September 20, 2014
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Historic Homes
Hopelands, Rocky Hill School concluded
Don D'Amato and Terry Spencer
Photo by Terry Spencer
The recent addition of the greenhouse affords students an opportunity to study nature and appreciate how agriculture played such an important part in Rhode Island history.

Much of the success and growth of Rocky Hill School in Potowomut on Green’s River has been due to the talented and dedicated faculty and to the various headmasters since the school moved to Hopelands.

It is very reassuring to note that over the past 30 years, when we first began writing these stories in the 1980s, how Rocky Hill School has managed to preserve so much of the natural beauty of the area. It has managed to keep close contact with the past while forging into the future.

Thanks to Alan Flynn and James Young, their long tenures as headmaster shows how the understanding of nature, beauty, the past and the future have al been rendered together to make Rocky Hill an exceptional school. Dr. Jonathan Schoenwald, the eighth headmaster, came to the school in 2011 and brought with him an impressive array of credentials and understanding of the situation. He has taught history at various levels from students at a young age to college. He also has a long record as a school and college administrator.

After receiving his PhD in history, he has distinguished himself in writing a number of articles of America in the 20th century. This dynamic, athletic and academically talented headmaster believes in teaching the entire student. He wants to make sure his students know why things have happened and to develop a keen interest in the past, present and future. This very inquisitive and obviously intelligent administrator sees Rocky Hill School with its beauty, proximity to the sea and excellent faculty a perfect setting for learning as well as developing students who can make a definite contribution to society.

Standing here at Rocky Hill School while the faculty and students are engaging in teaching and learning and building, it’s very easy to let ourselves drift back to imagine how it was at one time when Tory Richard Greene first entertained many of the officers of the British Navy in the 18th century. In those days, hunting and feasting were to the degree that only were enjoyed by the very wealthy nobility in Europe. They bestowed the title of “King Richard” on the wealthy landowner. The Greene estate was one of the areas that from the British point of view was a fine example of colonial America.

As time went on, the Revolutionary War changed all this. Ironically, Greene, who was once one of the most popular figures in Potowomut, became one of the most detested for his political views and in trading with the British, who occupied Newport in 1776. While Greene’s cousin, Nathanael, became one of the war’s great generals, Richard had to flee to Newport for British protection. When he abandoned the estate, the Brown family, ever aware of prime land, acquired the estate. It was given as a wedding present to Nicholas Brown’s daughter, Hope, who married merchant Thomas P. Ives. The estate became known as Hopelands and much of what has been preserved harkens back to that period and the lovely mansion that was built there.

In the stillness of the day, it’s easy to forget that we are in the 21st century. Looking out over the bay, we can see how Rhode Island’s proximity to the water was so important in early times. The longer Terry and I stayed at Rocky Hill School, we realized that the area is a fine example of the contributions of Rhode Island to the rest of the world. In addition to the heritage of the past, Terry and I realize that this section of Potowomut represented the gateway to the future. With the proximity to the sea and the classes of ocean studies, we ca imagine how Rocky Hill School might someday produce a student caught up in the excitement of recent discoveries of the potential of the sea; might make a major contribution that will diminish poverty, hunger and disease. The great promise and hope of the future, along with the rich heritage, seems to have gathered here at this beautiful spot.


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