A Brief History of Jamestown and Newport, Rhode Island

The Twentieth Century - Part II

The 1990s to the Present

The Challenge to Island Identity

In 1992, the Jamestown-Verrazano Bridge replaced the narrow steel bridge erected in 1940. It was accompanied by construction of a new western-end access road and a cross-Conanicut Island highway. These roadway improvements were the last critical components in creating a high capacity bridge and road system linking the naturally water-separated population centers of the Ocean State.
(View of the newer bridge and the inactive older bridge, looking northward. Photo by Dick & Kathy Mindek.- 2003)

As a result of improved access and population growth in Rhode Island, the survival of Jamestown's identity is being challenged. Some travelers on Route 138 never leave the limited-access highway. Many of the island's newer residents are employed elsewhere in the state. Newer subdivisions and in-fill housing construction have brought aspects of suburban life to the island. The population of the island has grown by 12% over the past ten years, to a total of about 6,000,

Yet, Conanicut Island retains much of its quiet rural character and the historic center of Jamestown remains a viable traditional village. There are several active farms on the island, old neighborhoods are intact and historic properties in and near the island - such as windmills and the remains of old military fortifications - remain in place; serving as constant reminders of the history of the island, the Bay and this country.

Most importantly, people continue to choose to live in and summer in Jamestown because of the quality of life on the island. In turn, its residents continue to demonstrate commitment to the community by actively participating in governmental, civic and cultural organizations. There is an increasing emphasis on preserving the quality of life through improved planning and zoning, public acquisition of sensitive wetlands and other open spaces, upgrading of historic sites, creative reuse of older structures and protection and management of resources such as as ground and drinking water.

In September 2003 the town celebrated the 325th anniversary of its 1678 Charter.

Demolition of the "Old" Jamestown Bridge

Also in 2003, RIDOT announced that the old Jamestown Bridge, built in 1940 and replaced by a wider span in 1992, would be demolished.  In late 2005, thirteen years after the Jamestown-Verrazano Bridge was put into service, demolition began on the original bridge. 

 

Major demolition began on April 18, 2006, when 350 explosive charges dropped the central section of the bridge into the bay.  Prior to detonation, crews removed most of the pavement and made cuts to weaken the girders.  

 

The second major detonation took place on May 18, when more than 1,600 feet of the two deck trusses on either side of the central gap were removed, along with the top 50-feet of the central supporting piers.

Late Summer 2006
Looking east

 

Late Summer 2006
Looking West

Jamestown Bridge in 1940

Preparing for Demolition

First Demolition - April 18, 2006

 

Prior to Second Demolition

Firing Truss Charges

After Pier Charges - May 18, 2006

Mechanical demolition of the concrete support structures continued throughout the summer.  Underwater explosive charges were used to remove pier sections to a depth safe for navigation after the bulk of the pier structure was been demolished to the waterline. The first two underwater charges were detonated on August 8, 2006.

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More Information About Present-day Jamestown and Newport

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Look over a collection of recent news items about life in Jamestown, issues facing the island and solutions being proposed to ensure progress while honoring and maintaining history and tradition.

Jamestown is home to more than forty local community service and action groups that address a wide range of cultural, social and environmental interests. The list of Jamestown Community Organizations compiled by the Jamestown Philomenian Library provides information on each organization's purpose and mission, activities and scheduled meetings, plus contact information.

View the Jamestown Comprehensive Community Plan.

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Index of History Pages:

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