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Wickford was platted c. 1700 by Lodowick Updike, the owner of Cocumscussoc, who proudly proclaimed his achievement in giving the town its original name of Updike's Newton. Like many Narragansett Bay ports, Wickford enjoyed its greatest period of growth between the end of the Revolution and the War of 1812. However, it remained an active secondary port and became a center for a variety of manufacturing ventures during the nineteenth century. At the end of the nineteenth century the town became a stop on the Sea-View trolley line, which extended along the west shore of the bay, and a popular tourist spot. Despite its continued prosperity, Wickford's location east of the main north-south railroad line and early local appreciation of its “antiquities” served to protect much of the town's small seaport character, and enough of its building heritage to give it a place, with Bristol, among Rhode Island's smaller towns with architectural parallels to Providence and Newport. By comparison with the grander quality of Bristol, Wickford's architecture displays a more modest mien—the charm and elegance which late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century country carpenters could produce where means and taste encouraged the creation of a lovely town. In Bristol, architectural style is varied. Here it is homogeneous, with the homogeneity of the provincial place which knew a moment of minor glory in history, then stagnated until rediscovered by those who had enough discretion to want to keep it as it was.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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