July 15, 2024

Green Jacket Shoal


The Providence Journal (Saturday, July 23) contained a letter to the editor from Warren-based sailor, Michael F. Geisser, who opined that the submerged historically-significant resources on the Providence River’s Green Jacket Shoal, adjacent to East Providence’s Bold Point Park, are the main part of a “visitor-investor-damaging view” and “an eyesore and derelict area” that needs to be cleaned up.

What Mr. Geisser failed to mention was that this shipyard occupied all of Bold Point, had a marine railway and RI’s first floating dry dock, was the site where the last of Providence’s merchant sailing and steam vessels were built and serviced, employed a local workforce from the adjacent Watchemoket neighborhood, and was a vitally important element of Providence Harbor’s working waterfront for 35 years (1884-1919), a period coinciding with the city’s developmental apex as one of New England’s busiest industrial ports.

In 2015, Green Jacket Shoal was the focus of an intensive year-long marine archaeological survey funded by RI Sea Grant. The study concluded that rather than being just a random collection of pilings and debris, the site was a unique and with the intact hull remains of 29 wooden ships (comprising six different vessel classes), and a large, tuning-fork-shaped pattern of pier remains associated with RI’s first floating dry dock. Ten of these vessels have been identified, the most famous being two large side-wheel paddle-steamers, Bay Queen (1865-1902) and Mount Hope (1888-1934), which operated on Narragansett Bay and RI Sound for 37 and 46 years, respectively. Both of these steamers were serviced in the yard’s floating dry dock, and one of the ten identified vessels at the site (the steamer Corsair) was built in the shipyard at Bold Point.

In 2018, the RI State Review Board and RI Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission determined the site to be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. That same year, the RI Coastal Resource Management Council designated the site a Marine Protected Area in its update of the Bay Special Area Management Plan.

There are relatively few historical wooden “ship graveyards” scattered along the East Coast. It is noteworthy that the submerged cultural resources at Green Jacket Shoal are the sole sources of detailed information about the shipyard and the working vessels that are preserved there (e.g., their design, their construction, the materials used in their hulls, and the American ingenuity and knowledge that was applied to their building and maintenance).

It is the hope of preservationists in East Providence that the Green Jacket Shoal site will one day be listed in the Register.

For a summary of the marine archaeological assessment that was done at the site, please visit: www.ephist.org  and go to the Nov 2016 Gazette entitled “GJS: the Case for National register Status”. A copy of URI’s full archaeological report on the site is available at: https://repository.library.noaa.gov/view/noaa/43377/noaa_43377_DS1.pdf 


The East Providence Historic District Commission


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