History

Pia Hall Winter

The words Prudence Island and improvement are ones that when used together sound somewhat like an oxymoron to me. I’ve never thought of Prudence as a place that needed much improvement.

The Prudence Improvement Association, or PIA, was the second organization of its type to be established on Prudence Island, the Prudence Park Club having been the first. The PIA was established in July 1919. The founding members listed on the original articles of incorporation were William Locke, who owned and operated the Midway Store and had also operated the Homestead Casino for a period of time; Leslie Young; John Creelman; James Bains; and Burlington Briggs. The primary reason for creating the PIA was to have an organization to hold title to a strip of land between Narragansett Avenue and Narragansett Bay. And, in fact, less than two weeks after the articles of incorporation were filed, Lewis Herreshoff donated to the PIA, that strip of land running south from Pier Road at Homestead, some 4000 feet to the property owned by Emily Bance at Sandy Point.

At that time, the PIA did not have a building of their own and for many years conducted their meetings at the homes of members or officers. In 1956 the PIA purchased the property on which their current building stands from Norman Herreshoff. The building was constructed over the next two years, with much of the work done by members, and some help from the Carr family with the masonry. In addition, some funds were obtained from the Civil Defense Program that helped to defray the cost.

The driving force behind the purchase of the land and construction of the building was a man named Doctor Dominic Capone, a Bristol Optometrist, who owned the Optic View Cottage on Lombardy Camp Plat. Dr. Capone’s vision for this building was for it to become a place where island children could congregate and enjoy organized activities. At the time the building was completed a second organization was established, known as the Prudence Youth Organization, or PYO. For a number of years, the PYO kept the hall open during the summer as a place where kids could get together to play table tennis, listen to music, dance, hold record hops and participate in other events. If this building could talk, I believe its walls would echo with the sounds of generations of island kids who enjoyed themselves here during their seemingly endless summers at Prudence that ended much too soon.

Today, the PIA Hall needs our help in order to conform to current codes on life safety and fire protection.

—Joe Bains