South Kingstown Driving Tour

Scenic and Historic Driving Tour of South Kingstown Logo
Map of the Driving Tour

Beautiful & Historic South Kingstown

The citizens of South Kingstown are proud of their heritage. The early villages, the churches, the libraries and the older homes are all interesting and will find a place in your heart as you go to see them, and learn about early life in South Kingstown some 250 years ago. We are happy to share the splendor of our enduring features with you.

Tour Begins & Ends in Peace Dale

1: Peace Dale

Peace Dale is unique among the mill villages in Rhode Island for its extraordinary number of public buildings and for the role its mill has played in the history of textile manufacturing in New England. Much of the development of the village can be attributed to the Hazard family who established the Peace Dale Manufacturing Company here in the early 19th century, and who continued to guide the growth of the town and the mill for over four generations. The power of the Saugatucket River was harnessed to power the looms. The firm produced shawls and fine woolen fabrics for which it became justly famous. In its heyday over 700 workers were employed.

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2: Neighborhood Guild - 325 Columbia Street

Peace Dale was named by Rowland Hazard, who settled here in 1804, in honor of his wife, Mary Peace of Charleston, South Carolina. The Hazard family was deeply committed to the welfare of the community, evidenced by the existence of the Neighborhood Guild, built by Augusta C., Hazard in 1908, to provide courses in domestic arts for the village women. The village green in front was developed to provide the village with park and recreational space. For more information call 401-789-9301.

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3: Peace Dale Public Library & "the Weaver" - 1057 Kingstown Road

This handsome stone building in the "Richardsonian Romanesque" style was built in memory of Rowland Hazard II by his sons. It was designed by architect Frank W. Angell to house the village library which was founded in 1863. Inside you will find a plaster frieze representing joyful expression through music. This sculpture is a reproduction of part of a work entitled "Cantoria" by Italian Renaissance sculptor Lucca della Robbia. For more information call 401-789-1555.
In front of the library is "The Weaver," a large bronze relief sculpted by Daniel Chester French in 1920. French is best known as the sculptor of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. It was commissioned by Caroline Hazard, who was President of Wellesley College 1899-1910, as a memorial to her father and brothers. Looking at it carefully you will see three figures. The one in the center is Life. She is a beautiful woman holding a spindle in her left arm, and with her right she is guiding the thread of Life to the seated figure before her which is Time. Here he weaves the pattern of your life. On the right is the third figure, Death.

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The Weaver Sculpture Outside the Library

4: Peace Dale Office Building / Museum of Primitive Art & Culture - 1058 Kingstown Road

This simple 3-story stone building was designed to house the company store and post office, and to provide boarding accommodations for the mill workers. The building today houses the Museum of Primitive Art and Culture, South County's oldest museum. The collection includes archeological and ethnological items from North America and from countries around the world; including baskets, pottery, blankets, apparel, weapons and tools. For more info call 401-783-5711.

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5: The Mill Building / Palisades Industries - 2 Columbia Street

The 2-story stone facade and bell tower are all that remain of the stone mill built by the Hazards in 1847 to house the newly incorporated Peace Dale Manufacturing Company. The adjacent wings have received many alterations. The smaller buildings were used for many mill activities including wool storage, a workers' dining room, even a chemical laboratory.

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6: The Stone Watering Trough - Kingstown Road

This fountain on the edge of Kingstown Road was made from granite quarried on the Hazard property. It was made by Indian artisans and was originally located in the middle of the road across from Peace Dale Office Building. It was designed with troughs on 3 levels to provide drinking water for horses, oxen and dogs.

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7: The Single Arched Bridge - Kingstown Road

As you go around the Peace Dale Mill, you cross 2 bridges. These magnificent bridges and 5 others around town were made over 100 years ago by Indian artisans. The workers found or made a key stone and then painstakingly put granite blocks up on either side to make a perfect arch. No blue print, nothing but a natural talent is displayed. Over the years these bridges have carried horseback riders, carriages, trucks, automobiles and fire equipment without a break.

