In the much-publicized 1964/65 New York World’s Fair that featured must-see attractions such as It’s A Small World, Michelangelo’s Pieta, Sinclair Dinoland, the Swiss Sky Ride, and Disney’s Magic Skyway, the fair’s 11 General Foods “Peace Through Understanding” archways weren’t ultimate destinations for fair-goers. However, they did serve a purpose for families and large groups who went their separate ways on the fairgrounds. The arches functioned as a rendezvous spot — a selected site where families and groups would reunite after venturing off on their own. So they were great at bringing people together.
However, when one of those arches showed up at Rocky Point Park in 1966 it was with little or no fanfare. The 60-foot tall arch had replaced a much shorter Art Deco-style arch designed by Jack Ray for the park’s 1948 reopening. That arch is seen in the photo to the left.
As mentioned, it was quietly replaced by a World’s Fair Arch…there is no known press coverage of its arrival in Warwick. But the new/old arch quickly became a Rocky Point Park icon and was a magical sight at night.
After the park closed for good in 1996, the arch seemed to have been lost in the shuffle once again as Rhode Islanders mourned the amusement park’s closing and their focus shifted to departed Flume, House of Horrors, Corkscrew, Shore Dinner Hall, and other popular amusements. Fortunately, the City of Warwick purchased 41-acres of the park property in 2008 and in 2013, the State of Rhode Island acquired the remaining 82 acres. During the comprehensive clean-up of the property, some historic-minded state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) employees highly recommended that the arch and several other structures from the amusement park be retained for future generations to enjoy.
So when Rocky Point State Park opened in October 2014, the arch was standing tall to greet visitors, perhaps more prominent than ever on a new midway with a sweeping field of green.
Time and neglect were not kind to the venerable arch. Raw weather, salt air, and vandals made the icon an eyesore. But the community wasn’t going to stand for it. Instead, they stood up for the arch, to get it restored.
In 2015, the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce launched its Buy a Bucket campaign. Partnering with the Rocky Point Foundation and the City of Warwick, they offered the community the opportunity to sponsor a bucket of paint, large or small. In 2016, the Rhode Island Foundation, as part of their Centennial Community Grants program marking their 100th anniversary, provided grants to each Rhode Island city and town. With that, the Rocky Point Foundation was awarded more than $5,200 to fund a project that would paint and restore the arch. Tim Forsberg of Beacon Communications volunteered his time to complete the grant application. In late September 2016, the newly restored arch was “unveiled” in a public ceremony attended by dignitaries and the community.
Today, visitors to Rocky Point State Park marvel at the site of the arch which serves as a backdrop for the many events held in the park and as stopping point on leisurely summer strolls.
During the winter months, the sun and the snow partner with the arch for this great photo op below.
So when all is said and done, isn’t the arch now performing the same task it did during the 1964/65 New York World Fair…bringing people together? Indeed, it brought the community together to assist in its restoration. And oh, by the way, the Arch is now a must-see attraction — at Rocky Point State Park.
1964/65 World’s Fair Facebook group
Anita Cerri Ferla
You Must Be This Tall movie collection
Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce
To see a video about the arch, go to: