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22 Close To Home, A World Away

Living History
BLOCK ISLAND'S HISTORY is a rich one, encompassing
Native American tribes, Revolutionary War heroes, legend-
ary shipwrecks, and its emergence in the late 1800s as one of
New England's premiere summer attractions.
Learn more about the island's history by visiting the His-
torical Society Museum and gift shop downtown. A white
mansard-roofed building, the Historical Society houses an
extensive collection of furniture, textiles, quilts, oral histo-
ries, fi shing gear, tools, and Native American artifacts. Then
head to Isaac's Corner, at the intersection of Center Road,
Lakeside Drive, and Cooneymus Roads. Named for the
island's last full-blooded Native American, who died in 1886,
it is near the Indian burial ground and the stone monument
erected just last year in honor of the Manissean Indians.
On that same corner, overlooking Fresh Pond, sits the
gambrel-roofed cottage of composer and poet Arthur Penn,
who lived there with his wife Nell in the 1920s. His song
"Smilin' Through" is named for his Block Island home.
No history of Block Island would be complete without
mentioning shipwrecks. While some have become the stuff
of legend, others remain accessible for sport divers. Among
the legendary is the Princess Augusta, which inspired John
Greenleaf Whittier's 1867 poem "The Palatine."
Block Island's rough seas and rocky coastlines would
certainly have claimed more ships were it not for two
lighthouses. The North and Southeast Lighthouses have
achieved iconic status, revered for their historic signifi cance
and as symbols of the community spirit that has allowed
them to be restored and preserved.
The Southeast Lighthouse made national headlines in
the early 1990s when, after years of erosion, it found itself
just 50 feet from the cliff's edge. Islanders banded together
to save the beloved structure, raising nearly $2 million in
federal and private grants, and donations to move the Na-
tional Historic Landmark 245 feet back from the bluff.
You'll want to see the North Light, too, by hiking past
Settlers' Rock. The lantern on that lighthouse was recently
restored and re-lit, and its small museum renovated.
Old Harbor views in the early 1960s
Pam Gasner, Executive Director of the Historical Society
The Block Island Historical Society