Above: An example of one of the 12 signs EGHPS has planned for downtown East Greenwich: ‘The Old Port.’
Earlier this month, the East Greenwich Historic Preservation Society unveiled plans for 12 signs it has created to highlight little-known historic sites and stories of East Greenwich, modeled after the “Wickford Walks” signs in North Kingstown.
The idea, EGHPS vice president Jen Suellentrop told the Town Council at a recent meeting, is to bring a greater appreciation to East Greenwich history. The 12 signs represent the first phase of the project and they will be installed downtown, with plans for a second phase to incorporate other areas in town, such as Frenchtown and by the Bleachery, which was once home to an Indigenous community.
“We would like to reveal some of our history and we believe it would promote some amount of tourism in town,” Suellentrop said, noting it could enhance people’s visits. “And we feel it will be a great asset to the 350th anniversary.” (East Greenwich will celebrate its 350 anniversary in 2027.)
The EGHPS worked first with the Planning Department, scouting possible locations, then met with Town Manager Andy Nota, member Matt Carcieri explained. They also contracted with local artists to help with the signs and worked with two consultants, Loren Spears of the Tomaquag Museum and Charles Roberts of the Rhode Island Slave History Medallions for historical accuracy. Each 2’ by 3’ sign will include a map of all 12 locations and a QR code that will go to the EGHPS website and will be mounted by the Department of Public Works with ADA considerations in mind.
To view all 12 signs, you would walk for about a mile on the hill and along the harbor.
The vision for EGHPS was to highlight parts of town and town history that are less well known. For instance, the Varnum House will not have its own sign, according to the EGHPS, because it is already a well-known historic site in town and is, in fact, mentioned on several of the 12 signs. It will be noted on the map that will be included on each sign. The signs will be made of ½-inch-thick high-pressure laminate to be mounted on double posts with no frame, black powder coated aluminum. There’s a 10-year guarantee and they are washable.
This is the biggest endeavor for EGHPS in many years and follows their decision in 2020 to sell the old jail building that was their headquarters for many years.
“We are a small nonprofit with limited financial, energy and time resources. So, insofar as we are not dedicating money, time and energy to trying to stop the hands of time on an old building, … we now have more of all of those to focus on projects like this,” said Suellentrop.
Expect to see the first signs installed in spring 2023.