“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Narragansett in Washington County, Rhode Island — The American Northeast (New England)

The Narragansett Pier

Towers & Casino


—Architects: McKim, Mead & White —

The Narragansett Pier Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, July 19, 2014
1. The Narragansett Pier Marker
Inscription. 1883-1886
The Towers is one of the most highly visible, widely known, and universally cherished landmarks in the state of Rhode Island. It recalls Narragansett Pier’s heyday as one of the foremost seaside resorts of nineteenth-century America, the destination of scores of tourist each summer from throughout the Northeast, the South, and the Midwest. Its picturesque form, monumental scale, and dramatic location create a striking image which symbolizes Narragansett in the minds of thousands of residents and visitors.

This imposing structure was originally only a part of a much larger building: the Narragansett Casino. The Casino was constructed between 1883 and 1886 for the Narragansett Casino Corporation, following designs by Charles F. McKim of the New York architectural firm McKim, Mead & White.

The Casino Corporation was formed by leading summer and year-round residents for the purpose of building and maintaining a gathering place for recreational actives, and social events.

McKim, Mead & White, architects of the earlier Newport Casino and a growing number of stylish cottages in Atlantic coastal resorts, was at the time well on its way to becoming the most prominent and influential American architectural firm of the era. The Narragansett Casino has been recognized by scholars as one of the firm’s finest achievements.


The Narragansett Pier Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, July 19, 2014
2. The Narragansett Pier Marker
Casino occupied the largest plot, which is today Memorial Park. It consisted of two buildings; a rambling S-shaped stone and wood-shingle structure along Ocean road and Exchange Street and a small structure backing up to Mathewson Street. The wing paralleling Ocean Road, including the western portion of the Towers, and the separate Mathewson Street building were erected in 1883-4; the Exchange Street wing, eastern part of the Towers, and arch over Ocean Road were completed in 1885-6. The stonework, executed under the direction of the well-known South County mason Kneekand Parelow, Includes rock taken from the old breakwater nearby North Pier. The design of the building was inspired by late medieval French architecture, especially the farm complexes and manor houses of rural Normandy and Brittany. The architect stove to achieve and ancient appearance. The original roof shingles were laid in uneven wavy rows to give the impression that they had been battered by winds. It is said that McKim himself climbed up on the roof when it was finished and pried off some shingles to make the building look more weather-beaten.

The main building of the Casino including stores (rented out for income), dining rooms, cafes, parlors, a billiard room, a reading room, and an assembly hall used both as a theatre and a ballroom. The Towers served as the monumental main entrance to the Casino, with

The Narragansett Towers and Casino (Artist Rendering) circa 1898 image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, July 19, 2014
3. The Narragansett Towers and Casino (Artist Rendering) circa 1898
View from the South Plan of the Second Floor of the Casino
an open-air café above the archway over the Ocean Road. The Mathewson Street structure contained a bowling alley and shooting gallery. Between the buildings were lawn tennis courts surrounded by grounds designed by the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

After its completion, the Casino changed the tone of Narragansett Pier and became the center of social life for the summer colony. People were expected to appear –and be seen – at lunch or dinner or evening dances. The Casino was popular with well-to-do, fashion conscious visitors. However, those of more modest income or temperament associated the Casino with extravagant pretentious or frivolous behavior.

On 12 September 1900, called by one man “the darkest and saddest day the pier has ever experienced” a great fire started in the Rockingham Hotel, north of the Towers, and swept the Exchange Street area. It destroyed the Casino, leaving only the stone Towers. The ruins were repaired in 1908-9 under the direction of Providence architect J. Howard Adams. The Towers remained vacant until 1924, when it was leased from the Sherry Casino Company and opened as a ballroom. The 1930’s brought the great depression, and the Towers remained vacant until 1963, When a snack bar was opened on the ground floor of the east tower.

The Towers burned again in 1965. The State of Rhode Island

The Narragansett Pier Marker image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, July 19, 2014
4. The Narragansett Pier Marker
then purchased the structure and deeded it to the Town of Narragansett, finally bringing this structure which long served as an emblem of the town into public ownership. It is fortunate that this evocative relic survives to illustrate and memorialize Narragansett’s romantic past.

Narragansett Historical Society Sallie Wharton Latimer, President Board of Trustees Leona McElroy Kelley Marjorie J. Vogel Lynne D. Anderson Douglas M Vogel Patricia French Knowles Bethanne Dressel-Hostetter

Dedicated June 11, 1989 The Honorable Claudine Schneider The United States House of Representatives Antoinette F. Downing Chairwoman, Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission Timothy P. Haxton President, Narragansett Town Council

The National Register of Historic Place, 1969 The 100th Anniversary of the Narragansett District Incorporation, 1888-1988
Location. 41° 25.819′ N, 71° 27.304′ W. Marker is in Narragansett, Rhode Island, in Washington County. Marker is on Ocean Road. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 35 Ocean Rd, Narragansett RI 02882, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Carter Jackson Monument (approx. 1.6 miles away); Pettaquamscutt Rock

Beach, Narragansett Pier, R.I. image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, July 19, 2014
5. Beach, Narragansett Pier, R.I.
(approx. 2.8 miles away); Whale Rock Lighthouse (approx. 3.2 miles away); The Assistant Keeper's House (approx. 3.2 miles away); The West Passage to Narragansett Bay (approx. 3.2 miles away); Foundation of the Original Beavertail Lighthouse (approx. 3.2 miles away); History of the Beavertail Light Station (approx. 3.2 miles away); The 1749 Foundation (approx. 3.2 miles away).
Categories. EntertainmentNotable Buildings
Casino at Narragansett Pier Rhode Island image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, July 19, 2014
6. Casino at Narragansett Pier Rhode Island
The Narragansett Pier Today image. Click for full size.
By Sandra Hughes, July 19, 2014
7. The Narragansett Pier Today
<i>Dining Room of Casino, Narragansett Pier, R.I.</i> image. Click for full size.
circa 1900
8. Dining Room of Casino, Narragansett Pier, R.I.
<i>The Casino, Narragansett Pier</i> image. Click for full size.
Postcard by the Detroit Publishing Company, 1899
9. The Casino, Narragansett Pier
During the “Gay Nineties” The Narragansett Pier Casino functioned at the heart of life in Narragansett. “The Pier” ranked as one of America’s most-prestigious resorts. The Casino offered boating, billiards, bowling, cards, shooting, tennis and other sports. Further diversions included restaurants, stores, reading rooms, a theater, a bandstand and a ballroom. “Bathing” at the beach was limited to an hour or two midmorning before luncheon at the Casino. Dancing at one of the Casino’s frequent evening “hops” included “promenades” across The Towers arch. -

(Image courtesy of the Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Sandra Hughes of Killen, Usa. This page has been viewed 259 times since then and 74 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on , by Sandra Hughes of Killen, Usa.   8, 9. submitted on . • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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