Burrillville Revisited: New Images of America book now in the works

A photo documenting the history of Spring Lake slated for publication. In the late 1800s it was common to hold church picnics at Herring Pond. Parishioners would dress in their Sunday best to travel to the lake for the day. It was common to travel by barge - a large wagon pulled by horses. They carried lots of food including kegs of ice cream. Upon arrival it was customary to go boating before lunch where the deacons did the rowing.

BURRILLVILLE – A new Images of America book, Burrillville Revisited, is in production, and set to be filled with photographs and information documenting the town’s history.

For the past several months, Burrillville Historic & Preservation Society President Betty Mencucci has been gathering pictures for the publication, taken primarily from the organization’s archives.

And if others have high-quality photographs worthy of telling the town’s story, she may have some space to include them.

The Arcadia Publishing series aims to use vintage pictures to chronicle the history of cities and towns across America with help from local authors. Burrillville historian Patricia Merhtens assembled the first edition covering the town, from the 1890s through the 1940s, in 1996.

“The publisher has been after us to do another book, because that one did very well,” Mencucci said.

Mencucci said Arcadia approached her organization about writing the second book, but has changed standards for the project since the first version. In addition to longer captions that explain more of the local history, the publisher has increased expectations for the photos themselves, adding quality standards.

“They’ve become more picky about what goes in,” Mencucci said.

The changes mean that Mencucci must write up history for some 200 pictures, none of which can be taken from newspapers.

“We have some pictures that look great, but we don’t know anything about them,” she said. “It’s a huge job: writing, researching, finding pictures, scanning…”

Mencucci has been sifting through BH & PS archives all winter for Burrillville Revisited, and is scheduled to submit her draft to Arcadia for editing in October. The pictures, she said, will likely be divided into nine categories: mills; transportation; parades; houses and businesses; Spring Lake; alms; the influence of Austin T. Levy; and blizzards, floods and storms.

The local historian also works to restore gravestones in town, and said she’s considering a tenth category: stories from the grave. She said her draft currently includes photos taken as recently as 1978, but she’s hoping for older photographs. None, she noted, can have been published in the original Burrillville book.

“We have the summer to finalize what we want to do,” Mencucci said.

Highlights include the chapters on Levy – and of course, Spring Lake.

“I’m trying to cover how he influenced the town with before and after pictures,” she said of philanthropist mill owner Levy, adding that she also plans to include around 30 photos with of the lake’s past. “The people of Spring Lake are really passionate about it.”

She said she’s unsure of Arcadia’s timeline for publishing the final product, or if Covid-19 has caused any delays for the company.

“It’s up to then as to when they publish it,” she said of Burrillville Revisited.

Anyone who contributes a picture that ultimately makes it to print will receive a courtesy line in the publication. Those interested in contributing should contact Mencucci at bmencucci@verizon.net or by phone at (401) 568-8449.

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