Used to be There

Used to be There

You can get there, but you'll need to know your history.

Narragansett Hotel, circa 1890
The Narragansett Hotel, built in 1878, once stood on Dorrance, Weybosset, and Eddy Streets. It was demolished in 1960. (P.H. Rose, circa 1890).

Whether you're already a Rhode Islander, or just want to annoy people like one, giving directions based on things that are no longer there is fundamental. A classic Rhode Island set of directions goes something like this: "Go down the road a mile, and take a left where the Dinner Bell Diner used to be."

But why do we do this, many lost and frustrated outsiders ask? It could be because our history of urban architecture goes back further than that of states to our west, like, say, California. Or it might be that our population is statistically older than that of most other states in the Union, resulting in a longer and deeper collective memory. Or maybe we're just stubborn as rocks.

One thing's for sure, we don't move around much. It's often said, with something akin to pride, that a Rhode Islander won't cross the Jamestown and Newport bridges without packing an overnight bag. We've heard of folks who have lived their whole lives in Warwick without ever visiting Providence, a mere ten minutes away. With so much time spent within a ten-mile radius of one's home, one gets used to things as they are, even when they're no longer there.

It's even possible for a Rhode Island resident to give directions based on places that never existed in his or her lifetime. These cultural touchstones are passed down from generation to generation, like cherished keepsakes. But they aren't only kept in private collections within families, something only insiders may admire. No, they are very generously shared with anyone in need of directions.

If you weren't lucky enough to be born in Rhode Island, or if you haven't lived here long enough to build up your own store of invisible landmarks, don't despair. We're here to help. Below we'll be listing some Rhode Island travel destinations that have gone by the wayside. We encourage you to become familiar with them, to use them in your everyday life. Pay attention and you too can confidently tell your out-of-state friends to "take a left where Custy's used to be..." Come with us and remember, or discover, what once was.

Big Coffee Mug
1065 Eddie Dowling Highway, (Route 146), North Smithfield

Bishop's 4th Street Diner
184 Admiral Kalbfus Road, Newport

Canonicus Boulder Monument
Sachem's Glen (near Ridge Walk), North Burial Ground, Providence
Hoyle Square (intersection of Westminster and Cranston Streets), Providence
Dedicated September 21, 1883, in honor of the eponymous Native American leader, the 3,000 pound stone was moved to a traffic island in the middle of Hoyle Square in the 1980s, then disappeared in the mid-'90s. Where is it now?

The Castle Luncheonette
420 Social Street, Woonsocket.

Cavalieri's Wood Street Bakery
366 Wood Street, Bristol.

Crosswalk to Nowhere
Cucumber Hill Road, Foster.

Fort Independence
Fields Point, Providence.

Fort Therapy
Mohegan Bluffs, Block Island.

The Llama Farma
202 Nate Whipple Highway, Cumberland
The Llama Farma raised llamas and alpacas, and sold products made from their wool. More importantly, you could hire a llama out as a pack animal for a day hike. The business folded in 2000 or 2001.

Ocean State Plaza, Richmond
This was a museum, gift shop, and information center run by Dennis and Ann Bossack who were more than your usual UFO kooks: Ann's father was Budget and Fiscal Officer at Roswell Army Air Field in 1947 when the Roswell Incident allegedly took place. The storefront operation, which was located at the left end of the plaza, survived only a very short time, closing in mid-2001.

The Warwick Musical Theatre aka The Tent
522 Quaker Lane (Route 2), Warwick
The Tent operated from 1955 to 1999, showcasing countless musicians, comedians, and theatrical productions. Competition from larger venues and the Connecticut casinos forced it to close. The theatre was demolished in June 2002, and as of 2022 the site was occupied by a Lowes.

The Wickford Rotary
Route 4, North Kingstown
The Wickford Rotary, built in the 1950s, was located at the point where Routes 2 and 102 (South County Trail/Ten Rod Road) now pass beneath Route 4. Deemed a traffic bottle neck and a safety hazard, it was removed in 1988 as part of the Route 4 bypass project and replaced with a modified cloverleaf.

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