Proud to call Smithfield home

Published 6:24 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Life on Commerce Street is tranquil a century after the Great Fire of 1921.

Better Half and I — residents at the foot of Wharf Hill since spring — like it that way.

Our version of “excitement” — a flooded vehicle and a wayward cat, whose adventures were chronicled in this space last month — wouldn’t merit a mention in the complete, fascinating history of that stretch of Pagan waterfront.

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I won’t claim to have known much of that history, much less have been motivated by it, when we made the decision last winter to purchase our home on the Pagan, but it’s been a lot of fun to learn about it.

Publisher Emeritus John Edwards gets much of the credit for my Commerce Street education with his Short Rows reflections. Next time there’s a nor’easter and the Pagan starts rising, I just might ask him to re-live his boyhood experience moving nail kegs and other valuables at Bell Hardware to a higher floor.

(Neighbor Debbie Green tells us our condo’s basement has flooded four times in its nearly half-century existence, so our philosophy is to furnish cheaply and be ready to vacate quickly when No. 5 looks likely.)

On today’s Commerce Street, it’s hard to imagine the bustling trade that inspired its name, though it must be noted that the world’s largest pork producer still has its global headquarters at the other end of the street. Annual revenue north of $15 billion is a lot of commerce.

At least we Commerce Street newbies have experienced the sounds of the Pagan’s commercial heyday. Windsor resident Rick Reuter’s 26-foot steam-powered Arla Kay has been chugging along the river and tooting its whistle this summer, delighting not just those aboard but waterfront residents as well.

My Wharf Hill education will continue with this weekend’s community observances of the Great Fire, thanks to civic-minded volunteers like Carolyn Keen and Mary Cole, who wouldn’t dare let the important occasion pass unobserved.

Modern Smithfield, which we’re proud to call home, is a reminder of what can spring from the ashes of adversity.

Steve Stewart is publisher of The Smithfield Times. His email address is