Historic signs, bus structures coming to Esmond and Georgiaville

Historic signs, bus structures coming to Esmond and Georgiaville

Town Planner Michael Phillips wrote the grant for the two historic signs that will be put in Esmond and Georgiaville. The grant also will cover bus structures designed to look like historic train stations.

SMITHFIELD – Gilded green signs signifying the historic villages of Esmond and Georgiaville were completed last week thanks to a joint effort between the Smithfield Historic Preservation Commission and Town Planner Michael Phillips.

Phillips said he wrote the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation Main Street Rhode Island Streetscape grant that brought $11,075 to the town for signage and new bus structures designed with history mind. He said he then turned to SHPC vice-Chairman Ben Caisse, who was integral to getting the project done.

Caisse said Phillips was receptive to input by the commission and agreed to the design that was based off signage at the Smith-Appleby House. He said a similar design creates continuity within Smithfield and its historic villages.

The Main Street grant was written specifically for the villages of Georgiaville and Esmond.

Also included in the grant is the construction of bus shelters at existing RIPTA bus stops in Esmond and Georgiaville, with Esmond’s done first. Again, Phillips agreed with a design co-developed with SHPC Chairman Robert Leach.

Caisse said the bus stops will be designed to look like the old Smithfield railroad station, once located at the corner of Brayton Road and Farnum Pike, restored by and located at the Smith-Appleby house.

“The bus shelter is going to be a very simplified design of those stations,” Caisse said.

He said once completed, he hopes to be able to put historic photos inside the bus shelters.

Caisse said the historic mill villages are tight on space, and the new signs are designed to be narrow in keeping with those limitations.

The sign design took longer than Caisse expected, he concedes, and each detail such as color, size, and font were carefully considered. He said the town wanted to use a material that looked like wood and would stand up to the New England weather.

Caisse decided to have Hub-Federal Sign Company based in Providence and owned by Smithfield resident William Bennell create the sign.

“It was a lot more in-depth process for what you ultimately see as a sign,” Caisse said.

The Esmond sign will be installed in two weeks in Esmond Park at the corner of Farnum Pike and Esmond Street, Caisse said.

The Georgiaville sign will be installed on Whipple Avenue between Fenwood Avenue and Higgins Street, though the final location has not been determined yet.

Caisse said he hopes to get funding to install additional signs in other historic villages, including Greenville, Spragueville and Mountaindale.

Caisse said Town Council President Suzy Alba and Councilor and SHPC liaison Maxine Cavanagh are very supportive of the project. He said the SHPC and Town Council are working together to secure funding for future projects.

In a separate effort, four historic signs will be installed at Esmond Park, Georgiaville Beach and at the Stump Pond boat ramp and dam next spring. The signs will educate the public about the historic role the river played in the industrial development of the town and include historic photos.

Caisse, a teacher, said great things are happening with historic preservation in Smithfield.

He said SHPC will host a professional development workshop on Jan. 4 for teachers in Smithfield to introduce them to lesson plans based on the town’s industrial history and the role of water power.

Teachers will be given access to curriculum material and physical artifacts they can use to help students touch and experience local history, Caisse said.

“We are always trying to bring preservation to Smithfield. It’s just a matter of time and manpower,” Caisse said.