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Discovering Block Island - Painted Rock

by Will / June, 4 2014 01:30

Painted Rock on Block Island, Rhode Island

Photo courtesy of Carl

Painted Rock, part of our Discovering Block Island series, is one of those local in-the-know things.  You'll find a few posts about it on the internet but for the most part you'll either find out from a local or because you cruised right past.  Quite literally, it is a painted rock on Block Island. Albeit one that's been painted hundreds if not thousands of times with messages ranging from the absurd to wedding proposals to presidential welcomes and beyond.  Plus, you can have a go at painting it any time you like...

It all started way back in 1962 when Wendy and Eddie Northup (two island teenagers at the time now since married) decided to pull a Halloween prank and paint a rock.  They snuck out at night to the corner of Mohegan Trail, Lakeside Drive, and Snake Hole Road - yes three roads that converge in one spot!  Here they found a rock and gave it a coat of paint and from there the whole thing snowballed.  Over the past 50 years Painted Rock received a facelift almost every week, if not more, in the summer and a little less frequently in the winter months and continues to do so.

You may be thinking, why would anyone do this?  Isn't it a public nuisance?  Isn't it graffiti?  Well, Block Islanders tend to be pretty laid back.  Yes, a few inappropriate messages have shown up over the years but those are usually painted over pretty quick.  Sometimes there's no message at all, other times you might see something representing the social state of the nation such as the rock's September 11th motifs.  The only constant thing is change.

Block Island's Painted Rock on September 11th, 2001          Block Island's Painted Rock as an American flag, September 2001
Photos courtesy of Block Island Times

One interesting incident happened in August 2006 when vandals sprayed graffiti around the three way intersection and stripped the paint off the rock.  They didn't quite get all the paint off as you can see from the pictures.  What this did do however is reveal how thick the paint is.  Several inches thick it looks like.  After this incident painting the rock returned to normal and the layers have continued to build.  

Block Island's Painted Rock vandalized Photo courtesy of Block Island Times

I have not had a go at Painted Rock.  I've seen it many, many a times but haven't had a chance to add my own touch.  Thinking about it, I'd like to give it a try.  Painting our logo is one thought but that's a little too commercial in my mind, I think it's not in the spirit of Painted Rock.  So I'll have to think about that for a bit and whenever I get to it, I'll be sure to post a pic.

So next time you head to Block Island check out our Discovering Block Island series, bring some paint, ask a local where the rock is and add a few thoughts of your own...

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