Mounted in foyer of the Seamen’s Church Institute is William
Holland Drury’s (1888-1960-marine etcher) dramatic 1930 square
mural depicting Narragansett Bay in the format of an antique chart
and embellished with symbols of his personal life and historic episodes
on the Bay.
The mural was donated by the Goddard family, and it is from the
recollections of the artist’s daughter, Hope Drury Goddard,
and grandson, Thomas P. I. Goddard that the following explanation
of the symbols is derived.
Some are readily identifiable such as Arthur Curtiss James’s
globe circling barque, Aloha. The James and Goddard families were
close friends afloat and ashore, the wives having especial appreciation
for gardens and horticulture. Also is the battleship U.S.S. New York
(identified via her code flags by her official publication The Knickerbocker)
which relates to his naval service in WWI as well as the traditional
naval presence in Newport—appropriate, also, respecting the
role of SCI as a “Haven for all men and women of the sea.” The
Grand Banks fishing schooner towing a dory, according to the family,
stems from Drury’s love of the Banks and fishing. Interpolation
from his etchings of watercolors of a fisherman and captain, for
which he used Ted Sturtevant as a model, suggests that the schooner
and dory are an allegory for the father/daughter relationship. His
long tenure as head of the Art Department of St. George’s School
is symbolized by the Cross of St. George on Aquidneck Island where
the school is located.
More recondite is the inscription on the Narragansett shore “41degs.
31’ N. Lat. – 71degs 23’ W. Lo.” inasmuch
as the intersection of the coordinates lies across the West Passage
on the shore of Conanicut Island. Perhaps by way of artistic license
Drury chose to offset it where there is more space in the mural and
to steer the observer to the actual location by elongating the eastern
part of the parallel of latitude in the direction of the Island (see
inset). Tom Goddard notes “This is not a miscalculation given
my grandfather’s navigation skills. In fact, he taught navigation
at the Naval Station in Newport during WWII. The only passing
grade in his course was 100% because, as he told his students, ‘it
won’t do any good to keep 90% of your vessel off the rocks.’”
The coordinates mark a tiny inlet a few hundred
yards north of the entrance to the Great Creek and Round Swamp.
Hope Goddard recalls as a youngster traversing across Jamestown
from Potter’s Cove
by a canoe or rowboat via this water course by entering it in the
vicinity of where the toll booths for the Newport Bridge currently
exist in order to land in the minute cove at “41degs. 31’ N.
- 71 degs. 23’ W.” and visit the Wright family on their
For verification of the plausibility of this
track shift from the Mural to the 1860 Map that belonged to SCI
Council member Hugh D. Auchincloss III’s great uncle John
and is displayed on the second floor landing of the Institute.
Lo and behold: the image and inscription “Proposed Canal” extending
from the Swamp to the Creek; contemplate what it would be like
today were the Island divided into upper and lower Conanicut and
connected by yet another toll bridge–see inset!
The above are highlights of the many intriguing
features of the mural and map.Visit
the Seamen’s Church Institute
historic register building on the waterfront at 18 Market Square.
The map and mural can be viewed in the foyer. Open daily from 6am-6pm.
© 2007 Newport Harbor
Guide. All rights reserved.