The Narragansett Pier
Towers & Casino
— Architects: McKim, Mead & White —
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
The 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
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
The Towers burned again in 1965. The State of Rhode Island 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
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Entertainment • Notable Buildings. A significant historical date for this entry is June 11, 1989.
Location. 41° 25.819′ N, 71° 27.304′ W. Marker is in Narragansett, Rhode Island, in Washington County. Marker
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Honor Roll Town of Narragansett World War (approx. 0.7 miles away); a different marker also named Honor Roll Town of Narragansett World War (approx. 0.7 miles away); Carter Jackson Monument (approx. 1.6 miles away); Griffin's Hollow (approx. 2.3 miles away); Pettaquamscutt Rock (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). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Narragansett.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on August 5, 2014, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA. This page has been viewed 570 times since then and 34 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on August 5, 2014, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA. 8, 9. submitted on August 28, 2015. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.