Welcome to Burrillville Then & Now, a feature on NRI NOW.
With photos provided by the Burrillville Historic & Preservation Society, we take a glance back at how the town used to look, then show how the same space looks today. Betty Mencucci, president of BH & PS has provided historical information on the site.
Today, we look at the Herring Pond Hotel.
Spring Lake was originally called Herring Pond. Before the rivers and streams were dammed up to create waterpower for sawmills and grist mills, herring came upstream to spawn and were numerous. Sometime around 1918, the name of the lake was changed to Spring Lake, probably because the name was more appealing for a resort.
We do not know when the Herring Pond Hotel was built, but looking at old photographs we can see that it was one of the first buildings to be constructed on the beach. In 1880, the fun at Herring Pond included music, dancing, clam bakes, beer drinking, competitive shooting, swimming races and more. These “gala days” lasted late into the evening. Later that year, no beer or liquors were allowed on the grounds on the Sabbath. There were two resorts at Herring Pond at the northern end of the beach, and by 1903 there were 1000-1500 people visiting on a Sunday in July.
In 1906 John Meade paid an annual rent of $250 to run the property as a summer resort. This was on the east side of the beach where the hotel was located. This 5-year lease, which he purchased from Silas Harding, included boats, anchors, ropes, ice boxes and bar fixtures. The hotel was a tavern with a barroom. It was operated by John Meade and Richard McManus of the firm McManus & Meade of Nasonville They were also owners of the Western Hotel.
On July 3, 1910, there was a raid at Herring Pond where a large quantity of beer and liquor were taken from the resort’s barroom. They found contraband goods sufficient to fill a two horse wagon, a single horse lumber wagon and a democrat wagon. The saloon fixtures and liquor were seized and taken to Wood’s barn in Harrisville pending the action of the court. McManus and Meade were charged with maintaining a liquor nuisance. On August 13, the liquors and vessels seized during the raid were destroyed.
In 1916, John Hey leased the Herring Pond Hotel to Henry Lapan and Patrick Maher. The lease included the “hotel” building at Herring Pond, a strip of land 6-feet wide extending the length of the piazza, and the driveway in the rear of building to be used in common with others. It also included the following goods and chattels in the building: one chance wheel, one counter, one cupboard and one large ice box. They could sell cigars, tobacco, confectionary, ice cream, fruit, sodas and mineral waters from the soda fountain, and had the rights of boating, and letting boats and canoes other than power boats, upon the waters of Herring Pond, as well as bathing rights.
Lapan used the hotel as a bath house. In 1968, he sold the beach to George Poirier. When the town acquired the beach, all the old buildings on the beach were demolished and new buildings were constructed. The old hotel was the only original building still standing.
In 2014, the town planned to tear down the old hotel and construct a new building. The Burrillville Historical & Preservation Society fought to preserve the old hotel, and proposed the idea of a history museum inside the old building. The Historical Society lost the battle. The old hotel was demolished and a new building was constructed on the same site, similar in size and design. The Burrillville Historical & Preservation Society is very grateful to the town for letting us have a small space inside the new building for a museum so that we can share the colorful history of Herring Pond/Spring Lake with you.
The Herring Pond Hotel Museum is open whenever the beach is open, and is free to anyone who pays admission to go to the beach. The museum contains many old photographs of the beach, along with some history, and a few artifacts from the original building.
I hope you will plan to visit the museum when you go to the beach this summer. We are asking you to share your memories and photos of Spring Lake. You can write your memories and leave them inside the museum in a designated box or they can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spring Lake Beach opens for the season this Saturday. Read more about the museum, opened in 2018, here.