with Proto North America about 400 million years ago. The impact contributed most of the land that has become the New England states and created most of the northern Appalachians.

About 350 million years ago, North America and North Africa collided as part of the formation of a supercontinent, Pangaea. For more than 100 million years, Jamestown was located deep within the supercontinent. The layers of shale and coal that are common in the Narraganset Bay area were formed during this period. About 200 million years ago, Pangaea broke up, the Atlantic Ocean formed and slowly widened.

During the past 75,000 years, Jamestown was visited by glaciers at least twice. They gouged out channels in the Narragansett Basin and left deposits of rocks and soil throughout the area. The last glaciers left the area about 12,000 years ago. Sea level was hundreds of feet lower than today; but as additional glaciers melted around the world, the sea rose, covering the continental shelf and eventually filling Narragansett Bay.

In popular culture

Portions of the films Wind, Me, Myself and Irene, American General, Evening, Dan in Real Life and Moonrise Kingdom were filmed in Jamestown, as well as in various nearby Aquidneck Island towns, such as Middletown and Newport.

Notable people

National Historic Places and notable sites in Jamestown


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder".  
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names".  
  3. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 168. 
  4. ^ "M'Namee Retired; In Navy 40 Years".  
  5. ^ Jack Reed. US Senate. 2015. Web.

External links

  • Jamestown Municipal Site
  • Town of Jamestown Official GIS Maps and Property Information
  • Connanicut Island Community Website
  • Jamestown Visitor Information
  • Jamestown Schools
  • Jamestown Philomenian Library
  • Jamestown RI 02835
  • Jamestown Geological History
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