At the end of the bridge from Newport lies a peaceful island town with water almost everywhere.

By William G. Scheller
March 29, 2004

"Just grab a seat at the Jamestown salon," says CatherineFinney. "Sooner or later, over the course of the day, everyone intown will show up."

Catherine is a Web site designer, land conservation consultant,real estate appraiser, and recent chairwoman of the zoning reviewboard in Jamestown, Rhode Island. It's easy to see why everyonewould visit the "salon"―or, more officially, the East FerryMarket & Deli. The deli and its little patio overlook the towndock at the end of Narragansett Avenue. Sailboats slice across theserene waters of Narragansett Bay. The spires of Newport rise inthe distance. To the north, the great silver span of the NewportBridge―now called the Claiborne Pell Bridge―arcs acrossthe bay.

The vistas seem as big as all creation, but the distances are ona human scale remarkable even for compact New England. "The nicething about Rhode Island is that you can be hopelessly lost on theother side of the state and be home in less than an hour," saysCatherine. "We're lucky to have our open spaces and yet have somuch available just a few miles away."

"Jamestown is small enough that if you want to know a largenumber of your neighbors, you can," says real estate agent GinnyPrichett. "But it's large enough that if you want privacy, you canhave that, too."

Neighbors seem the farthest thing from the mind of the seakayaker paddling the edge of a salt marsh on his way toward theisland's Beavertail peninsula. The peninsula, where ramblingshingle-style mansions loom above the water, culminates inBeavertail State Park, with its gentle bike paths, 1856-vintagelighthouse, and wave-hammered, rocky shores.

Beavertail and the smaller Fort Wetherill State Park are thearea's major public preserves. But land-owners have kept open asignificant amount of island acreage through conservation easementprograms and sale of development rights.

At the heart of the island is a property safe from any threat ofdevelopment. The Watson Farm, with three-quarters of a mile of bayfrontage, was bequeathed to the Society for the Preservation of NewEngland Antiquities so that it might remain a working farm. Don andHeather Minto have managed the property ever since.

"We both grew up in the suburbs, but we'd decided that farmingwould be our vocation," says Don, as he and Heather relax in thebarnyard. "There are moments when we stand on top of the hilllooking down toward the bay and just say 'Ah.' "

(published 2002)