Town Council Votes to Vacate Town Halls

I am very sorry to report that Council President Kerry McKay, and councilors Carol Hueston and Jason Albuquerque voted Wednesday evening to vacate the town hall and annex.

A preliminary write up of the evening can be found at The Independent

and the Providence Journal

I want to thank the 230 people who signed our petition and the large crowd that attended the council meeting. You filled the room with your presence  and the air with eloquent speeches that, unfortunately, fell on deaf ears.


Larry Ehrhardt

President, HistWick


LAST CHANCE TO SAVE TOWN HALL – Wednesday, February 17 at 7 pm


 UPDATED Saturday, February 13


  • The RI Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission wrote the Town’s analysis “is not an equal cost comparison”, includes work that may not actually be needed, double counts some work, and omits costs required to preserve Town Hall even if the town offices move out.  RI Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission letter
  • PRESERVE RHODE ISLAND – North Kingstown Town Hall’s Future Uncertain During the past month, PRI has been monitoring with great concern a situation in North Kingstown. After receiving building code violations from the fire department, the town appears on a path to vacate their historic Town Hall located in the heart of Wickford. This is a tremendous overreaction to a situation that can likely be remedied without incurring greater costs than would be created by retrofitting alternative locations.After being alerted by a concerned citizen, PRI has been in communication with community members, colleagues at the RI Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission and town council members. Earlier this week, PRI wrote a letter to the town council objecting to a plan to relocate town offices without further investigation of alternatives.
  • If the town leaves vacant (or sells) the Annex, it will not be protected against significant changes — or worse, demolition — even though it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The Northeast Independent article ‘Town Hall repairs to cost $1.5 million” provides details on the proposal prepared by Director of Public Works Phil Bergeron.  It references the letters above, but not until the end.




Wickford Village has served as the center of activity in North Kingstown for three centuries. Unfortunately, it has suffered in recent years as changes in retail buying habits and urban sprawl have resulted in too many empty storefronts. While there has been much discussion about how to revitalize the business district, those efforts, and the village itself are seriously threatened by a pending decision by the North Kingstown Town Council to vacate our historical Town Hall and Town Hall Annex. Unfortunately, three council members have made clear from the outset they favor the move, which could be an irreversible step toward building a new administrative edifice at a place and cost that are completely unknown.

Not that long ago voters dramatically rejected, by a margin of 3 to 1, a $3.85 million bond to finance converting Wickford Elementary School into joint offices for the town and School Department. Can you imagine what the reaction would be to a new facility costing many times that amount? In December, more than 200 citizens petitioned the Council to reconsider its headlong rush to vacate the buildings and many showed up at a Council meeting to deliver the message. Unfortunately, a majority of the Council appears unmoved by the voices of the community they serve.

On Feb. 8, the Council is slated to take up the question again at 6:30 the Senior Center. Please plan to attend what may be your last opportunity to show your support for preserving our Town Hall. You also should email your comments to

The restored sign at the corner of Brown and Main Streets proudly points out Wickford was platted in 1709. Let’s make sure we don’t have to add a new line “Abandoned in 2016.”

Laurence Ehrhardt

The author is president of Historic Wickford.

The petition can be seen at

A good write up by Jim Bessette of The Independent is at



Wickford is featured in Yankee Magazine this month as one of the 15 prettiest towns and villages in New England

Wickford is featured in Yankee Magazine this month as one of the 15 prettiest towns and villages in New England. And they give a link to the HistWick walking tour!


Town Hall Update (December 18, 2015)

HistWick’s petition calling on the Town Council to preserve the use of town hall received tremendous support from our members. At Monday’s Council meeting we presented the petition, signed by more than 200 North Kingstown residents, and urged a proper study of the building before hastily vacating it. In addition, more than 50 friends and supporters turned out to show their concern about the rush to judgement.

Unfortunately a majority of the Council and the Asset Management Commission seem bound and determined to proceed in the face of a mounting array of evidence their analysis has been incomplete and may suffer a number of serious flaws.

The meeting was well covered in both the The Standard-Times and The Independent newspapers of December 17 – I urge you to find and read a copy.

HistWick members Toby and Amy Sonder have an excellent letter in the papers about what they, and we, value in Wickford.

As a reminder, earlier we shared this information:


In a letter to Kerry McKay, Town Council President, Edward Sanderson, Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission explains that there is no requirement by the State Fire Safety Code Board that Town Hall must be vacated.   Click to read the letter.

State says “No Requirement to Vacate Town Hall”

80BostonNeck_townhallIn a letter to Kerry McKay, Town Council President, Edward Sanderson, Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission explains that there is no requirement by the State Fire Safety Code Board that Town Hall must be vacated.   Click to read the letter.

2015 Holiday Kitchen Tour!

We hope you had a chance  to view the ten beautiful homes in Wickford!

Here are copies of the Tour Guide and the House Histories.

Petition to Preserve Town Hall

For the past several months we have been hearing discussion about a need to temporarily vacate the offices at Town Hall to deal with some building code violations. It recently came to light that, unfortunately, a majority of the Town Council was prepared to permanently vacate the building in favor of a new location, yet to be determined.

