Creation and early years
—Thomas Stafford purchases a large amount of land on Warwick Neck, including the area later called Rocky Point. The land remained undeveloped.
Rocky Point was an idea first thought of by Captain William Winslow in the 1840s. By 1847, he had purchased a portion of the land and began to offer amusements and serve dinner.
--- Captain William Winslow transports Sunday school classes from Providence to Rocky Point on the steamship Argo.
---Capt. Winslow becomes owner of Rocky Point and he and “Mother” Winslow serve shore dinners on long tables under the trees.
—Winslow adds a carousel, swings, and the Spanish Fandango, the forerunner of the Ferris Wheel.
—Stephen A. Douglas, the “Little Giant,” addresses a large crowd at Rocky Point in his campaign to win the presidency. Despite the good reception at Rocky Point, Douglas loses to Abraham Lincoln.
The Forrest Casino features minstrel shows, including one with an all-female cast.
—President Rutherford B. Hayes calls Alexander Graham Bell from Providence’s City Hotel and then visits Rocky Point.
—John L. Sullivan, the “Boston Strong Boy” and heavyweight-boxing champion, fights an exhibition with Steve Taylor, drawing a crowd of 2000.
—Joseph Carruolo moves his carousel from lakeside Park in New York to Rocky Point. Becomes known as the “Merry-Go Round King.
—After Col. Harrington dies, his widow closes the park for lack of patronage. Park re-opens 1920.
—Hurricane brings severe damage to Rocky Point—Park closes—re-opens part-time in 1940.
—Park closed because of World War II shortages and rationing.
Height of popularity
From the 1950s through the 1980s, Rocky Point Amusement Park was the most popular attraction in Rhode Island. It featured rides such as the Skyliner, Corkscrew Loop Roller Coaster, Log Flume, and the Freefall (similar to the identically named ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain), which fell 13 stories at 55 mph (89 km/h).
—Rocky Point purchased by Vincent Ferla. His brother Conrad becomes general manager.
—Hurricane Carol causes havoc and destroys shore dinner hall.
—Rocky Point erects new dining hall, the Palladium Ballroom and the Windjammer Lounge.
In the early 1990s, Rocky Point's financial situation became shaky. The privately-held company that owned the park began to lose money as it attempted to keep the park up to date. Critics accused the company's shareholders of trying to wring every last penny out of the park. Rocky Point closed in 1995, then reopened briefly in 1996 as a farewell to patrons. Rides such as the Flume and Corkscrew were sold in an auction and are now in use at other amusement parks.
The official public records of the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Worcester, MA will confirm:
- For a number of years Rocky Point was making large loans to non related companies that were also owned by the RP share holders. Those companies were put into Chapter 11 and Rocky Point could not collect repayment.
- Finally in 1991 Rocky Point was severely overleveraged, again, to loan $6 million to other unrelated companies owned by the RP share holders. Those companies were then put into Chapter 11 so Rocky Point could not collect on those loans either.
- Staggering under this heavy debt load, which was not its own debts, Rocky Point simply could not pay its own bills to survive.
These facts were confirmed again in the Providence Journal and The Warwick Beacon during the Bankruptcy periods of 1995-1997.
If all these loans were not abused, Rocky Point Park just might have still been in business today.
Post-business era, vandalism
After the Rocky Point land was purchased for $8.5 million in 2003, the park's main building, known as the "Big House", was hit by vandals who lit it on fire on September 2, 2004. Police said the fire was suspicious, because the building had no electricity at the time.
Another fire started on October 16, 2006 around 11 a.m., this time in an executive building on the waterfront. Smoke could be seen billowing up more than 2,000 feet (610 m) in the air from miles away. Police reported no injuries in either fire. It is unclear if this fire was caused by arson.
On May 7, 2007, demolition of the remaining midway officially began with a press conference at the park. Prior to this, a handful of stands and minor buildings had already been demolished.
On September 7, 2007, a documentary film about the park titled You Must Be This Tall: The Story of Rocky Point Park had its world premiere at the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. The film, which is available on DVD, garnered a five-star review from The Providence Journal and played to a sold out crowd of 1,100 people.
In February 2008, the city of Warwick secured a federal grant to purchase about half of the 82 acres (330,000 m2) remaining of Rocky Point Park, including much of the view of the bay. The city officially took title to 41 acres (170,000 m2) shoreline of the former park in August 2008.
In January 2010, a newly-formed non-profit entity called The Rocky Point Foundation, Inc. announced its efforts to press for a public purchase of the remaining 83 acres held by the receiver for the property. If successful, this effort would return public access to the Rocky Point property and continue a 150-plus year history of Rhode Islanders of all ages, backgrounds, and incomes enjoying this seaside retreat. The Rocky Point Foundation has been active in signing up the many people who support a public Rocky Point through its "getthepoint.org" website, public events, and a "Get The Point" bumper sticker campaign.