• Chamber Logo throughout the Years


    This logo was created in 1925 to represent the Westerly Chamber of Commerce formely the Westerly Board of Trade.  

     In 1956 the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce (GWPACC) was incorporated and a new logo was created to reflect the name change.

    On September 24, 2015 the Board of Directors voted unanimously to change the name of the organization to “Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce” to better represent the geographic area served, be more inclusive, and to be less cumbersome.  A new logo was also created to be cleaner, bold and convey a shoreline theme while also incorporating the wave as a nod to the former logo.




    The following account of the historical evolution of The Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce during the time period of 1700 – Present has been compiled from newspaper articles and other published reference materials and this timeline is limited to a subjective synopsis of key events.  The origins of what became the Westerly Chamber of Commerce were originally born from activities of the Westerly Board of Trade.  Boards of Trade originated in Europe and formed in Colonial times in the Americas for similar function.  A Board of Trade had a regulatory function whereas a Chamber of Commerce is non-regulatory.  For this reason, the official start of a Westerly Chamber of Commerce was in 1956, despite some similar functions and common individuals who were involved in the evolution to an independent 501c6.  Documents verifying the following events and original minutes of chamber meetings from 1956 are safeguarded and preserved for historical purposes.


    Westerly Board of Trade (WBT)

    • 1708 at the behest of the RI General Assembly, WBT reported the Census (RI Genealogy Society)
    • 1892 for an unspecified number of years, Chapman Pendleton was Town of Westerly Treasurer, and President of the WBT simultaneously. Westerly Town governance and WBT intertwined. Pendleton was President of the Westerly Chapter of the American Historical Society (Pendleton Biographies).
    • 1908 WBT held a large meeting at Westerly Town Hall on March 19, 1908 “to perfect the organization of the Westerly Board of Trade.”  A new Constitution and Bylaws were adopted, election of new officers took place.  It was a redefinition of the purpose of the Westerly Board of Trade. The meeting was reported in a Westerly Sun Article 3-20-1908 “Board of Trade: Westerly Has Promising Organization in Its Business Men.“ This was not the first meeting (as the article references prior meetings).  The last line of that article: “The meeting adjourned after which several committees met to discuss plans for the work of the Board (of Trade). At that time the admissions fee (now referred to as “registration fee or joining fee”) was $3 and the yearly dues was $2 “payable in advance.”   
    • 1909 WBT partnered with Boards of Trade in VA, VT, MA and the Merchants Association of NY “Railroad Between East & West” (Worcester Magazine).
    • 1904 Charles Perry was President of WBT (New England Families Genealogy)
    • 1911 WBT “evidence taken” in Interstate Commerce Commission setting railroad fares – advances in rates by carriers
    • 1913 WBT registered 200 members with the Congressional Serial Set (registry) and set its annual meeting dates as February
    • 1922 RI General Assembly Resolution: Providing for Use of State Armory in Westerly by WBT with usage fee arrangement.
    • 1925 WBT discussed a merger with the (RI and CT) Shore Development association, a change in its Bylaws and changing of the name to Westerly Chamber of Commerce.  The discussion was tabled in lieu of a formal meeting Westerly Sun Article “Westerly Board of Trade to merge with RI & CT Shoreline Development Association,” dated 1-2-1925. 
    • 1925 Harvey C. Perry made a lengthy statement of new policies for WBT and advocating for a change to Westerly Chamber of Commerce. The merger resolution 2-2-1925, renamed the Westerly Chamber.  This Board vote was the defining moment of the evolution of first named “Westerly Chamber.”
    • 1925 WBT at its annual meeting February 2, 1925, WBT amended its Bylaws to change its name to Westerly Chamber of Commerce



    ·        1925 WCC formerly WBT named Executive and other Committees

    ·        1925 WCC voted “to take over the Rhode Island Shore Development association, making the members of this association a committee to promote the advertising and development of shore resorts in Washington and New London Counties.” (RI and CT) “The merger was effected by passage of this resolution.” “This committee shall be known as the Rhode Island and Connecticut shore development committee of the Westerly Chamber of Commerce.”  Committee members were appointed.

    ·        1925WCC met to discuss and outline the Shore Resort Campaign “to take the place of the former extensive advertising done by Watch Hill hotels” “1. Raising a fund of $5,000 2. Advertising in newspapers and folders 3. Handling inquiries and communication 4. Publication of news stories”

    ·        1925 WCC/Shore Development Committee “Will Work For New Fireproof Hotel At Watch Hill Resort”

    ·        1925 WCC hosted J. Paul Foster, Manager of the New England Bureau of the Boston Chamber of Commerce for an address on Chambers of Commerce and faith in community, followed by a regular business meeting of WCC.  Harvey C. Perry outlined a discussion on street design (as a member of the highway commission), and Westerly garage and Opera House, as well as numerous other WCC projects. 

