Saturday, April 27, 2013
Preservation works by creating jobs and revitalizing communities. Preservation works by restoring the buildings and neighborhoods where working people live, play, and earn a paycheck. Preservation works by interpreting the history of labor in Rhode Island. And preservation works by maintaining and improving public works like historic roads, reservoirs, art, bridges, parks, and bicycle trails.
Home base for the conference was West Warwick, which celebrated its centennial in 2013. Walks through Arctic and Phenix villages, visits to industrial monuments like Royal Mill, and rides along the Washington Secondary Bicycle Trail showcased the best of Rhode Island’s youngest town. Conference-goers learned about the ethnic heritage of West Warwick’s people—Italian, Portuguese, Jewish, Ukrainian, French-Canadian, Polish, Swedish, Irish, and others. Tours outside West Warwick’s borders ventured to Coventry, Scituate, Cranston, and Warwick to sample the varied landscapes and architecture of the Pawtuxet River Valley.
Conference sessions examined how preservation works and what we work to preserve. Following the keynote address on how industry transformed southern New England’s economy, politics, and society in the 19th century, we saw how the Pawtuxet River Valley was transformed. Sessions about about the art and architecture of the Works Progress Administration, the Scituate Reservoir, Rhode Island’s historic bridges, and the legacy of Interstate 95 will highlight public works projects. A session devoted to re-starting Rhode Island’s rehab tax credit highlighted the power of preservation to get our state back to work. Other session topics included the conservation of stained glass windows, the archaeology of the earliest Rhode Islanders, and state-of-the-art libraries in historic buildings.