Kingston Improvement Association
Kingston Vignette

Tavern Hall Club

by Elizabeth J. McNab

Since decent, "modern" accommodations were difficult to find in the village in the first decade of the twentieth century, five single young male teachers at Rhode Island State College at first boarded with Mrs. Emma Hager on North Road. Later, the men, including Frank Bills, lived together in part of the Taylor Tavern (formerly Joe Reynolds' Tavern) and in 1911 formed the Tavern Hall Club.

Soon they were involved in an ongoing dispute with their landlord, Bernon Helme, over modernizing with electricity. Although they had only $4.35 in their treasury, they decided to purchase the Lucca House, so named after Madame Lucca, a famous opera singer who had summered there for some years. In April 1919 for $3,300 the deed changed hands. This house at the comer of Kingstown Road and South Road had been in the Potter family since 1803. It had been built about 1738 by Elisha Reynolds, grandfather of Elisha Reynolds Potter, Sr. It was one of the four large, gambrel-roofed buildings (two of which remain) standing at the corners of Kingstown Road and North and South Roads. Over the years it had been home to the Kingston Reds (a Revolutionary War militia unit), a West Indian goods store, Rev. Oliver Brown's school for boys, a saddlery and harness shop, a millinery, a newspaper publishing firm (one of the earliest in South County - 1832), and a lending library, the beginning of the Kingston Free Library -as well as a private residence.

Five new members, among them Lorenzo F. Kinney, Jr., a current member of the club, were added in the year the house was purchased, bringing membership to 19. Since that time, Tavern Hall Club has continued its active role in the community. Now on the National Register of Historic Buildings, it provides lodging in six apartments, sponsors the local Boy Scout troop, and offers a meeting place for many organizations. For many years it was the center of the village fire alarm system, as well as the meeting place for the volunteer fire company and the Fire District Board of Wardens. During World War II it was the local civil defense headquarters.

Although membership in Tavern Hall Club is, in accordance with the traditions of the years in which it was founded, open to adult males of the area, wives and other women guests are always invited to its meetings and social activities. Lectures on current affairs, travelogues, entertainments such as the annual Christmas party, the annual clambake -a quite varied program, bring the members and their guests together in a truly community-based gathering on a monthly basis.

Much has happened years since this article was first written - Lorenzo Kinney died at age 100 in 1994, THC has evolved into the Tavern Hall Preservation Society, and women are taking prominent roles.