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Rocky Point Amusement Park, Warwick RI
Ömür Harmansah

Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

Please post your paragraphs of interest below.


My fascination with industrial ruins was kindled by the exposure to many abandoned buildings that dotted the landscape of my colonial Connecticut hometown. I would stand in awe of grand mills with beautiful nineteenth architecture, but saddened by the sight of smashed windows and piles of garbage left to decay alongside the buildings. I would constantly imagine what the view must have been like when the structure was used for its original purpose, when workers abounded and were busy making their day’s wages.

Only now have I realized that even though these industrial ruins have drastically transformed since their initial construction, this is not a reason to mourn. These sites haven’t “died” but live on, serving new functions as defined by contemporary society. In observing the Fox Point Bridge and the abandoned amusement park, I would like to examine how these spaces are given new meaning in light of their abandoned status. Some principal questions include:

What can be said about the uses of these spaces according to the material residues left by the interactions of people with these areas? What can be read through the texts given in graffiti markings and litter? Can we determine who interacted with these places through material evidence?

Things that don't belong: Has there been a certain "dis-ordering" of space, with elements displaced from their original context? Has nature impeded on these manmade structures? How does the presence of such elements restructure these spaces?

What function, if any, has the government of Providence assigned these spaces? Has someone or some institution determined what spaces are allowed entrance while other spaces forbid trespassing? Do groups and individuals follow such labels?

After performing some background research concerning when the structures were built, what were their original functions and when the sites were officially abandoned, and by answering the questions above, I would like to analyze what exactly has changed over time (through this process I may also discover what hasn’t changed). The bridge and amusement park no longer serve the purposes they were initially constructed for, but I would like to study the nature of the relationships between the surrounding community and these sites, and how these spaces have been redefined since their abandonment.


I would like to approach these industrial ruins from behind a camera lens. Beyond the initial fieldwork, the interpretation of sites often occurs largely in offices and libraries. The data must be recorded somehow for future reference, and photographs are one obvious solution to this problem. However, a camera isn't as accurate a vessel of truth as one might suspect. It may produce an accurate copy of what is framed in the shot, but the person behind the camera chooses the frame, and this can make all the difference in the world. An artist would approach an archaeological site with a radically different view than an archaeologist, but where is the line drawn? When are these photographs art, and when are they simply a set of data? And most importantly, how has the medium of photography effected the process of archaeological interpretation?


An interesting proposition in the consideration of any unique place is the study of the area around it, the context in which it resides. For a project on the industrial ruins of Providence, then, one might consider the function, meaning, and social role of a place such as the abandoned Warwick amusement park within its broader set of relations. What is the character of the area around the park? Why did it become abandoned? Is it part of a larger abandoned landscape, or is it unique? To what extent is it really abandoned? Who, if anyone, still makes use of this place and in what ways? What do the people who live near the park think of it, and in what way is the surrounding area influenced or even actively effected by the presence of this place? These are all appropriate questions for an ethnography of place that can hopefully lead to a better and broader understanding of the “abandoned” Warwick amusement park.

Answering these questions could involve documenting the site and area around it through a variety of media, including photography, video and audio records in addition to textual accounts of the place and surrounding area. Visiting the site would be essential for this, as well as engagement with the people around it who may be using it in some form or another. These and other approaches would allow us to form a sort of multi-media ethnographic and archaeological project allowing for an audience to engage these ruins on multiple levels.


I am interested in practices of inscription within the context of the Warwick Amusement Park. By inscription I mean ways in which people mark the landscape—either by adding or subtracting—but in both instances changing the space through their agency. Included in this activity is the production of graffiti, but I would also like to consider the removal or modification of materials at the site. In essence I want to examine the ways in which people continue to engage with the space and the evidence of these engagements.

This proposal comes from my interest in the ways in which people engage with their lived environments. I am interested to explore these issues in a contemporary context (as opposed to an ancient one) because many types of inscription are ephemeral and do not carry into the archaeological record.


The notion of a landmark. Crook Point bridge, in its raised position, is visible from many parts of the East Side of Providence and Seekonk. Indeed every trip to the East Side Marketplace, for instance, involves a visual interaction with the bridge, which gets translated into conceptions of place as a whole.

My project thus focuses on interaction at a distance, addressing questions of how something very few people (relative to the total population of both Providence and Seekonk) interact with plays such a significant role in shaping real, physical conceptions of Providence, Seekonk, the river, and the eastside.

