Tag Archives: Warwick

Clam cake aficionados author book, share their knowledge of ‘Rhode Island Clam Shacks’

Just the thought of clam cakes and chowder can conjure memories, images and smells and set taste buds watering for most New Englanders. The nostalgia of clam bakes of the past has been preserved with the publication of a new “Images of America” series called “Rhode Island Clam Shacks.” The book was created by clam cake experts David Norton Stone, a Warwick native and resident, and Christopher Scott Martin, co- creator and curator of the popular online site Quahog.org

Stone, a Hendricken High School graduate and a self-proclaimed food historian, has also penned “Clamcake Summer: One Man Eats Every Clamcake in Rhode Island (Or Dies Frying),” “Stuffie Summer,” and “Chowder Summer.” The two have been researching the clam shacks project for about a year, gathering and scanning antique postcards, ephemera, family photos and information shared by clam shack owners and their descendants. The book, published by Arcadia Publishing Company, was the subject of a launch party at the Providence Public Library on May 15 – images from the library’s digital collection appear in the book – and the duo have been traveling to local libraries, museums and historical societies to share their work.

Stone and Martin recently participated in a “clam cake crawl” around the state, sampling (re-sampling) some of the best that Rhode Island has to offer.  The book includes more than 200 images, anecdotes and history of many well-known (some no longer in existence) clam shacks, all pre-dating 1970.

The authors visited the Johnston Historical Society on Wednesday, June 28, where Martin is a longtime member and where Stone has spoken in the past, to talk about their new book and sign copies. (Johnston Historical Society president Louis McGowan, a post card collector, also contributed images for the book.)

Stone and Martin are planning future talks, and have been invited to visit the Crow’s Nest of Apponaug to speak on July 16.  They were recently invited to attend an invitation-only 30th anniversary party for Evelyn’s, also featured in the book.

The book includes several clam shacks from the Warwick area, including Gus’s and Mrs. Gus’s, both formerly located in Oakland Beach (now the site of Iggy’s). Of particular interest are reproductions of old menus (and their prices), as well as photos of proper Rhode Island clam bakes.

Also included, Rocky Point’s “World’s Largest Shore Dinner Hall” – Stone points out that there were four different buildings over the course of its history – “built not near the bay, but right over the water.” (Stone worked at Rocky Point for a summer during college).

The book also includes information on the devastating effects of hurricanes in 1938 and 1954 to the Rhode Island shoreline, where many of these clam shacks were situated. According to information from a caption in the book, Rocky Point’s Conrad Ferla “watched the roof of his shore dinner hall fly off and into the parking lot.”

Other Warwick connections include interviews of Warwick historian Henry A. L. Brown, who attended many Rhode Island clam bakes in his day, who also contributed images for the book.

Other notable names include George’s of Galilee (which started as a small lunch room), Champlin’s, Flo’s, Ballard’s, The Hitching Post, Dead Eye Dick’s, Aunt Carrie’s.

Aunt Carrie’s, which is often credited with creating the clam cake, will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020.  Stone noted that clam cakes pre-date Aunt Carrie’s, but the restaurant should be credited with refining the clam cake as we know it – although they were called clam fritters. Both Stone and Martin counted the clam cakes at Aunt Carrie’s among their favorites at the recent “clam cake crawl.”

The authors lamented that several clam shacks which could have been included in the book had not responded to queries for information – leading those in attendance at the recent talk asking about the possibility of a Volume II. The book includes ephemera from the personal collections of Stone and Martin, both of whom collect “Rhode Islandiana.”  Stone is currently working on three future book projects, researching information about restaurants of Rhode Island no longer in existence.

Copies of the book are available from arcadiapublishing.com and Amazon.com online, or locally at Barnes & Noble Bookstore, or from the authors as they travel around the state. Future talks are listed at Martin’s website, http://www.quahog.org/calendar

 

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Local archeology expert shares passion, gives updates on Warwick projects

WARWICK – On Sunday, Oct. 30, Alan Leveillee, senior archaeologist, principal investigator and co-founder of the Public Archaeology Lab [PAL, Inc.], came to speak at a place very familiar to him – the Warwick Public Library. A Warwick resident and frequent WPL visitor, he credited his early interest in archaeology to a book he found on the subject in a public library he visited as a child.

