Rocky Point’s Pier Group

With the announcement of the start of construction of a new pier at Rocky Point State Park,  let’s take a look back at vital role that piers, wharfs and docks played at the former Rocky Point amusement park over the decades.

Rocky Point’s first wharf was installed in about 1850, some three years after the park opened.  When Captain William Winslow, a steamboat captain, purchased the land in 1847, he would transfer his passengers from his steamboat to the shore of Rocky Point via shallow draft schooners or small boats.  Obviously, this was light years before the trolley and car, so the Narragansett Bay was the best way to access Rocky Point.

Courtesy of Back In Time America
Courtesy of the Office of the Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea

The Rocky Point Hotel, believed to have been built in 1870, had its own pier.  The building was destroyed by fire in 1883.

Hotel 1875
Rocky Point Hotel in 1875. Courtesy of Back in Time: Rhode Island edition
Rocky Point in 1878


Entering the 1900s, even more piers, wharfs and docks began to dot the Rocky Point shoreline.  One of the more popular piers, below, took disembarking passengers  to the Waterfront Carousel and the Spanish Fandango Wheel (Ferris Wheel).


1899 PPL
1889.  Courtesy of the Providence Public Library

1905. Courtesy of the Providence Public Library
Dock Rocky Point, RI
Rocky Point in 1906


With the advent of the trolley and later the automobile, the need of boat excursions to Rocky Point Park began to decrease.  By the early 1930s, the park’s shoreline had only one long pier, although many of the structures such as the Utopia Dance Hall and the Shore Dinner Hall, were built on piers over the Bay.


Rocky Point in 1932.  Providence Journal photo.

The hurricane of 1938 leveled anything sitting on the Rocky Point shoreline.  However, it didn’t mark the end of the park’s piers.  When Rocky Point reopened after a 10-year hiatus in the spring of 1948, a new pier was under construction.  Notice the crane over the pier in the top, left-hand corner.

Rocky Point Park’s soft opening in June 1948. Providence Journal photo.

When completed, the new, multi-purpose pier offered boat rides and limited drop off and pick up for private excursions.  It also hosted fishing tournaments, although random fishing was not permitted.

(Photo credit: Carmel Vitullo)
Courtesy of Anita Cerri Ferla and the You Must Be This Tall move collection.
Courtesy of Anita Cerri Ferla and the You Must Be This Tall move collection.

When I was a youngster in the mid-1960s, a family friend had a yacht named “The Seven C’s” which was docked in Bristol. The yacht would take us across the Bay to Rocky Point and let us off at the end of the dock, such as the yacht in the photo above. I think it would anchor off-shore and wait for our scheduled return from the midway. Thinking back on this experience, it was a lot quicker and more enjoyable than driving from the East Bay area to Rocky Point by car. The only downside of the Bay voyage was seeing the ruins of the Shore Dinner Hall that was destroyed by the 1954 hurricane. These ruins were still standing into the late 1960s, serving as an ghostly warning not to construct future halls on piers over the Bay. The Shore Dinner Hall that we all enjoyed was built on higher ground in 1956.

Rocky Point in 1968: In a frame from the movie “Tales of Rocky Point Park”, an unoccupied Ford Mustang is pulled from the Bay near the ruins of the Shore Dinner Hall (1948 to 1954). You can see the pier in the background.

I’m not sure of the exact date of the closing of the pier, but I believe it was well before the park’s 1996 shuttering.  I seem to recall it being barricaded off in the late 1980s.  Over the years, the pier’s ruins have made for some breath-taking photos.

Courtesy of Tim Forsberg
Rocky-Point-Pier-at-Dawn-3-Mike-Dooley (1)
Mike Dooley photography


The pier ruins are a popular stop along the Rocky Point State Park walking path.

So that’s the history, to date, of Rocky Point Park’s “pier group”.   Soon, the City of Warwick and the State of Rhode Island will welcome, to Rocky Point State Park, a new member into this venerable gathering!

For more info on the new pier, check this out!

Rendering by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management



Cover image is courtesy of Sean McMahon.