    ·        1926 WCC held a meeting with over 300 people with talks given by tax assessors in New Britain CT, Westerly and RI Board of Tax Commissioners. It was stated that WCC “was a public institution and not a private co-operation and it worked for the best interests of the town as a whole, not trying to foster something on the town that some might think was for the Chamber of Commerce’s own good.” A lengthy discussion of tax problems followed.

    ·        1936 WCC Authored/Published a book “Old Westerly, Rhode Island. New Constitution the Towns of Charlestown, Hopkinton, Richmond and Westerly. Rhode Island's Jubilee Year 1636-1936. Three Hundredth Anniversary of the Founding of Rhode Island 1636-1936 Paperback.

    ·        1938 WCC This Westerly Sun news article indicates that the Chamber leaders at the time, and the media, may have considered this meeting to be The Chamber’s 30th anniversary even though it was only named “Westerly Chamber ” in 1925.  Quotes include:  “Organization of Chamber Of Commerce 30 Years Ago Recalled” In a meeting, “no special anniversary was planned.” “Of course, 30 years ago the new organization took on the name of the Board of Trade.  It was changed to the Chamber of Commerce a decade ago.” This meeting was held at the Elm Tree Inn in Pawcatuck.

    ·        1938-1956 Hundreds of newspaper articles document that The Westerly Chamber of Commerce was active in town economic development, community affairs and special events.


    ·        1956 The Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce was incorporated in the State of Rhode Island on July 18, 1956.  The Chamber rented office space at 155 Main Street (Butler Coal Company, presently Shell gas station) in downtown Westerly and later moved to an office in Merchant Square on Beach Street, a main route to the beaches. 

    ·        The GWPACC ran the Credit Bureau of the Westerly Pawcatuck Area.

    ·        July 19, 1956, John “Jack” Conway was contracted by the Board to serve for 2 years as Executive Vice President at a salary of $8,500 a year and he became 50% shareholder of the Credit Bureau of the Westerly-Pawcatuck Area, together with The Chamber that held the other 50%.  A full time secretary was also employed by The Chamber.

    ·        October 1957, Warren Greenwood was hired as Executive Vice President. 

    ·        The Chamber regained 100% of the shares of the Credit Bureau of the Westerly-Pawcatuck Area

    ·        1957 The first annual meeting was held at the Greenhaven Inn.

    ·        May, 1959 Warren Greenwood resigned

    ·        Hubbard Phelps was hired as Executive Vice President effective May 3, 1959.

    ·        1960s The GWPACC erected a billboard at 61 Main Street, Westerly and used it as a community billboard and commercial advertising vehicle for its members.

    ·        July 1963 Beatrice Smith became the first female serving on the Board of Directors, representing Bea Smith’s retail.

    ·        1970s & 1980s The organization operated under the name “Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce” and later conducted business as the “Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck-Charlestown Area Chamber of Commerce”, although the name was never formally changed.  The Charlestown Chamber of Commerce was incorporated at the RI Secretary of State in 1980.

    ·        November 1978, To raise capital, The Chamber sold the billboard structure to WERI radio station. 

    ·        1983 Brochures produced show that The Chamber still used the name “Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck-Charlestown Area Chamber of Commerce”.  At some point in time, GWPACC ceased using the word “Charlestown” as part of its name.   Publications show The Chamber was inconsistent with using the words “The” and “area” in its name over many years.

    ·        Diane Howard was hired part-time as the Secretary (sole employee at the time) until she passed away unexpectedly in 1985.  Her employment is confirmed 1980-1985 but she may have started earlier.

    ·        During the 1980’s and 90’s, The Chamber also operated an annex out of a trailer on Airport Road, assisting tourists with information.

    ·        1985, Joan Rushlow was hired as the first full time, professional Executive Director.

    ·        1990, Phyllis Beale was elected the first female President of the GWPACC.

    ·        1991, September 18, 1991 The State of RI granted a quit claim deed to the Town of Westerly for the Post Road parcel.

    ·        1992 The Town of Westerly entered into a lease with the GWPACC for the use of the Post Road Picnic Grove Property at 74 Post Road.

    ·        1992-3  The Chamber rallied  community support in the form of donations of funds and services, allowing the organization to build a permanent office on land owned by the State of RI, leased to the Town of Westerly for 100 years.  The land is leased from the Town at $1 per year.

