Visiting the Ocean State

October 31, 2013

It was a pleasure to wrap up my last official state visit for the fall in Rhode Island, founded by Roger Williams in 1636 as a place of refuge for those seeking religious freedom.  It was even more interesting to me as I recently learned that one of my ancestors traveled to the colonies with Roger Williams and was one of the early settlers of Providence.  The ocean figures prominently in this beautiful state which also contains the largest collection of buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.

I was met at the airport by State Regent Barbara Simmons, her husband, Lee Arnold (an extraordinary HODAR) and my personal Page, Jackie Kalafatis. We traveled a short distance to the hotel, located in an old textile mill, before joining members of the State Executive Board and Honorary State Regents at the Chapel Grille for dinner.  This beautiful old chapel was built in 1891 as part of spiritual healing for Sockanosset School for Boys and now serves as a fine restaurant.

Saturday morning Honorary State Regent Elizabeth Alfonso drove us from the hotel around the historic areas including the home in which Nathanael Greene, one of the most trusted generals of the Revolutionary army and George Washington's friend and comrade-in-arms, was raised and which is still owned by a descendant of the Greene family.

Arriving at a country club overlooking Narragansett Bay, we had a brief business meeting with over 10% of the State’s members attending.  After sharing the goals and activities of the Young Administration, I had the opportunity to answer questions posed by the members.  Two members presented exquisite handmade gifts – a copy of The American’s Creed with sketches of the founders of the country, made by Winifred Johannis and a knitted sweater and booties for our first granddaughter, due in December, made by Julianna Oliver. Barbara Simmons presented a gift to the President General’s Project and a silver charm of Rhode Island.

Following luncheon, we had a delightful presentation on “Undressing History: What Women Wore in the 18th Century” by Renee Walker-Tuttle, a living history interpreter.  Beginning in a shift, she dressed in a working class women’s gown, then changed into an upper-class gown while describing each garment’s material, manufacture and function. We all left with a new appreciation for the challenges working and upper class 18th century women faced as participants in the world of 18th century fashion! 

After adjournment, we traveled across the bridge to Newport, RI, location of many of the estates of the nation’s wealthiest families built during the gilded age and toured Rough Point, home of Doris Duke, a tobacco heiress. The mansion was built by the Vanderbilt family in the late 1800’s,  expanded by the Duke family and filled with priceless tapestries, antiques and art.  Located on a spectacular rocky coastal setting, the home has a stunning view of the bay.

Following yet another delicious seafood dinner, I bid farewell to Rhode Island with hopes of returning for a more leisurely visit in the future to explore the many historic treasures.  

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