The Kingston Improvement Association has throughout its history played a large role in the preservation of Kingston, ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy the Village's rich historic landscape.
Kingston, a village within the town of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, was originally named "Little Rest." In 1752, the Village became the county seat, which led to its growth as a center of commerce. For a century, Kingston's court house, now the Kingston Free Library, served as one of Rhode Island's five rotating state capitals.
Kingston, a village within the town of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, was originally named "Little Rest." It was formed along a Native American trail (now Kingston's Old North and South Roads). The Village was incorporated in 1732 and grew rapidly, which led to its designation as the seat of Kings County in 1752. It became a center of commerce, and new government buildings were constructed, including the Kings County Courthouse (today the Kingston Free Library). The Courthouse opened in 1775 and served as one of Rhode Island's five rotating state capitals until 1854. The name Kingston was adopted in 1826, and the Village became a popular stagecoach stop.
By the early 1880s, however, development and commerce within the town of South Kingstown shifted away from Kingston and to mill-centered villages, including Peace Dale and Wakefield. It was this challenge that inspired residents of Kingston Village to found the Kingston Improvement Association (KIA) in 1884. The founding of the Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now URI) in 1892, which was largely driven by KIA members, helped the Village to once again grow and prosper.
In 1974, Kingston Village was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors to the Village today can enjoy a largely unchanged environment, including more than forty historic structures that largely retain their original appearance. Many historic preservation projects have been possible due to the generosity of Mary LeMoine Potter who in her will created a fund at the Rhode Island Foundation to support the Village. The Mary LeMoine Potter Fund has been a major supporter of the KIA for nearly a century.
The KIA has throughout its history played a large role in the preservation of Kingston Village. KIA members regularly appear before the South Kingstown Town Council, speak on behalf of residents at Planning and Zoning Board meetings and represent the Village's interest on state and local committees. In recent years, the KIA has fought for the preservation of Kingston's brick sidewalks, safety and roadway improvements, the reconstruction of damaged historic stone walls and designated parking at the Kingston Free Library. This critical advocacy work will ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the Village's rich historic landscape.
To learn more about Kingston's unique history, the KIA recommends Christian McBurney's "A History of Kingston, RI, 1700 - 1900,"
which is available at the Kingston Free Library and for purchase at the South County History Center.