“I became an archaeologist somewhat by accident,” he said of his career, which included stints in the field of social work and military service in the air force, studying weather. Before taking advantage of the GI Bill, he had never thought he would have the opportunity to go to college. He considers himself lucky to have studied at Rhode Island College, where he found “the best group of archaeologists at the time.”

He received both undergraduate and graduate degrees from RIC, and is an adjunct faculty member at Roger Williams University.  As co-founder of PAL, he frequently consults for the Warwick Cemetery Commission, the Warwick Sewer Authority, and other local groups.

During his talk at the library (entitled “Archaeology and History in Warwick: Native American and Early Settlement”), he described several historic and pre-historic sites, and the range of artifacts found in each found in Warwick, which was settled around 1640.

“Archaeologists are interested in the things, the stuff, but are also interested in the people, the culture, the languages,” he said, holding up one of several artifacts he brought with him. “Culture moves at the rate of technology (holding up an iPhone, as an example of our modern technology) – each culture through time generated its own artifacts.”

“Warwick has many archaeology sites, thousands of them in various states of preservation,” he said.  He showed a slide of the new Apponaug circulator project. “Ten years ago I was out doing archaeology for that project,” he said of consulting for the RI DOT.

Thanks to the passage of National Preservation laws in the 1960s [National Historic Preservation Act of 1966], federally funded sites with potentially important artifacts have been investigated and preserved.

Leveillee described working at a site during sewer work in the Governor Francis area, which had been filled in, dubbed the “Cove Terrace” site. Others sites that have been investigated include those at Lambert Farm, Cedar Tree Beach, Spinnaker Lane in Cowesett, and in Warwick Neck.

He described physical changes to the land area around Narragansett Bay, when “sea levels stabilized, mud flats developed, people were settling along the coast in large numbers.”

“Maize was found in Governor Francis, Cedar Tree and most recently Warwick Neck,” he said of finding signs of tribal territories.

On another slide, he showed earlier research conducted in the area, including a 1949 article published by the Massachusetts Archaeological Society called “An Indian Burial at Warwick, R. I.” by Maurice Robbins.

Part two of Leveillee’s presentation described the period during and after European contact and settlement – after about 1638, and the role Roger Williams played in the State, and the role Samuel Gorton played in Warwick.

Conducting sewer work in the area of Horse Neck, many “contact period” artifacts were found. He showed a few examples of these, including an English spoon, English copper and trade beads.

In investigations of a property adjacent to the Tri-City Elks on West Shore Road, destined to become condos, he found Native American as well as historic artifacts.

The Bayside and Longmeadow areas, in which 12 miles of sewers are destined were also investigated, delaying the project. Dubbed the Mill Cove site, Leveillee says residents probably aren’t too happy with him lately. “We opened up Tidewater Drive, and found a hundred or so Native American features,” he said, evidence of several Native American villages. Calling the site one of the most significant in New England, it is only one of two in the State. A Warwick Sewer Authority reports that the site “was the location of a major battle in July 1676 between the Colonists and the Narragansett Indian Tribe.” The report says that the Mill Cove Site was deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.

“The villages are under roads and houses. We peeled the road back just like a quilt. It’s the second verified village found in Rhode Island,” he said, noting the other was found in Jamestown.

The investigative work continues. “The wheels of progress are moving very slowly. We have a real Native American village, with a neighborhood on it – anyone living in the area is going to see more of me,” he said, hoping to convince residents of its importance. “We’re still waiting to put the sewers in,” he added.

“Here in Warwick, I’ve been really able to do what I’ve wanted to do,” he said of his continued passion for his work. He praised the City for its efforts, as well, noting that the former Rocky Point property is now protected.

Several members of the audience had brought artifacts they had found locally, and showed them to Leveillee, who later answered questions. One pre-teen budding archaeologist brought some pieces of ceramic he and his mother found on a beach, which were likely to have served as old sewer pipes from a local home to the bay, some still visible at low tide.

The apparent interest of the young audience member was reminiscent of “the little boy who lived inside of me in the late 1940s and early 1950s,” said Leveillee.

 

Photo: Local archaeologist Alan Leveillee chats with a budding archeologist (and his mom) who brought along some of his finds to show at a talk at the Warwick Public Library on Sunday, Oct. 30. Photo by Beth Hurd.