Wickford Village is an Historic Charmer

One North Kingstown Village Has A Lively History

Wickford’s charming village atmosphere and old-fashioned Brown Street belie its vibrant 21st century liveliness. Walk around, explore the streets, poke into the shops, stop and have a sandwich outside on the deck overlooking picturesque Wickford Harbor. Fall in love with my home town.

The quaint, friendly village looks just the same as it did then, proving that Harry Potter isn’t the only mortal who can step back in time. It’s a wonderful village to walk around, poke into shops, peer into the harbor, stroll past historic homes, churches, library, grab a bite on a patio or hang over the two bridges.

Wandering around is still my favorite pastime there.

Wickford Harbor, leading to Narragansett Bay, holds hundreds of boats, from commercial to recreational, sail to motor. Wickford’s long tree-lined Brown Street leads to the harbor, featuring dozens of regal Colonial and Federalist mansions and several historic churches with bell towers. Most of the historic buildings bear plaques in front with the building date and original owner’s name.

The oldest church in town, the Old Narragansett Church and Chapel, dates from 1707, and is handsomely framed by its wide, green lawn. The William Hammond House, 1798, is on the National Historic Register of Historic Places.

Wickford Village is quite historic. In 1637, a year after his arrival in Rhode Island, Roger Williams established a temporary trading post in the Wickford area. In 1643, Williams built a permanent house in the area.

Town preservationists worked diligently to preserve and restore the historic, elegant, rambling Colonial and Federalist buildings shaded by stately trees leading to the harbor. Today, the imposing, well-kept buildings — some a little off-kilter — sport fresh paint. By town bylaws, only white paint may be used on the outside.

Historic churches still hold services while The Old Narragansett Church, 1701, is open to the public, July to August; with guided tours, Thursday to Monday, to 4 p.m.

The Annual Wickford Art Festival (always the second weekend of July) is a huge attraction. For three days, the village is packed with hundreds of juried art and craft booths, food carts, art lovers, tourists, locals and lots of fun. This is a festive time to visit, and so popular that my North Kingstown High School Class Reunion was held on the Art Festival weekend.

My family lived in Wickford in the mid-1950s, when I would walk downtown to buy colorful scarves in a notions store. Wandering around is still my favorite pastime there. Nothing seems to have changed, except I lost all the scarves.

The town hall, on the other side of the bridge, has the de rigueur Civil War soldier statue on its front lawn.

This scenic North Kingstown village is filled with boutiques, trendy and traditional art galleries, toy and book stores, clothiers, beading stores, and more. There are many wonderful delicatessens, restaurants and seafood markets here, too. Wickford Diner, on Brown Street, is a few stores over from the old tide-driven mill run.

One summer, a vibrant oil painting of a wooden boat epitomized the Village. Displayed in a shop window, called “Summer in Wickford,” the work was accompanied by an essay by Mari-Ann Suvari Burgoyne, artist and Wickford resident. Painting and essay recall her childhood days in Wickford, starting in 1959. She recalls George Anthony, owner and builder of the 30 foot fishing boat O.K., built in 1932, moored near the inner harbor, near the Hussey Bridge.

The boat feels alive in Burgoyne’s painting, and the bridge is still in use. Stand on the bridge by the harbor, and look at the hundreds of boats, yachts, cruisers, kayaks, dinghies and rowboats cruising in the harbor.

The Waterfront Grill and Brown’s Deli has an indoor seating and outdoor deck serve good food, take-out. Relax, enjoy street and harbor scenes. Wickford Gourmet Foods, 21 West Main Street, has a comfy cafe, coffee, gift baskets, plenty to browse.

In summer, watch for the gaggle of cackling, white geese strolling and paddling around the water behind the old Ryan’s Market. Guess they like hanging out, too. Ramble around Wickford on foot; parking is available in lots behind the Main Street stores. For a quick swim try Cold Spring Beach, at the end of Beach Street, off Route 1 A South.

 


 

Rachel Rome is a Boston-based freelance writer, photographer and editor whose publishing credits include over 2,000 articles and photographs in major magazines and newspapers. Travel pieces appear regularly in AAA Horizons Magazine of Southern New England, 1.6 million circulation. She also write for The Cape Cod Times, Ottaway Newspapers, The New Hampshire Union Leader Sunday News, New York Outdoors, The Vancouver Western Bulletin and Woodall’s 11 National Publications. For 10 years at the Beverly, Peabody and The Cape Cod Times, Rachel has worked as a travel and feature writer, editor and photographer. Visit her website at www.romearound.com

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