Fire volunteers upset over street name change

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narraMembers of the Narragansett Fire Company, Engine 3, are digging in their heels against a proposal to change the name of Narragansett Way, the short street dedicated in their company’s honor 18 years ago.

At the most recent Warren Town Council meeting on Tuesday, April 8, councilors introduced a request by Byron C. Lewin and Joan (Lewin) Beckham of Tacoma, Wa., who want the town to switch the street back to its original name — Lewin Road. It had been re-named the short road, running between Miller and George streets, during the Narragansetts’ 150th anniversary back in 1996.

The Lewins, who wrote a lengthy email to council president Chris Stanley in support of their request, said their ancestors inhabited Warren from its earliest days, though there are no longer family members here.

“We truly hope that the Warren City Leaders can understand our point of view and the historical significance connected to our request,” they wrote in the March 28 letter.

Council members voted 3-2 to discuss the request at the council’s May meeting, with councilors David Frerichs and Cathie Tattrie opposed. Before the vote, councilor Joseph DePasquale said he was in favor of the request, adding that if the town decides to switch the name back a plaque commemorating “Narragansett Way” should be placed at the site.

Reaction among Warren’s fire fighting community has been swift, and overwhelmingly negative. Several days after the meeting, Narragansett Capt. Vincent Calenda wrote a memo to Mr. Stanley opposing the change, and saying his 52 active members will fight any attempt to change the name.

“As captain of Engine 3, and on behalf of the entire active membership, we find this proposal insulting and demeaning as well as a lack of appreciation for the Warren Fire Department’s most senior and oldest fire company,” he wrote. Others posted negative comments about the plan on Facebook.

“For the past 18 years and with no opposition, this street was dedicated in honor of our members past and present for continuous volunteer fire protection that now exceeds 168 years of service,” Capt. Calenda’s letter continued. “I respectfully ask you to keep “Narragansett Way” as is. Please place us on the council agenda. We will be present in force to address this issue.”

Reached Thursday morning, Capt. Calenda said he was surprised that the name change has become an issue. He said his company’s are ready to defend Narragansett Way.

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3 Comments

  1. John Tats said:

    Is there some sort of “Time Warp” between Warren , R.I. and Tacoma Washington were these folks live? Why didn’t they ask for this the year it occurred? why did they wait until 2009 , why wait nearly 13+ years to ask? After the first request wasn’t acted upon one would think that waiting another 5 years and asking again would get a different response? or is someone locally sending them bad info to continue to pursue this. The whole thing doesn’t really make any sense at all.

  2. CM said:

    Why are the Lewins stirring up trouble in Warren? Their family hasn’t lived here for years. The people who are making this request now live 3,000 miles away.

    Honors that are bestowed are not usually taken back. If the town decided to honor our local volunteer fire-fighters in 1996, it would be an insult to take that honor back — especially since the fire-fighters are still here.

    I have biked through that street about a thousand times, and there may be only one house that has an address on it. Even so, changing the name of the street would create problems for a lot of people (such as map-makers and the post office).

  3. Metacomment said:

    A message from the Naming Police:

    Did you know the Narragansetts were the enemies of the Pokanoket who lived on this land before the English? They never lived over here. Why would we name the station after them? Or, was it named after the beer company?

    All kidding aside, the Lewins should buzz off. They don’t even pay taxes here. They don’t even know that Warren is not a city!

    Let’s honor those who dedicate thousands of hours to public safety, and keep our tax bills lower! I’m with Capt. Calenda.

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