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And The Fortress Of The Sea

As you know, I’m providing you with an in might say dang exhausting...account of our recent trip to the East Coast. I’d just left off with my walk down to the Providence River on a lovely, cool evening.

We woke up the next day and found out that it had stayed cool. The heatwave had finally broken. At least, we felt like we had gotten away from the nastier aspects of a Texas summer.

We had a quick breakfast and then Patty took us off to the sea--specifically, to Jamestown, which is a little community on the coast. It’s quite a nice place, really. If you’re interested in maybe visiting someday, check out the town’s Wikipedia entry here:,_Rhode_Island

There’s also a town webpage here: There used to be a visitor’s guide as well, somewhere on the web, but it seems to have disappeared. A moment ago, I checked the URL that used to work (, it took me to some obscure site in Indonesia, and, unless you read Indonesian (“a standardized variety of Malay”), it might not be the best bet for current tourist information. Unless, of course, you’re going to Indonesia. I am told that Jakarta is lovely in the Fall. But, since I’m not heading there anytime soon...well...

Anyway, this was the part of the trip that Martha had been looking forward to the most -- cool weather, and the ocean. We walked down to the water’s edge and walked along a sort of trail there. It isn’t a beach...not exactly. This isn’t the kind of place where Annette and Frankie were going to frolic. No beach blanket bingo. In fact, hell, even the radioactive sea monsters from “The Horror of Party Beach”(1964)...voted by critics to be among the worst movies ever made...might have second thoughts about the whole Gidget Goes Hawaiian schtick along *that* particular beach.(1)

The Rocky Coast

This is a rocky coast. Not cliffs, maybe, but definitely hard country, and landing here is not always an easy thing. Which, by the way, is why the area is famed for its lighthouses. There have been several up and down the coast -- Beavertail Light, the Conanicut Island Light, Dutch Island Light, and so on...all those brave beacons in an infinite dark, meant to save mariners from reefs and drowning.

But if this isn’t a seaside paradise in the classical sense, it was just what Martha wanted--cool weather, a wind from the sea, wildness and water...

We walked along. We watched while people hiked or sat on the rocks and sunned themselves, or made their way down to the water to swim and snorkel. We went one direction for a time, finally ending up at the Beavertail Light, then turned and went the other. We had no particular goal. And that was just fine.

The Beaver Tail Light.

We saw a good many fortifications, actually, both along that stretch of the walkway and also a bit of a ways over from the main route. Jamestown is built on islands, and it has been a fortress city from its earliest beginnings. It was here, at what was then called Dumpling Rock, that the colonists placed heavy cannons during the Revolution...which were then taken by the British and turned against the rebels...though the Redcoats then evacuated to Newport when the war turned against them. (2)

Starting in 1899, the area was extensively re-fortified as the United States began to consider its role as a world-power. Thus, Dumpling Rock was incorporated into “Fort Wetherill,” which was given state-of-the art artillery pieces, just in case someone ...who?...decided to bombard the coast. These were expanded in World War I and II...though, again, I’m not certain who they were meant to defend against. The Germans were probably not going to stage their version of a reverse D-Day in Rhode Island. And the Japanese...well, even California would have been a stretch for them. As for Rhode Island, clear on the other side of the continent, kind of unlikely...

But, maybe building fortifications was important at the time. It gave people a sense of security, and, better still, let them feel they were doing something productive when otherwise they could only sit and watch developments.

Anyway, Fort Wetherill now belongs to the state of Rhode Island and is part of the enormous “Fort Wetherill State Park,” which is where we were.(3) The fortifications and batteries are, of course, now very much in decay. There are now eerie little hills on the coast which used to be gun emplacements. You look at them and think they could be barrows graves out of Tolkien...or, for that matter, the cairns and kurgans of the Indo-European peoples...

But, in fact, they used to contain 90-mm guns...fortunately, never needed, never used, never fired in anger...

Gun Emplacement...or maybe a barrow

Though, the weirdest part of the place is what used to be the fort itself, that is, the main buildings. They are now fallen almost entirely into ruins, sporting trees where once they had roofs, and their enormous brick and concrete walls are almost wholly covered with graffiti.

An aside, I toured the walls that I could get to easily. There was much graffiti but very little graffiti art. I mean, real art. I mean, there were few Banksy-style masterpieces here. Or if there were, then the art had long ago been smothered by really bad tags and crude drawings of things you’d expect on public bathroom walls. The genuine street artists in Providence need to band together, power wash the fortress, and give it the sort of creations it deserves.

Anyway...we had our walk. Then, we were done. And it was off again. This time, we were headed off to lunch...

And, after that...

The most annoying car rental experience on earth.

More to come.

The much graffitied fort...


1. The Horror of Party Beach -- for more on this truly insane cult classic, see and

2. For more information on Fort Wetherill and its origins, see its Wikipedia page here:

3. You can see more on the park here:


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