Local Trivia

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Block Island

Impress your friends with these fun facts about BI

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1. The island’s first inhabitants called it Manisses, which means “Island of the Little God.”

2. Sixteen families first settled the island in 1661; their descendants live here still.

3. A passenger ship called The Palatine once caught fire off the island’s coast, killing
all aboard; some say the ghostly ship can still be seen burning on quiet nights.

4. In the winter, fewer than 1,000 people call the island home; the island’s tiny K-12
public school educates about 115 students.

5. The island has had a strong conservation movement since the 1970s, and now,
more than 43% is set aside as public open space. The island’s goal is to get to 50 percent.

6. Tradition has it that the island has 365 ponds, one for each day of the year – although modern geographers say it’s more like 300.

7. Once a premier Victorian vacation destination that drew families complete with steamer trunks and full-skirted “bathing costumes,” the island is full of the ghosts of grand hotels that burned down. One such is the Ocean View, just above the town’s post office, where the US Congress once held a summer session.

8. More than 2,000 pleasure boats crowd the Great Salt Pond on an average during July Fourth weekend.

9. The statue of Rebecca at the Well was erected by the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, but a close look at the modern day statue (a faithful replica of the original) and her grapes and amphora hint that the late-1800s statue supply company may have mixed up the biblical figure with a more wine-friendly Greek goddess, Hebe.

10. Recently retired island nurse Mary Donnelly helped the sick and injured for 50 years and established a local charity, the Mary D Fund, which has been featured on every major news outlet. (Google it.) August’s annual Mary D Ball is the social event of the season.