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8: Fisk's Flat - Kingstown Road

Mr. Stephen Fisk, who worked in an ax factory near here, acquired this land and platted the whole area into house lots. One road goes toward Kingston and the other, High Street, goes toward Wakefield. The 2 branches make a point and the part in the center was shaped like a flat iron. Hence the whole area became known as Fisk's Flat. It was a busy place with a department store, a grocery, a meat market and many residences. Mr. Fisk founded the Riverside Cemetery (entrance on High Street) so the members of the community would no longer have to bury their dead in their backyards. Unfortunately, he took sick soon after and was the first person to be buried there.

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9: Rocky Brook Mill / Kenyon Piece Dye Works, Inc. - 1425 Kingstown Road

This mill was built and operated by Samuel Rodman and his 2 sons. The granite part of the present building is the original mill. One of his sons, Isaac Peace Rodman, enlisted when the Civil War came and rose to the rank of Brigadier General. He was beloved by all the townspeople with whom he worked, so many enlisted with him. He was mortally wounded at the battle of Antietam in 1862. The Rodmans were ruined by the war and forced to sell the mill.

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10: The Pump House - 1464 Kingstown Road

This building was originally constructed in 1888 as a pumping station for the water system servicing Peace Dale, Narragansett Pier and Wakefield. The station was abandoned in 1946 when high capacity driven wells were installed in Tuckertown. Today the Pump House is a charming country restaurant.

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11: Kingston (Little Rest)

Beautiful, historic Kingston Village developed soon after 1700, and is the home of the University of Rhode Island. It was formerly known as Little Rest, though historians differ as to the origin of the name.
The Pump House
There were 5 taverns here, all lively and important. Perhaps it was a little rest for the horses and riders as they came up the road on their way to Newport or Providence. It originally contained a silversmith, a blacksmith, and saddler's shop, as well as a barber and schoolhouse. Many well preserved examples of Federal period architecture can be seen here. The seat of county and town government was moved here in 1752 with its jail located on the French property. Reportedly Cyrus French made the first beaver hats in America.

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12: The Tavern Hall Club

This building on the corner of South Road and Route 138 was built in 1738 by Elisha Reynolds. The first South Kingstown newspaper, "The Rhode Island Advocate" was published here in 1832. It was succeeded in 1854 by the "South County Journal" which became "The Narragansett Times" in 1864.

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13: Helme House / South County Art Association - 2587 Kingstown Road

This historic house is currently the home of the South County Art Association. There is a gallery space with changing exhibitions and classes are offered. Call 401-783-2195 for more information. Just across the street from here is Potter Lane. It goes to the home of the late Elisha Reynolds Potter Sr. who was our representative in Washington, D.C. in the 1790's.

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14: The Kingston Congregational Church - 2610 Kingstown Road

This church located on the crest of Kingston Hill was built in 1820 and is clearly visible from all directions. The construction required 17 men and a total of 849 days of work to complete. In 1841 the members of the church came out strongly against slavery, deeming it a sin against God. That same year there was a strong attack upon the use of alcoholic beverages. In the 1870's it was officially voted that "The sisters of this church have an equal right with the brethren to deliberate and vote on all questions that may come before them." By this action the church anticipated the 20th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that established the right of women to vote by 50 years. Today the church continues its long tradition of active participation in community affairs.

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15: The Old Washington County Jail / Pettaquamscutt Historical Society - 2036 Kingstown Road

The jail, which was built in 1792 and officially closed in 1956, is now the home of the Pettaquamscutt Historical Society. It houses exhibits that depict South County life over the past 300 years, as well as actual jail cells. For more information call 401-783-1328.

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16: Kingston Free Library - 2605 Kingstown Road

The building presently occupied by the library was built in 1775 as a county court house. The building was also 1 of the 5 original state houses when the General Assembly rotated its meetings between 1776-1791. The exterior of the building was altered in 1876 taking on a dignified Victorian appearance. In 1895 when a new courthouse was built in West Kingston, the 1st floor was remodeled for library purposes and the courtroom on the 2nd floor was converted into a meeting hall (Potter Hall.) In 1959 the General Assembly transferred title of the building to the Kingston Free Library Association for $1. In 1974 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The interior of the building was completely renovated in 1994. For more information call 401-783-8254.

