Cranston book transports readers through time

You know what it is now, but what once was there?

The Cranston Herald ·

Do you know what the Garden City center was before the stores were built? Well, Sandra Moyer, the Cranston Historical Society (CHS) President, can tell you the answer.

“It was a coal mine,” said Moyer, who has lived in Cranston her whole life.

Moyer and CHS member Janet Ragno recently co-authored “Cranston Through Time,” a 96 page book of then and now photographs of places throughout Cranston. The images show how areas within the city have evolved – followed by captions describing the photos’ history. All photos come from CHS’s collection.

“It’s surprising how many buildings are still there but have been changed,” Moyer said.

Moyer and Ragno started working on the book in 2018 and focused on sections of the city including Eden Park, Garden City, Pawtuxet Village, Oaklawn and Auburn. The book was published in December 2019, followed by one book signing event. The historical society planned to host a presentation and book signing in 2020, but the pandemic quickly put a halt to their plans. After two years, the authors finally held their book presentation and signing on March 15 at Sprague Mansion.

At the March event, Moyer and Rango spoke about the book making process and held a Cranston quiz with images of places around Cranston and seeing if individuals could recognize them. Moyer, who would like to have a presentation at the Cranston Senior Enrichment Center, said it would be an interesting quiz for the senior population who might remember some of the places from their youth.

As for some of the changes over the years, Moyer referenced how the Pawtuxet fish market in Pawtuxet Village now holds small shops including Dear Hearts Ice Cream. Additionally, the old city hall in Knightsville was torn down and is now the location of the Knightsville gazebo. Additionally, there were a lot of old taverns in Cranston and the current 99 Restaurant sits in the location of an old tavern.

“It’s still serving travelers,” Moyer said.

“Cranston Through Time” is the second book that Moyer has co-authored. The first, “Cranston Revisited,” was published in 2014 which Moyer co-authored with current CHS vice-president Tom Worthington. That book focuses on topics such as the area’s recreation, manufacturing and agriculture.

Moyer said the first book turned out to be a difficult process and said never again would she write another one. Five years later, however, she found herself with another completed book.

She said the second book was easier to curate thanks to Jim Hall who uploaded the photos in the historical society’s computer system. Moyer said for the first book, the photos were kept in the organization’s attic which was sweltering in the summer and freezing in the winter. 

As for the March 15 event, Moyer said the historical society had a respectable turnout for the first book signing since 2019 – the range of individuals went from age 13 to 86.

Moyer and Ragno hope people who remember Cranston from their youth, as well as younger people interested in what existed before them, will all enjoy the book’s then and now photographs.

Individuals can purchase a copy of “Cranston Through Time” for $20 at the Cranston Historical Society by calling 401-944-9226. All the proceeds from sales of this book will be donated to the organization to help in its mission to protect, preserve and promote this city’s history. Moyer said they would like to host several book signings and presentations, possibly at the Cranston Senior Enrichment Center and Cranston Public Library.