Rocky Point 6-the early 20th century

The Coming of the Automobile

In the first two decades of the twentieth century there were still many more horses and carriages than there were automobiles, but the trend towards the motorcar was sure and steady.  During this time, however, the trolley ruled supreme for the working class.

The 1930s saw major changes in the method of getting to Rocky Point, in the ownership of the resort and in the results of the destruction by the Hurricane of 1938.  Some frightening aspects of the twenties and the thirties were the economic hardships caused by the closing of the mills and the strange popularity of the Ku Klux Klan which grew in the state.  Klansmen met in Pawtuxet, openly walked through Rocky Point, and burned crosses in the fields near Hardig Brook.

Rocky Point in the 20th century

While the wealthy sailed their yachts or drove their expensive cars to escape the cares of the times, the less affluent sought escape at the shore resorts and amusement centers by coming via trolley.  After Randall Harrington died, Paul and Alfred Castiglioni assumed control of Rocky Point.  During their tenure a number of new attractions were added to the midway and thousands flooded the park.  Admission was free and families could determine what they could spend as each ride charged a fee.  Big attractions in the thirties included appearances by Gertrude C. Ederle, who swam the English Channel in 1926, and by the "Sultan of Swat," Babe Ruth.  Edward Gillan McGuire was the well-known "barker" at the Midway and later became a very famous magician called "The Great Gillan."

The Hurricane of 1938

The Providence Journal book, The Great Hurricane, reported, "Rocky Point, that Mecca of politicians and shore dinner consumers, fell like a house of cards before the southeast fury.  The roller coaster was shattered, the great dining hall ...was a soggy mass of lumber, a thousand bathing suits hung from the backwoods trees. ...The oldest and most famous shore resort of the State was no more."

During the Hurricane on September 21, 1938, a large tree fell over the moat near the monkey house allowing the monkeys to escape.  Strangely enough, six monkeys, which had escaped from Rocky Point in 1938, were living in the woods on Warwick Neck.  They not only survived the hurricane, but managed to live through the winter as well.  They were seen on the Neck and Spring Green Farm for at least another year.

Warwick was still trying to clean up the wreckage caused by the Hurricane of 1938 as she entered the decade of the 1940s.  For a while it seemed that even Warwick's oldest and largest amusement center, Rocky Point, had reached the end.  The park was returned to its earlier owners, the Harringtons, as the entire area began to stagger back from the effects of the storm.  The owners, however, never gave up hope. 

The story of Rocky Point will be continued.


One of the early ads for Rocky Point told customers to “Follow the arrow to a Barrel of Fun,” and went on to describe the many special features at the “most beautiful Spot on the Atlantic Coast.”

From Rocky Point, A Rhode Island Treasure, by Donald W. Wyatt 1997

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