Logo   History of Block Island, Rhode Island
In 1614 a man named Adriaen Block visited a small island off the coast of Rhode Island, and he gave the island his name.

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Slightly over 20 years later a colonist was found in a boat near the island, presumed murdered by the local Pequot Indians, and this unhappy event precipitated a battle between Pequots and colonists which turned out to be very bloody.

A generation later, these events forgotten, settlers from the colony moved onto the island (1661), a settlement was built, and incorporated as the town of New Shoreham in 1672.

Settlers' Rock plaque, Block Island

The official name and incorporation of Block Island is still the Town of New Shoreham. To be scrupulous about it, when you visit Block Island, you are touring the town of New Shoreham.

For almost 200 years the people of New Shoreham lived their quiet lives, fishing in boats from the island's two natural harbors, growing what they could in the sandy and windswept soil.

In the mid-1800s the Age of Steam changed Block Island from a fishermen's outpost in the Atlantic to a summer excursion paradise, with regularly scheduled steamboats bringing residents of the sooty factory cities out for fresh air and bright sunshine.

Late-19th-century frame hotels, sprawling and spacious, went up to accommodate them, and the island's economy came to depend on tourism rather than fishing, and so it has remained.

National Hotel & Block Island Beach House Hotel
National Hotel
& Block Island Beach House Hotel,
Victorian sisters overlooking Old Harbor.

Most of the island's buildings—houses as well as hotels—date from the late 1800s or the turn of the century.

The island's roads are rough and sandy (nobody has to be in a hurry to get quickly from one end of the island to the other—it's only 7 miles); the pace is very relaxed; and the citizens of New Shoreham, which takes up all of the island, have a strong sense of community.

You can read the history of Block Island in the tombstones of its cemetery, best visited on a bicycle tour of the island. More...

Silhouettes on a dock, Block Island

—by Tom Brosnahan

What to See & Do

Block Island Hotels & Inns

Getting to Block Island

Transportation on Block Island

About Block Island

South County RI



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Settlers' Rock, Block Island

Settlers' Rock, with the names of the original European settlers (1661).

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