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Kingstown Free Library

17: Ministerial Road

In 1668, 300 acres east of Ministerial Road were set aside by the Pettaquamscutt Purchasers for the use of the Ministry. They did not designate which denomination it was to aid and this produced a feud between the Anglican and Congregational churches in the area. In 1752 King George II ruled that the Congregational Church would receive the income from the land. At the corner of Curtis Corner Road and Ministerial Road is the horizontal granite stone marker commemorating this. Today Ministerial Road is a designated Rhode Island scenic road with beautiful native mountain laurel and rhododendron.

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18: Kingston Railroad Station - 1 Railroad Avenue

This station was constructed in 1875. The symmetrical, flushboard and clapboard-side building with bay windows and a flat- roofed central dormer is flanked by segmental-arch dormers. At each end of the building are canopies supported by ornamental, angular, "stick" style brackets. The renovation of the building, which began in 1997, included moving it 40 feet north to its current location. It was rededicated on May 31, 1998. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Kingston Railroad Station

19: Old Washington County Courthouse / Courthouse Center for the Arts - 3481 Kingstown Road

This towering granite building built in 1896 is now owned by the Courthouse Center for the Arts. It houses an art gallery and artisan shop and hosts many concerts, plays, classes and other activities. For more information call 401-782-1018. As you continue up Route 138 you will pass the Old Fernwood Cemetery on your left.

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20: University or Rhode Island

Originally chartered as the state's agricultural school in 1888, it became Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts in 1892, Rhode Island State College in 1909 and then a university in 1951. It currently enrolls approximately 11,000 undergraduates, 3,000 graduate students with a teaching faculty of 650.

For more information visit the Information Center located just inside the granite gates on Upper College Road, or call 401-874-1000.

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21: Fayerweather House - Mooresfield Road

This 1820's landmark was originally the home of George Fayerweather, a blacksmith, and his family. Now it is an active craft guild which holds demonstrations on such skills as rug hooking, basket making, and weaving. Craftwork gifts are available for sale. For more information call 401-789-9072.

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22: Wooden Observation Tower - 3481 Kingstown Road

You can climb this 100 - foot open-air wooden tower atop MacSparran Hill, named after Reverend MacSparran who was the first Episcopal minister in the area. It was built in 1937 as a lookout to the sea. Enjoy this spectacular view of the Rhode Island coastline.

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23: Wakefield

Wakefield is the commercial center of South Kingstown and a showpiece of 18th and 19th century architectural styles. 196 Main Street was a hotel before it was Stedman's Bicycle Shop. Wright's Opera House opened in 1892, and is today the Campus Cinema on Columbia Street. The Main Street Branch at 297 Main Street was established in the late 1860's as a hardware and farm implements store.
Wooden Observation Tower
The Bell Block along lower Main St. was built by contractor Louis Bell in 1899. Stores occupy the ground floor as they did back then. In the upper hall, amateur plays, political rallies, ball-room dancing, and roller skating events attracted crowds of people. What is today Sheldon Furniture at 349 Main Street began as the Sheldon Furnishing Company established in 1857. The building itself was originally located on the other side of the Saugatucket River and was moved to its present location in 1899. 344 Main Street, South County Surgical Supply, was originally Kenyon's, a department store founded in 1856. With many renovations and restorations the mercantile center of Wakefield flourishes today with many fine restaurants and shops.

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24: South Kingstown Town Hall - 180 High Street

In 1877 the Town Hall was erected and presented to the town by Rowland G. Hazard. There have been three major additions and renovations since that time. The Town Hall is the site of local municipal government. Call 401-789-9331 for more information.

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25: Peace Dale Congregational Church - 261 Columbia Street

This beautiful church was designed and built by Rowland Hazard between 1870 and 1872, with interior design by John LaFarge. Built of stone with a slate roof, its architectural style is European, making it stand in sharp contrast to the Colonial style of the Kingston Congregational Church. Of particular note is the magnificent rose window of stained glass.

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This tour is a project of the South Kingstown Millennium Commission. The theme of the Commission is "Honor the Past - Celebrate the Future." This tour will offer you a taste of life in South Kingstown as it was a century or more ago. Enjoy your visit to our town.
Peace Dale Congregational Church
This tour does not claim to include all sites of historic interest in South Kingstown. Instead it focuses only on the central portion of town.