    ·        1994 The Chamber completed construction of a state of the art facility at 74 Post Road in Westerly.

    ·        October 15, 1996- Joan Rushlow retired as Executive Director.  At the time, The Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce had approximately 400 members. 

    ·        October 15, 1996 Lisa B. Konicki began tenure as Executive Director.

    ·        October, 1996  GWPACC secured 2 tractor trailers of gallons of water that were distributed free to residents, during a water contamination crisis

    ·         May, 1997 The Chamber held an historic membership drive that netted 153 new members in 3 days.  The increase represented a dramatic 40% increase in the size of the organization.

    ·        1998 The Chamber’s gift certificate program was established.  Sales that first year were $53,000.

    ·        1998  The GWCF held the 1st Pawcatuck River Duck Race rubber duck race involving 20,000 rubber ducks, 45 non-profit partners.  It net more than $50,000 for the partners and over $45,000 profit for the GWCF.

    ·        August 1999 After numerous appeals, WERI donated the Main Street billboard back to the GWPACC.

    ·        2002 The Chamber successfully petitioned the Town to have its address changed from 74 Post Road to “One Chamber Way”.

    ·        September 2003 The Chamber entered into an agreement to expand its present building at One Chamber Way. A capital campaign was launched and the community responded generously, donating over $110,000 towards the project. 

    ·        2004 The building expansion took place, increasing the facility from 1,500 square feet to 3,596 square feet, which included a larger conference room, additional offices and a garage door to the basement. 

    ·         2007 a 24 hour “brochure breezeway” was constructed next to the outdoor restrooms to serve the needs of visitors who stop at the office after hours.

    ·        August 12, 1997  Articles of incorporation were filed with the RI Secretary of State for a new charitable arm of The Chamber,  “The Greater Westerly Chamber Foundation”

    ·        March 20, 1998 the “Greater Westerly Chamber Foundation” was granted IRS status as a non-profit 501c3.

    ·        2010 The GWCF purchased and installed 6 wayfinding signs in historic downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck, at $3,000 each

    ·        March 30, 2010, an epic flood deemed the “500 year flood” hit Westerly-Pawcatuck and the Pawcatuck River surged more than 8 feet.  Most of Industrial Drive and Canal Street were under water.  Many businesses were hit hard and displaced.  The Chamber raised $73,000 and distributed it as grant money to the affected businesses.

    ·        2011 The Westerly Land Trust required the billboard be removed for development of an ice rink.  The Chamber secured the support of the Town Manager, Town Council and attorney Tom Liguori to create an ordinance allowing it to move the billboard  across the street onto town property at 5 Union Street.

    ·        2012 The GWCF purchased and installed 2 bicycle racks in downtown Westerly

    ·        2012 The GWPACC, Charlestown Chamber of Commerce, Narragansett Chamber of Commerce and North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce legally challenged the South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce in its attempt to change its name to “The Southern RI Chamber of Commerce” on the basis there are 7 southern RI Chambers and this was misleading and would cause consumer confusion.  The collaborative challenge failed to meet the standard of proof in court.  The SK Chamber continued with its name change despite causing significantly strained relationships.

    ·        October 29, 2012, Westerly, RI was the epicenter of superstorm Sandy.  The GWPACC responded immediately by launching a “Bring Back the Beach Campaign.”  Efforts included recruiting and scheduling volunteers to assist in clean up, securing free meals and delivering them to businesses and volunteers, securing cleaning supplies and work gloves, serving as the primary source of business information and housing satellite offices of the RIEDC and FEMA at our office.  Most notably, The Chamber executed numerous fundraisers over a 6 month period that raised $430,000 and distributed 100% of the proceeds as grants to 29 businesses to help with expenses not covered by insurance.

    ·        2013, The Chamber competed in a national contest sponsored by Benjamin Moore, entitled “Main Street Matters”.  We competed against more than 800 cities and towns in an internet voting campaign and were one of the 20 winning towns that benefited from a free paint overhaul of downtown.  In total, 22 commercial buildings were painted entirely free, using a historic color palette selected to enhance our beautiful architecture.

    ·        September 24, 2015 the Board of Directors voted unanimously to change the name of the organization to “Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce” to better represent the geographic area served, be more inclusive, and to be less cumbersome.  A new logo was also created to be cleaner, bold and convey a shoreline theme while also incorporating the wave as a nod to the former logo.



    ·        October 17, 2015 The Chamber held a 90th anniversary party in the parking lot at 56 Main Street to celebrate its 90th anniversary. Over 250 people attended.  News of the name change and logo change was met with widespread favorable response.