200430ind History

The Annaquatucket Temple of Honor #16, which was located on Phillips Street in Wickford, served as the Southern Rhode Island home of the prohibition movement at the end of the 19th century.

Long before Alcoholics Anonymous was even thought of, there was the Temple of Honor. The Temple of Honor, along with its sister organization The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, were the spearheads of the Temperance/Prohibition Movement which swept across the country during the end of the 1800s. During the 1880s, Temple of Honor halls were springing up all over the country, and Rhode Island was no exception. The metropolitan Providence/Pawtucket area was serviced by Prosperity Temple which was located on Kenyon Avenue in Pawtucket. The Reliance Temple in Fiskeville served the populace in its immediate area, and the temperate and God-fearing population of southern Rhode Island met regularly on the first and third Wednesdays of every month at the Annaquatucket Temple of Honor #16, which was located on Phillips Street in our own quaint and historic Wickford.

You can bet your bottom dollar, that the Temple of Honor motto, “Prohibition by the strong arm of the law, maintained and upheld by public sentiment” was not only posted prominently on the wall inside the hall, (the large white building in the accompanying photograph) but was practiced fervently by all its many members. As a matter of fact, every member was empowered to “go out and pick up their fallen (code work for drunken) brethren again and again, even if it is a dozen times, and reform him. Such a man would be a better advertisement for the cause than taking in a dozen non-drinkers.” If this philosophy does not remind you of the important work of the present day AA then I don’t know what would. Ironically enough, the Temple of Honor and the W.T.C.U.’s unmitigated success, with the passing in 1919 of the Volstead Act which brought prohibition to the nation, was also their downfall, as the loss of their rallying point meant the end of the very reason for their existence. Prohibition’s general unpopularity and the resultant backlash against everything associated with it were the nails in the Temple of Honor’s coffin and it ceased to exist.

After the end of the Temple of Honor organization, the Annaquatucket Hall on Phillips Street fell into private hands. It and its surrounding land was owned by the Gardiner family who then sold it to the North Kingstown Democratic Party. They used it as their headquarters until the end of the 1950s when it was purchased and demolished by the telephone company so they could construct their new building which still sits on the site of the old temple to this day.

The author is the North Kingstown town historian. The views expressed here are his own.

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