Rocky Point 1 – Capt. Winslow
By Don D'Amato
A number of years ago, my grandson Ryan said, “Boy, you and gram are so lucky.” I asked why, and his innocent reply was, “Cause you live so close to Rocky Point, you can go anytime.”
Now those days are gone as Rhode Island’s most famous amusement park is no more. For many years, during the cold winter months, my thoughts often turned to the idea of going to Rocky Point in the spring and the summer. This seemed to dispel the cold and the gloom. Now, of course, that has changed and it is memories, not anticipation, which brings Rocky Point to mind.
The park’s location, then and now, is a most impressive spot along Warwick’s 39-mile coastline. It is no wonder that steamboat captains selected this site as a beautiful landing for their passengers who wanted a place to picnic and relax on a Sunday afternoon. .
Captain William Winslow
Before 1847, Rocky Point, like most of Warwick Neck, was part of the farmlands that characterized the town in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Captain William Winslow, part owner of a small steamboat, Argo, saw Rocky Point as a desirable location to land his Sunday school excursion passengers. In 1847, Winslow received permission from Joseph Lyons to take his passengers ashore. Despite the tedious task of ferrying the passengers from the Argo to the rocky shore in small boats, the day was a great success. The following week, Winslow brought the
Sunday School of Providence's First Congregational Church for an outing and started a tradition that continued for many years.
Winslow, convinced of the potential of Rocky Point, purchased the 89-acre site from its owners, Mrs. Phebe Stafford Lyons and Mrs. Mary Stafford Holden for $2400. Within four short years, "Winslow's Rocky Point" became the most popular shore resort on the bay. Winslow's first attractions included flying horses, the precursor of the carousel, swings, and a bake-house.
Warwick historian Horace Belcher, who wrote extensively on Rocky Point in 1938, tells us that, "'Mother Winslow' took charge of the clam house and the resort while her husband was bringing in excursionists on the Argo." Passengers, who paid twenty-five cents for the boat trip from Providence, were admitted to the park free of charge. By 1858, Winslow added bowling alleys, chariots, and a "Spanish fandango." The large wooden fandango was the forerunner of the Ferris Wheel and was first seen in Rhode Island at Rocky Point.
Stephen Douglas--The Little Giant
Captain Winslow owned and operated Rocky Point from 1847 until 1865. During his period of ownership in 1860, David Stackhouse, noted Warwick historian, tells us that thousands were attracted to hear the country's foremost orator, Stephen Arnold Douglas. He was running for president against Abraham Lincoln and came to speak at the park. Stackhouse tells us, "Douglas, himself a descendant of Pawtuxet's oldest family," was the leading presidential candidate and at the height of his popularity.
The story of Rocky Point will be continued.
During the second half of the 19th century, Rocky Point grew to be the most popular amusement park in New England.
From the Henry A.L. Brown Collection