Dock Building, 1965
By Martha Ball
The next to last week in February 2014 a great yellow crane rose over the Old Harbor from its perch on a barge. A tug, all sparkling black and white, with neat tire bumpers along its sides, stayed though storm and sun, all as the bait dock that lies inside the east wall of the harbor, and was a total loss in Superstorm Sandy in the fall of 2012, was rebuilt.
The scene brought to mind more treasure trove photos from the collection of David Hawkins, taken over the winter of 1964-5. The Interstate parking lot was still covered with gravel and pilings for the new wharf were being driven, with a smaller crane and even smaller yet crane than what is there for a lesser job this year. They look so tiny, insignificant, barely up to their task compared to the equipment in place today.
When the plans for the new wharf were posted on the wall of the Post Office, then on Bridgegate Square, people would stop and wonder how it could fit within the confines of those granite walls without pushing everything else out. There were not the ever-growing rafts of summer pleasure boats of today but vessels of the fishing fleet still moored in the haven of the basin. How it could all possibly work was the question asked and all were assured it would as it has proven to many time over that original proposal.
It was a huge happening, it was new construction and we were children, yet it doesn't look like much of a project at all in the photos showing the driving of the first pilings. It would alter the traffic coming to the island in ways some of us never imagined, and would lead to the building of the ramps that would accommodate the big stern loaders we take for granted today. Those ships that would change industry in some ways as much as the original building of the harbor had a century earlier were still over the horizon.
For other photos and the winter boat, Sprigg Carroll, entering the harbor to berth at the old town dock, please go to Gallery 3, Building Dock, at http://block-island.villagesoup.com/p/block-island-historical-society/76307# and click on "more photos."