Island Park lecture draws a full house

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — An estimated 130 people attended last Wednesday night’s lecture on the history of Island Park by Town Historian Jim Garman at the Common Fence Point Community Center.

Near the end of the 19th century and well into the 20th century, Island Park was the location of a popular “Trolley Park,” an amusement park created by the Newport and Fall River Street Railway Co.

The park came to include a carousel, a rollercoaster, a dance hall, shooting galleries and other amusements, making Island Park a social center for nearby communities in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The popularity of this amusement center continued through the days of Prohibition in the 1920’s and 30’s, adding speakeasies to its other attractions.

This era in Island Park’s history was sadly ended by the famous Hurricane of 1938, when a 12-foot tidal surge came up the Sakonnet River and destroyed what was left of the amusement park. 

Garman’s presentation was highlighted by many old photographs and postcards of the area from his extensive personal collection.

This lecture on a key part of Portsmouth’s history was sponsored by the Portsmouth Historical Society (of which Mr. Garman is the president) and hosted by the Common Fence Point Improvement Association.

Association President, Conley Zani, applauded their partnership with the society and is looking forward to continuing these events that highlight Portsmouth’s unique history. 

After his lecture, Garman invited everyone to become members of the society to support events like this lecture, and told them about some upcoming historical society events, including a lecture on the Battle of Rhode Island by author Christian McBurney on Feb. 14, a “Founders Day” showing of the original Portsmouth Compact of 1638 at Portsmouth Town Hall on March 7, and a School History Trivia Contest on March 22. 

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