Block Island Timeline

Year round Manissean Village Site

0500

The Niantic, whose tribe eventually merged with the Narragansett people, called the island “Manisses” (“little island of Manitou”). Archaeological sites indicate these native people lived largely by hunting deer, catching fish and shellfish, and growing corn, beans, and squash. They migrated from forest to coastal areas to take advantage of seasonal resources. Artifacts found in the area suggest that American Indians inhabited the area as far back as 1300 […]..Learn More

Verrazzano sights Island

1529

In 1524, what later became known as Block Island was sighted by Giovanni da Verrazzano, who named it “Claudia”, in honor of Claude, Duchess of Brittany, queen consort of France and the wife of Francis I. However, several contemporaneous maps identified the same island as “Luisa,” after Louise of Savoy, the Queen Mother of France, and the mother of […]..Learn More

Adrian Block Charts BI

1614

In 1614, Block Island was charted by the Dutch explorer Adrian Block, who named it for himself.[18]..Learn More

Endicott Expedition

1637

An expedition from the Boston area arrived in 1636 led by Colonel John Endicott. Due to this event, the island initially became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which in 1658 granted it to a group of four men headed up by Endicott, who had led the expedition. They were avenging the death of Boston […]..Learn More

Europeans Settle BI

1661

In 1661, the Endicott group sold the island to a party of sixteen settlers, led by John Alcock, who are today memorialized at Settler’s Rock, near Cow’s Cove...Learn More

New Shoreham established by Gen.Assembly

1672

Block Island was incorporated by the Rhode Island general assembly in 1672, and the island government adopted the name “New Shoreham.” A Dutch map of 1685 clearly shows Block Island, indicated as Adrian Block Island (“Adriaen Blocks Eylant”).  ..Learn More

Island occupied by Navy

1812

During The War of 1812 Block Island was briefly occupied by the British Navy under the command of Sir Thomas Hardy. British vessels included HMS Dispatch, HMS Terror, HMS Nimrod, HMS Pactolus and HMS Ramillies. Hardy took the fleet to Block Island in search of food and to establish a strategic position at the mouth of Long Island Sound. The British were enraged to discover […]..Learn More

Current North Lighthouse Built

1829

In 1829, the first North Light was built at Sandy Point on the north end of the island.  It was replaced in 1837 after it was washed out to sea. In 1857 a third lighthouse was also claimed by the ocean.  In 1867, the granite block lighthouse that can be seen today was constructed. It is […]..Learn More

Southeast Lighthouse Built

1874

In 1873, construction began on Block Island’s other lighthouse, Southeast Light. ..Learn More

Victorian Resort

1890

Paralleling the growth in the US economy in the late 1800′s, Block Island enjoyed the reputation of a grand Victorian resort from the 1860′s to the 1920′s. Large hotels were built establishing Old Harbor and New Harbor after 1895, as city dwellers from New York, Boston, and Providence escaped the heat and enjoyed summers on […]..Learn More

The fishing fleet

1938

The museum has a unique collection of small framed sketches by the artist Reynolds Beal depicting the island's fishing industry...Learn More

Block Island Historical Society Founded

1942

The three story building with cupola and red straight mansard roof is the headquarters for the Society established in 1942. The House is listed on the Register of Historic Places. The museum building originally known as the Woonsocket House ca. 1871,( a hotel & annex with rooms that were rented until the 1970′s ) was […]..Learn More

Block Island Conservancy Founded

1972

In 1972 the Block Island Conservancy was founded. Capt. Rob Lewis spearheaded this campaign to “Save Open Space”. He was also a member of the Historical Society Board of Directors for many years and was instrumental in having the vision to help the Society launch the plan to move the Southeast Lighthouse away from the […]..Learn More

Southeast Lighthouse Moved

1993

The National Historic Landmark, Southeast Lighthouse(1873) was moved back from the edge of the bluff in 1993, as it was in danger of falling off the Mohegan Bluffs on the southeast side of the island due to extreme and ongoing erosion. An authentic first order Fresnel lens in the tower still sends out a green […]..Learn More

Support Block Island History!

The Society is supported by memberships and donations from people like you — people who love the island and see the value in preserving and celebrating its history. Consider helping our mission by becoming a member or making a donation today.