East Greenwich and The Providence Athenæum

If you’re like me, you prefer the Cheeto Puffs over the crunchies. And if you’re also like me, you adore a good library. We have a lot in common, huh? If you adore a good library, then you’re gonna want to run up to Providence, Rhode Island and spend an afternoon at The Providence Athenæum. It will fill your heart with gladness, take away all your sadness, ease your troubles, that’s what’ll do. It will, in fact, Rod Stewart your ass.

The Providence Athenæum is mere steps from the entrance to Brown University, with such notable alumni as, John D. Rockefeller Jr., a slew of Kennedys, Jeffrey Eugenides (please read Middlesex), Ted Turner, Horace Mann, and most importantly in our house, the reason the picture below was taken, Emma Watson AND John Krasinski.

But The Providence Athenæum is its own kind of wonderful. Our Rhode Island friends wanted to visit since they moved there over the summer, but they were waiting on the right people to visit with. Insert the Goodnights. (Heart swooning noises). The day we visited was a hectic day. Our first day in Rhode Island, and we had a lot to see. We’d had breakfast in their wonderful village of East Greenwich, in a diner inside of an old train car. The diner was called Jiggers and I had the delicious Rhode Island Johnny Cakes!

Then we walked around East Greenwich for a bit. We got to see the old Debters Prison and too many yachts and sailboats to count. We learned that there are two parts of East Greenwich. One side called The Hill and one side called The Harbor and where you live is how you know where you belong. It seemed to me that you either have a million dollar house on The Hill or an $800,000 on The Harbor, but I’m sure there’s more to it than that. And don’t worry, our friends live on The Harbor, which means they are riff-raff and not to be trusted. I think.

Essentially what I learned is that Rhode Island is a different beast. A nicer, more beautiful beast than anywhere else I’ve ever been. All that history. All the salt in the air. All the hills, all the harbors. I was more than impressed. Then they took us to The Providence Athenæum.

Listen, I’ve been in some cool libraries. I’ve been to the Boston Public Library. I’ve been in the reading room of the NYC Library (pic below) not to mention all the other cool, lesser known ones around the country (I like to stop at libraries, okay, geez leave me alone.) But The Providence Athenæum is now my favorite.

It’s not the size, although it is a perfect size. Small enough to fit in a quarter of a square block, but big enough (three floors), and with enough of an impressive collection to spend a whole day. It’s the accessibility, the welcoming nature of the place. Oh, and dogs are allowed, so there’s that. Before I get into the history of the place, here’s some a lot of pics for your viewing pleasure.

Okay, so why is The Providence Athenæum so freaking awesome? Great question! The history of the library goes like this. In 1753, Providence had a library called the Providence Library Company. They also had a second library, not connected to the Providence Library Company, called Providence Athenæum. They didn’t like each other, go figure (they were both managed by men, so…) In 1836 they agreed to dissolve both libraries and merge together as one, which is now known as The Providence Athenæum. They ended up merging their collections, which was a great idea, and by 1850 they were the library in Providence.

In 1872 the library hired its first female employee, an assistant librarian named Mary Angell, and she started work on the card catalog that still sits on the main floor! After Mary left the library, Grace Leonard, the library’s first female head librarian (who worked there for 46 years) reclassified the whole catalog in accordance with the Dewey decimal system. With over 56,000 volumes, it took her 13 years. More can be found about the history and these women at The Ath’s website.

The Ath, its colloquial name, has hosted many prominent writers, artists, and thinkers in American history, including Edgar Allen Poe and his lost love, Sarah Helen Whitman, an amazing poet in her own right. In fact, Whitman broke up with Poe at The Ath and it’s said that Poe haunts the top floor. I was on the lookout, but didn’t see him. Maybe next time! Others who have lingered the stacks include, H.P Lovecraft, Thomas Hopkins Webb, and Francis Whipple, among other “scribbling women” according to Nathaniel Hawthorne. I found a wonderful article by Jane Lancaster on the colorful history of The Ath if you are as interested as I am.

So there you have it, some of it anyway. The history, the mystic, the lovely architecture, and the amazing collection of The Ath, which is just a hop, skip, and jump from Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, so if you ever find yourself on Federal Hill, maybe yonder over and check it out. You won’t be disappointed!

M.

Newport News

Keeping with the theme of Rhode Island this week, I wanted to share some more of our pictures from our trip up North today. Of course, by “up North” I mean a million different places in the span of eight days, but if we break it up into little chunks it’s easier to digest. Kinda like how I used to get Jackson to eat his green beans. You don’t want to over-mash them, but you also don’t want to slop a handful of full beans on his high chair tray, you know. No slopping.