Methods employed will necessarily include interviews of local inhabitants, but will be supplemented by archival and documentary research. Depth of understanding about the bridge's materiality will help in discussions with various people about the bridge, and possibly facilitate a comparison of a thing's materiality, its range of physical interactions, and its perception by those who never come into direct contact with it.


In the study of materiality, we commonly consider the life cycle of things, the biography, if you will, of objects. An object's life cycle may include the procurement of resources for the object, its production process, its use, maintenance, and disposal. In archaeological terms, the recovery and display of the object in museums is also a part of a life cycle, which is an interesting notion seeing that most would consider an object to no longer have any life, any agency, after its original purpose and used is completed. Some would say that once an object is disposed of, its life cyle is also terminated. Such is not the case though. As we can see with objects recovered from the field, objects take on new meaning, purposes, and uses after they were originally disposed, and with this new recovery comes new perceptions regarding those objects (not only for the archaeologist, but also for the museum-goer).

I would like to take the same life cycle approach from material studies and apply it to the study of place. What does the life cycle of the Warwick Amusement Park and the Crook Point bridge consist of? Where does it begin, and where does it end (if it has at all)? I would like to explore some of the phases of these sites' life cycle, and more importantly, people's perceptions and experiences of them within their different stages. Unique about working with these particular industrial ruins is that they are not long lost relics of the the past. There are still people alive who were active participants at these locations when they were functioning and after their closure. I'd like investigate through interviews how their participation, and thus their perception, of these places have changed. One thing that I am particularly interested in is the notion of decay. Decay is a term that implies death, non-usage. However, as we have seen, these "decaying" places are still very much in use, but of a different sort. It is the same issue as the recovery and recycling of objects after disposal. In terms of life cycles, I want to give special attention to people's perception of decay, and the reality that places, even in the midst of decay, are still very active.


I find fascinating the power of a landscape (even once 'abandoned') to in some instances bring people together and on the other hand to create conflict among people. What are the motivatiors in the decision of the police/city to close these places off, to label them dangerous and forbidden. Additionally , why are others compelled in the face of this determinaton to rebel, and how is this rebellion manifested (parties, graffiti etc.)? Are the forms of rebellion entirely the result of some sort of indefinable appeal places like these carry, or is it less about the place itself and more a product being told by the government to stay away, i.e. a reaction to the governmental 'establishement' rather that the physical one?

I would like to explore the history of the landscapes and trace if possible what the record of government intervention has been, even when it was still actively used for its original purpose, and immediately after. As well as, during these same periods what types of incidents that one might charactereize as vandalism occured. I would seek to trace how people interacted with the site throughout the entirety of its life-cycle, and to examine if; what seems to be a conflict between the city and 'vandals', began prior to the abandonment of the site.

Finally an interesting point of investigation would be to see how the interaction of these groups with the space has changed, as the landscape has deteriorated, and to examine how people perceive and react to this deterioration. For example one might ask: Soes it make a difference if the individual or group can remember landscape in its prime, or perhaps even when it was first constructed?


What is the difference between a relatively contemporary ruin and an ancient one?

There were both of essential use for the people at those times, they are both abandoned now, and they are both “taken care” of by scholars and archaeologists who are interested of certain aspects of these ruin. Is time the only distinction? In addition to scholars, these contemporary ruins are utilized by a minority, from a social context, for example, the youth seeking excitement, the depressed, the lover, the wild to full fill his/her curiosity, and the creative artist.

On a personal level, the Point Bridge has been functioning as an identification point of reaching home for the past year. The location of my house not far from the “Gano Bridge” created a kind of attachment between the bridge and myself. As a wild curious artist and student, the bridge fascinated me from the first moment I saw it. When the weather was nice, I went there sometimes during the day and sometimes during the night –which was pretty scary-, the scenery, the graffiti, and just the fact that it is somehow difficult to reach the tip of the bridge made it a sacred mysterious special place. Therefore, since November I have been working on a script for a film regarding the bridge and its unique relation to some and its non-excitant relation to others.

Through this class, I was able to look at the bridge from an Archaeological perspective, which increased my interest in the bridge. Thus, I would like to combine my past interest and the more recent one that is of the archaeological interpretation of the bridge.

What are we really looking at when we are excavating sites? Why don’t we study the ruins closer to us in time, in order to preserve a realistic interpretation for us and for the nest generations, along with researching periods we are unfamiliar with?