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Perry good time

Former mill town thrives on its history and its beaches

South Kingston, R.I.
Kingston Free Library's building was originally a meeting place for the state's General Assembly in 1776. (Paul E. Kandarian for the Boston Globe)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Paul E. Kandarian
Globe Correspondent / March 19, 2008

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I.
DISTANCE FROM BOSTON: 81 miles
POPULATION: 31,000
WEBSITE: southkingstownri.com
ODD FACT: Kenyon Corn Meal Co. in the village of Usquepaugh is the state's second-oldest continually operating business. (Newport's White Horse Tavern is the oldest.)

Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, born in this seaside town in 1785, was a hero of the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812, defeating a British fleet and sending his famous message to Washington: "We have met the enemy, and he is ours." There are 14 villages in South Kingstown, including Wakefield and Peace Dale, the most populous ones, Usquepaugh (pronounced use-kwa-pahg), the most difficult to say, and Perryville, where visitors can find the Perry family burial plot, although the hero himself is in Newport. Once a thriving mill village, South Kingstown is best known for being the home of the University of Rhode Island (in the village of Kingston) and for its beaches. Of the latter, Moonstone Beach attracted attention a few decades ago for catering to nude sunbathers. It is now a federally protected preserve, so clothing there is no longer optional - it is mandatory.

Spend
Given that it's a university town, it makes sense that the village of Kingston houses a classic old bookstore, The Kingston Hill Store (2528 Kingstown Road, 401-792-8662, abgbooks.com). Housed in a former general store dating to 1897, the store features rare and antique books, prints, postcards, and more. Toward the outskirts of town, you'll find Peter Pots Pottery (494 Glen Rock Ridge Road, 401-783-2350, peterpots.com), maker of dinnerware for more than a half century in the 1779 Glen Rock Mill. A distinctively Rhode Island entity is the Kenyon Corn Meal Co. (21 Glen Rock Road, Usquepaugh, 401-783-4054, kenyonsgristmill.com), where corn meal has been made since the early 1700s. At Kenyon's grist mill they use a massive grinding wheel to mill corn flour, the main ingredient in the Rhode Island specialty, the johnny cake. Stock up here or buy it in stores throughout the state. Come, browse, sit, play, sing, strum, and get musical at Wakefield Music Co., (58 Main St., 401-783-5390, wakefieldmusic.com), which sells everything from guitars, keyboards, and band instruments to various string and percussion folk instruments. Get a little spirit into your shopping at All That Matters (315 Main St., Wakefield, 401-781-2126, allthat matters.com), one of the biggest yoga and holistic health centers in New England with more than 40 yoga programs and a store that sells Prana yoga wear, and Dr. Haushka Skincare and Korres Bodycare products. Looking for used stuff? Check out Second Hand Rose (355 Main St., 401-284-1866), seller of consignment goods, including antiques, furniture, and art work, and Cheshire Cats Consignment (333 Main St., Wakefield, 401-792-0035). From there weave your way to Weedweavers of Wakefield (56 Columbia Road, Wakefield, 401-789-1453, weedweavers .com), a floral design and garden center.

Do
South Kingstown is a mecca for the cultural and historical minded. In the village of Kingston, you have a wealth of both within walking distance. The Kingston Free Library (2605 Kingstown Road, 401-783-8254, skpl.org) began life as a meeting place for the state's General Assembly in 1776. Walk out of the library and take a left to get to the South County Art Association Gallery (2587 Kingstown Road, 401-783-2195, southcountyart.org), home to a wonderful free display of local and regional art. To the right and just past College Road you'll find the dark, spooky, and richly historic Old Washington County Jail (2636 Kingstown Road, 401-783-1328, free webs.com/pettaquamscutt). Home of the Pettaquamscutt Historical Society, the jail building (1858) and jailer's residence (1861) offer a genealogical research library, a close look at prisoner quarters used until 1956, and displays from 17th- and 18th-century South County. The Courthouse Center for the Arts (3481 Kingstown Road, 401-782-1018, courthousearts.org) is a community arts center located in the Washington County Courthouse built in 1896. The nonprofit professional artists cooperative Hera Educational Foundation/Hera Gallery (327 Main St., Wakefield, 401-789-1488, heragallery.org) began in 1974 with a focus on women artists but has grown into a much broader venue for artists of both sexes. In West Kingston you'll find the Great Swamp Monument on Route 2, commemorating the Great Swamp Fight, a massacre of Narragansett Indians by colonists in 1675. Museums abound, including the Museum of Primitive Art and Culture (1058 Kingstown Road, 401-783-5711, primitiveartmuseum.org), founded in 1892 and housing some 5,000-plus archeological and ethnological objects from around the globe. College sports fans will enjoy the International Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame and Museum (3045 Kingstown Road, 401-874-2405, internationalsport.com/sa_hof), part of the URI Institute of International Sport which this year is scheduled to host the US Scholar-Athlete Games from June 28 to July 5. Theater lovers shouldn't miss Theatre by the Sea (364 Cards Pond Road, 401-782-8587, theatrebythesea.com), home of popular summer theater since the Depression, or Cornerstone Playhouse (213 Robinson St., Wakefield, 401-284-1850, thetruebrewcafe.com), a true community theater located in a historic sawmill building.

