I love living in a small town. Familiar faces are always around the corner, in the supermarket, the restaurants, the hardware store, the pharmacy. I enjoy stopping to have a conversation with a friend I just happen to meet while doing errands. Years ago, while I was studying at the University, I decided this was where I wanted to make my future home. After college, I bought my first home here and have been comfortably settled in South County for over forty years.
On Saturday I spent the day with friends celebrating our annual Kingston Hill Fair. Kingston Village, once known as Little Rest, is composed of charming buildings and red brick walks leading to the entrance of the University of Rhode Island. Although this picturesque village is quite small, it’s filled with history.
In 1820, Fayerweather House was the home of the village blacksmith, George Fayerweather. He was a descendant of a slave who gained his freedom from the Reverend Samuel Fayerweather in 1770. He adopted his master’s surname, Fayerweather as was customary at the time. Some of the stones used for the base of the forge can still be found on the one-acre property.
Authentically renovated and restored, the old homestead is now maintained by the Kingston Improvement Association and is the home of the Fayerweather Craft Guild. The Guild is dedicated to preserving old crafts and promoting new ones. The original three rooms on the first floor are now used to display those crafts. Workshops and programs are sponsored by the group throughout the summer and fall.
Fayerweather House’s two stories were constructed around a massive stone chimney with a fireplace in each room. I spent most of my Saturday morning in the Keeping Room with its granite fireplace, Dutch oven, and 18-inch wide floorboards. Along with a pictorial display documenting the history of this building, there is a large Bicentennial Quilt sewn in 1976 by the founding members of the Craft Guild. Its thirty colorful panels of local landmarks hang proudly on the west wall among works by present-day crafters which are available for purchase. As crafters, we volunteer time in the store and this morning, on one of our busiest days, found me behind the counter taking care of regular visitors and the new faces in town for the weekend’s college graduation ceremonies.
Inside, customers browsed while out on the back patio, johnny cakes (once known as journey cakes) from the local Kenyon Grist Mill were sizzling on a grill as people sat along the stone wall relaxing and enjoying the cakes with a cup of coffee. In the side yard, the Kingston Hill Gardeners were selling plants dug from their own gardens to raise money for scholarships. All of this taking place on the park-like grounds that they lovingly maintain throughout the seasons.
Volunteers all – happily working and socializing on a fine May Day while down the road, on the front lawn of the Kingston Free Library (once the County Seat) another set of volunteers ran the used book sale. And across the street, at the Kingston Congregational Church, tables were set up with baked goods and hot dogs and hamburgers for strollers to take some time for lunch or a home-baked slice of cake or pie and sit conversing along the stone wall or under a tent in the church courtyard.
The old town jail, now the Pettaquamscutt Historical Society, was open for tours as was Helme House where a pottery sale was attracting people in to view the works of local artists and the Kingston Hill Book Store was filled with browsers looking for collectible books and antiques.
One of the most famous buildings in town is the Elisha Reynolds House (1738) now home of the Tavern Hall Preservation Society (1911). ) On March 5, 1781, Colonel Thomas Potter hosted George Washington and his officers when they stopped to rest on their way to confer with General Rochambeau in Newport.
I was so busy working at Fayerweather House that I never had time to shoot some photos on Saturday. But these pictures, taken for my local mystery book Last Train to Kingston, will give you some idea of what our tiny village looks like on a typical Sunday morning, without all of the bustle a Fair Day can bring. If you are ever in Rhode Island, put aside some time to walk along the village’s brick sidewalks and note the historical plaques on each building. Stop into Fayerweather House, the library, the jail house, the bookstore, Helme House and the church. There’s an incredible store of history packed into a very small village once called Little Rest.