Anywho, this week I will tell you a little bit about our time in Providence and East Greenwich, but today my focus is Beavertail State Park and Newport. Or sunsets and mansions, as you’ll come to see. We’d never been to Newport before because well, we’d never been to Rhode Island before. You see, if you go to Rhode Island, you can absolutely hit all the hot spots in one day. How do I know? Because we did.

Rhode Island, officially the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, is a small state. In fact, it is the smallest US state by area, yet the second most densely populated. It was among the first Thirteen Colonies, and fourth to have ratified the Articles of Confederation in 1778. It was also the first colony to prohibit slavery (1652), as well as the first colony to declare independence from Britain on May 4, 1776. This is to say that there is a lot of history in Rhode Island, and in my opinion their history is overlooked, more often in favor of the connecting states of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Rhode Island is nicknamed “The Ocean State” probably because of its over 400 miles of beautiful and bountiful coastline. And though the lobster pots are abundant, the views were the winner in my book. Here, take a look at the sunset at Beavertail State Park and Lighthouse in Jamestown.

No idea where the kids were, but absolutely stunning views amiright?! And that is just the sunset. We also had a little bit of time to see The Breakers (though the tour was behind, so we didn’t go inside). The Breakers is a Vanderbilt Mansion nestled on Ochre Point Avenue in Newport, butting up against the beautiful campus of Salve Regina University, which funnily enough offers an MFA program. Hmm… Anyway, The Breakers was originally built as a summer home for Cornelius Vanderbilt II between 1835 and 1837. And it was quickly decided that I should have been born a Vanderbilt. Duh. Although we didn’t take the tour (something to do next time), we did get to walk the grounds and the area along the coast called The Cliff Walk, which is actually a 3.5 mile public walkway that borders the shoreline and gives you exquisite views of The Breakers and other mansions that I should probably live in. Here, have a gander.

A nice drive through the streets of Newport, led to some interesting stories, some fantastic spots to visit when it’s more than 40 degrees outside, and history that I wasn’t expecting. Not only were JFK and Jackie O. married there, but Newport boasts the very first tavern and Quaker neighborhoods with quaint houses, just enough to remind you that not everyone there was a millionaire. Oh and just for posterity, here are some cool shots from our ride to Beavertail from Newport, with the Claiborne Pell/Newport Bridge behind us.

We ended the night back near where we started, in East Greenwich, at a little joint called The Shanty, where I had the best pork medallions ever (I stole them off Dave’s plate) and my first clams. Yummy!

So do you want to visit Rhode Island yet?! Sure you do! Just get yourself your own Little Rhody’s cause you can’t have ours!

M.

New Year’s Vacation Story

I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking what the hell, Missy? You never told us all about your awesome New Year’s vacation. Well here’s the thing, I planned on telling you all, in parts, but I didn’t want to bombard you with too much too fast because I care about you, and because there was much more pressing stuff to discuss, like my neighbor Randy. But here it is, the beginning of the New Year’s Vacation story. It is long, and it is sordid, but I promise it is fun, so let’s just dive right in.

A couple of months ago our friends Dave, Beth, and Morgan asked if we would like to come visit them this winter in Rhode Island. Now I know that seems like a shitty thing to do, at first glance. Like, “Hey, we live up North, where the snow comes, and the cold comes, and the frostbite is likely to set in, would you like to come up and slowly die with us?” But, because of global warming, and because we have never visited that area (and they have been to Atlanta a lot) it turned out to be a nice invitation. So we accepted.

(This could all be wrong. We could have forced our way up there, I just don’t remember. I think I was drinking wine when the idea came up.)

Anyway, they have a group they celebrate New Year’s with in Syracuse, so we were also invited to join that group, which meant we would be leaving Atlanta for Syracuse on or near the 28th of December. Well I started Googling things, as I do, and realized that we have never been to Western New York, and you all know how much I like Buffalo wings, which led me to Buffalo, which led me to Niagara Falls, which led me to Canada, which led me to Toronto, and I know what you are thinking, “That’s too much, Missy, stop, you’ll kill your family!” Ha, you’re right. Also, here are pics of us in Buffalo eating wings, in freezing weather at Niagara Falls, and in downtown Toronto.

No worries, they are still alive.

I’m feeling scatterbrained about all that we accomplished in one week, and honestly, honestly, it was a really fun trip, though incredibly advantageous. And Jerimiah and I had the flu the whole time which made things not as lovely as we would have hoped, but even through all that, through 3,000 miles, 15 states, two countries, four hotels, 15 friends, a train ride, and a partridge in a pear tree, we had a superb time and we would totally do it all over again! Whew!

All the cool shit we did is going to have to wait now because I am tired just writing it all out. I will however leave you with a video. I do this fun thing wherein I sing a geographically-actuate song to Jerimiah on long road trips. He really, ahem, loves it. And believe me I had a lot of songs to sing this time around. Please enjoy.

M.

West Virginia Song