MAIN LIN North Gate reopens pic

The North Gate tollhouse, home to the Blackstone Valley Historical Society, is opening again to the public. (Breeze photo Nicole Dotzenrod)

LINCOLN – North Gate, home of the Blackstone Valley Historical Society, is preparing to open its doors again for public programming, welcoming visitors back for the first time in more than a year.

Several events are on the docket, starting with this Saturday’s Great Road Day, during which 10 historical sites across town will be open for free admission.

The circa-1807 North Gate Toll House, located at 1873 Old Louisquisset Pike, is a prominent building with a storied past.

“Many pass by this building every day, but they don’t know it’s history,” said Susan Clark, of BVHS. “It’s sort of that hidden treasure.”

The first portion of the building was originally constructed as a tollgate and toll collector’s residence.

That’s right: Long, long before the days of the E-Z pass, travelers on the Louisquisset Turnpike (now called Old Louisquisset Pike) would have stopped at North Gate to pay their way forward.

The dirt road was well-traveled, connecting Providence to the Lime Rock area of Lincoln where limestone quarries proliferated.

“When they developed the Louisquisset pike, they wanted a better way than Great Road to bring products, mostly lime, into the cities,” Clark said.

The cost of the toll depended on the mode of transportation. It was half a penny for a goat, but up to 40 cents for a cart.

The original building, which had one spare room for overnight guests, was expanded at the turn of the 18th century. In the mid-1800s, North Gate was accommodating more overnight travelers as the Lime Rock Hotel.

Around 1904, North Gate became a community hub when it was purchased and repurposed as a farmer’s grange called Lime Rock Grange #22. Still today, Clark said longtime Lincoln residents refer to the building as “the grange.”

In 1971, the two-story building was sold to BVHS for $1, and has been a fitting home for the group ever since.

Its rooms have sat quietly for the past year, with the pandemic canceling programming. Clark said BVHS is excited to open North Gate again from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday as part of the annual Great Road Day.

There will be a special exhibit on “the papers of Arnold Jenckes,” including bills, receipts, paid “IOU’s,” a running tab at a general store, his commission as captain of the militia, and lists of the members of his company.

Jenckes (1797-1873), was a farmer and a cooper who made lime casks for the Harris Lime Company, and whose farm was near the present-day Lincoln Mall. He was a descendent of Joseph Jenckes, founder of Pawtucket.

The pieces on display, which may have come from the desk drawers of Jenckes himself, paint a picture of life in the community at the time.

“We were fascinated by it,” Clark said of the collection.

Notably, BVHS will also have a March 10, 1871 issue of the Central Falls Weekly Visitor on display, which has an article about the “Smithfield Act” that established Lincoln as a separate community from Smithfield.

The news was buried in the paper, Clark said, with no headline.

“The paper is so funny. The front page is always a very interesting and dramatic story. We had to go through the paper a few times before we found real news. It was mostly notices about deaths, funerals and gossipy stories,” she said. “We finally found one little paragraph about the decision being approved.”

The newspaper also offers a glimpse into the life of Rhode Islanders 150 years ago.

North Gate will be open for Great Road Day from 1-4 p.m. on Sat., Sept. 25.

On Sat., Oct. 23, collector Dan Bethel will return for an exhibit, followed by Kevin Heskin’s exhibit on World War II artifacts planned for Nov. 13.

For more information, visit bvhsri.org .

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