Rest
Beautiful places to bed down abound in South Kingstown, one of the most picturesque being Silver Lake Cottage (361 Woodruff Ave., 401-782-3745, silverlakecottage .com, rooms $165-$195), an elegant lakefront restored Colonial Revival home. Near URI is Kings Rose Bed and Breakfast (1747 Moorsfield Road, 401-783-5222, virtual cities.com/ons/ri/s/ris8701.htm, rooms $150-$175), on the National Register of Historic Places with a majestic English garden. Also of historical note are Admiral Dewey Inn (668 Matunuck Beach Road, 401-783-2090, admiraldeweyinn.com, rooms $110-$160 ), an 1898 Victorian beach hotel; Sugar Loaf Hill B&B (607 Main St., Wakefield, 401-789-8715, sugarloafhillbandb.com, rooms $110-$155), the original portion of which was built in 1720; and Eden Manor (154 Post Road, Wakefield, 401-792-8234, rooms $125-$225), a 26-room Victorian mansion.

Fuel
An 1888 pumping station that once served the town's villages is now the Pump House Restaurant (1464 Kingstown Road, 401-789-4944, pumphouse ri.com), which offers a number of seafood entrees around $18. For the cocktail connoisseur, you can't beat Mews Tavern (456 Main St., 401-783-9370, mewstavern.com), home of the "Wee Dram" Scotch Club, whose members get the opportunity to try more than 200 scotches and a personalized notebook to jot down their findings . . . while they can still jot. Oh, the burgers and gourmet pizzas are great, too. For a quick snack, give Java Madness a try (134 Salt Pond Road, 401-788-0088, javamadness .com). It's a terrific little breakfast and lunch place smack dab on Great Salt Pond with deck dining overlooking Stone Cove Marina.

Play
When warm weather comes, South Kingstown's beaches are the places to play. East Matunuck State Beach (401-789-8585, riparks.com/eastmatunuck.htm) is noted for its strong surf, futuristic pavilion, and gigantic parking lots. Privately owned Roy Carpenter's Beach (240 Card Pond Road, 401-783-7418) features moderate-to-heavy surf and is adjacent to the South Kingstown Town Beach on the fringe of Matunuck (and the town's official public beach). Another popular cool-down spot is Worden's Pond Family Campground (416 Worden's Pond Road, 401-789-9113), located on the largest freshwater pond in the state. The William C. O'Neill Bike Path (401-783-8886, southcounty.com/bikepath) connects South Kingstown villages with Narragansett Pier to the east with a 5.6-mile-long paved path that starts at the historic Kingston Train Station (trainweb.org/kin).

Party
There are two prime party places in town. Sham Rocks (733 Kingstown Road, 401-782-6700, shamrocksri.com) is a place where, on Monday nights, if you manage to eat sixty 20-cent wings, you get a T-shirt - and presumably a killer case of heartburn. Conveniently located for the thirsty between URI and the beaches, Sham Rocks boasts the largest dance floor in the area, and local bands and headliners alike. Ocean Mist (895 Matunuck Beach Road, Wakefield, 401-782-3740, oceanmist.net), is the other party place, and one that calls itself "just a beach bar." Fairly accurate, that, since it is right on the beach and offers one of the best party vistas in the state.

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