An intense discussion of the proposed move took place at the November 23 Council meeting and was well described in the Independent newspaper

A copy of the letter from the State Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission is referenced.  This letter points out that not only does the state hold an historical preservation easement on the property but the Fire Marshall and Building Official used the wrong regulations in their evaluation of the building.

The Board of HistWick is very concerned about the threat of losing this historic asset in our community and has authorized the circulation of the following petition. We will be collecting signatures at the Annual Potluck Dinner on Sunday evening for presentation to the Council at their next meeting on December 7th. If you are unable to attend the dinner please seek out any one of your Board members or email your agreement to Larry Ehrhardt at



WHEREAS: The North Kingstown Town Hall has served as the center of town government for over 120 years and is a critical element in the vitality and historic character of Wickford Village; and

the State Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission holds a preservation easement on the building and has written:The c.1888 North Kingstown Town Hall is a well-constructed and well-preserved, handsome local landmark which has the capacity to serve the Town for many years. We urge you to consider exploring all means to continue the use of the building for town services with the help of a preservation architect;  and

the State Fire Safety Code Board of Appeal has been told: “the Town has made a decision to abandon this building and relocate to new premises within six (6) to eight (8) months and that the building will remain vacant at that time pending sale of the property.”;  and

the North Kingstown Town Council has also decided to vacate the Town Hall Annex on Brown Street to temporary quarters while exploring appropriate locations and building requirements for a combined Town and School Administration Facility,

THEREFORE the undersigned concerned citizens ask the Town Council to reconsider its position and do everything in its power to preserve the Town Hall and Town Hall Annex in their historic roles as centers of government activity. We specifically urge the council to follow the advice of the State Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission to engage the services of a professional architect who specializes in historic structures to do a thorough code and use analysis (using the appropriate regulations for historic buildings) before proceeding any further with plans to vacate the buildings.

Holiday Kitchen Tour – December 6th



12:30 TO 4:00 PM


TICKETS $25 IN ADVANCE at various stores in the village

DAY OF TOUR > $30 at St. Paul’s Parish House,

76 Main Street, Wickford, the starting point of the tour




*** HistWick’s Historic Signage Project ***

*** Tim Cranston’s video “Sea Captain Homes of Wickford” ***

*** The North Kingstown Food Pantry ***

Potluck Dinner – December 6th

Come Celebrate With the Wickford Community

Coffee, Tea, Water, and Dessert Provided

HistWick is bringing ArtVenture to Wickford

Enjoy ArtVenture, “Hiking with the Arts in Mind” from July 18-August 2, 2015. The program’s goal is to celebrate the arts and North Kingstown’s beautiful open and historical spaces, promote local artists, combat “Nature Deficit Disorder” and sharpen that artistic eye!

The art work (or facsimiles of it) will be hidden throughout this two week period in several NK hiking areas, Smith’s Castle and Wickford Village.  When you find a work of art, you get to keep it after logging your find onto the Art Venture blog.  Last year a blogger from Scotland even participated!  The trails include Blue Beach, Bush Hill, Calf Pasture Point, Davisville Middle School trails, Ryan Park (Oak Hill and Lafayette entrances) and the Wilson Park bike path

The North Kingstown Arts Council is sponsoring ArtVenture, with grants from RISCA and RI State Council on the Arts, and Historic Wickford, Inc.

HistWick’s contribution brings the program to the Village for the first time. 

  • The art will be hidden in a public place somewhere along the route of HistWick’s Walking Tour
  • A new piece of art work will be added someplace in the Village each day during the event. This feature gives participants opportunity for a new search every time they choose to hunt and enjoy the activities.
  • To follow the tour use your smart phone as you walk and search for the hidden art.
  • Or, print the tour before you leave home (simply click on the words Walking Tour that are in blue italics)
  • Remember, the art will not be hidden on private property, but will be hidden in public places along the route.

Last year’s participants were delighted with how their experience changed their perception. As they walked through the designated areas looking for beautiful artwork hidden among trees and buildings, they saw art in nature and town structures. While seeking to find a stained glass piece or a mini sculpture, they spotted the morning dew glistening on a perfectly formed spider web, an unusual filigree on a building or the birdlike replica shaped by the branches of a tree. When approaching the water, many were awed by the kinetic symmetry formed by gulls diving for prey.

Often it was children who pointed out these phenomena, but parents soon caught their enthusiasm. Whether participants found art work created by a contributing artist or not, their walk became a memorable experience.  Learn more about it by visiting their website.!artventure/c1c9d

“Since I’ve been involved in the Art Venture, I see beauty in everything,” says Nancy Sherman, Chair of the North Kingstown Art Council’s summer project, Art Venture. You too, can share in this fascinating experience while roaming through various locations in this area you call home…or are visiting.

Don’t miss out this year.

Mark your calendar and grab your sneakers to participate in the Council’s second annual Art Venture at least once or twice between July 18 and August 2. Come alone or come with friends and family–either way, it’s fascinating… and you could win a prize!

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