Wickford

Unlike its sister city across the bay, Wickford escaped the Revolutionary War largely unscathed.  Indeed, during the war, it became a haven for prominent Newport citizens intent on escaping the British occupation.  After the War, development in Wickford, as in the rest of the region, was slow. By the 1790’s, a resurgence of the coastal and West Indies trade and a rapid expansion of fishing in the region fueled a period of Wickford’s growth as a port and shipbuilding center.  Additionally numerous taverns, shops, and support service businesses were established in the village as a result of its prominence as a trading center, second only to Newport in this period. 

During this timeframe, the village also became the cultural, economic, social, religious, and civic center of not only North Kingstown, but much of southern RI as well.  A number of churches, banks, meeting halls, and governmental buildings were established here during the 19th century. 

In 1800, the Washington Academy was founded here as a school to train young men as educators to satisfy the burgeoning demand for public education.  This institution was created by leaders of not only North Kingstown, but Providence and Newport as well.  Its first president was Samuel Elam a prominent New York and Newport businessman who kept a summer estate here in North Kingstown near the small mill village of Annaquatucket.  

A slow period of general decline in the village abated in 1870 by the construction of the Newport & Wickford Railway and Steamship Line, funded largely by wealthy Newport patrons looking for a way to avoid the long trek up through Providence and Bristol to get to their summer mansions in the "City By the Sea."  This train left Wickford Junction, just west of Lafayette, on a regular basis which tended to mirror the mainline train schedules, and made the short run down to Poplar Point where a waiting steamer could take travelers directly to Jamestown and Newport.  This influx of new money, jobs, and visitors revitalized the village at a critical juncture in its history, as many of the old colonial-era homes were falling into disrepair by that time. 

Additionally, the construction of the Sea View Trolley Line some two decades later, funded largely by wealthy Narragansett casino owners intent on providing an easy way to bring Rhode Islanders to their resorts and beaches. It continued the revitalization initiated by the Newport Line. 

The next phase of the village's history is marked by two events which occurred one after another. First, the great Hurricane of 1938, wreaked havoc on the village and ruined its resident's wells thereby initiating the construction of a municipal water system. Second, the rapid paced construction of the military complex at Quonset/Davisville caused an influx of residents, both for construction and then base staffing purposes, overwhelming local housing stock and carving up of many of the villages’ larger homes into apartments to handle the influx of people. 

Wickford has survived largely intact thanks in large part to the groundbreaking use of comprehensive historic zoning pioneered by local residents united as The Main Street Association in the 1930's.