Ask Kristen Ounanian how she decided to spend her summer researching the East Greenwich waterfront, and she’ll laugh a little. A Ph.D candidate in marine affairs at U.R.I., Ounanian said it was her advisor who put her on to the shanties on Water Street. He’d long been interested in them and the push-pull between fishing and development they’ve come to symbolize.
That was enough for Ounanian, who started with no knowledge of East Greenwich but already has learned enough to give her credibility with longtime locals. She’s not in it alone. A childhood friend, Alison Naturale, is assisting in the research.
While the exact products to come out of their research have not be indentified, Ounanian and Naturale are collecting oral histories and plan to have a web-based archive of all their research.
The project is about understanding what makes the EG waterfront tick. They want to know if it’s possible to maintaining working waterfronts in an age of more service-oriented use of the waterfront (i.e. restaurants and other recreational uses).
For their research, the women are tracing the histories of the Scalloptown shanties – those on Water Street between the sewage treatment plant and the Harbourside. (Scalloptown Park and Nature Preserve, at the top of the cove, was named for that Water Street area.)
They are interested in talking to everyone from quahoggers and fishermen to Water Street property and business owners. They are also interested in talking to talk to residents whose families have lived in East Greenwich for generations and those who deal with the waterfront in an official capacity.
If you have information, photos or other artifacts that would be of interest to Ounanian and Naturale, they would love to hear from you. Whatever the end result of their research, it promises to offer a vibrant picture of the EG waterfront past and present.
Kristen Ounanian can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 508-736-5756.