From the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s, the village of Wickford was the second largest maritime community on Narragansett Bay.
At any given time, 25 ships' captains, their families, and associated businesses, made the village their home.
"They were completely invested in the maritime trade, the 18-wheelers of the day. Those three-masted schooners that were built and supplied out of this port, were their bread and butter," said North Kingstown historian Tim Cranston.
Cranston will be honored Sunday with the Rhode Island Historic Preservation Commission's Antoinette Downing Award given to the state's most successful preservation advocate.
He's the author of the "Walking in Olde Wickford" guidebook series, a four volume set of handbooks of the historic village. Cranston also worked with Historic Wickford, the Newport Historical Society, the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, the North Kingstown Arts Council and the North Kingstown Free Library.
He says Wickford was also a bedroom community to the No. 1 maritime center of Newport, easily accessible by steam ferry.
"The ferries ran from dawn 'til 9 or 10 at night, so you could attend any party you wanted to over in Newport, get back on the ferry, get back to your beautiful quiet home here in Wickford that you bought for half the price of a similar mansion in Newport," Cranston said.
John Updike lived in Wickford.
He had four schooners in play at any given time, as merchants, trading goods from around the world.
Their ships would take a beating navigating the rough Atlantic waters and would need to be replaced every seven or eight years. The ships were built just down the block from their homes.
"The life of a schooner going back and forth across the Atlantic was short, seven or eight years. I mean that's a pounding that those vessels take and they don't last that long," Cranston said.
When rail became the next big transportation mode, Wickford declined to have a stop.
Town officials thought it would be "just another passing fad" and lost out.
Now a fishing and pleasure craft village off the beaten path, there's a need by passersby to know about Wickford.
"Because of the way the world is now, they're disconnected from their past. They really need to feel more connected to the places they live so they can feel a more a part of the continuum of history," Cranston said.
23 Kenney Drive
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