We know the area as Melville today, but if you look at some of the maps from before the Civil War it was called “Portsmouth Grove.”  It was the site of a recreational park with games (ten pin bowling) and rides (like a merry go round). There was a dock for the steam ships to bring customers for a day of fun and recreation. During the Civil War it was the location of Lovell Hospital.  After the war all signs of the hospital vanished after an auction was held to move buildings and equipment off the ground.  Many old homes in the Portsmouth area have additions or woodwork from the old hospital.  The land became private again.

Bradford Coaling Station

In 1901 the Bradford Coaling Station was constructed in the area in order to supply coal to steamers and military transports navigating Narragansett Bay.   Coal was stored until it was loaded onto ships.  Bradford was named for Rear Admiral Royal Bird Bradford whose job was to supply coal to American warships throughout the world.  Vintage postcards from “Bradford, Rhode Island” show images of the coaling station and a battleship in the background. By 1910 the Post Office became known by the name “Bradford.”

By 1914 the Post Office began to be called “Melville.”  At that time the

Admiral Melville

coaling station was converted to the Melville Oil Depot.  It was named for Admiral George Wallace Melville.  He had been in the Navy during the Civil War and made heroic Arctic expeditions.  He administered the Bureau of Steam Engineering, but he did pioneering work that opened the way for the Navy to power its ships with oil.

The Melville area played a vital role in the war effort during World War II. The Patrol Torpedo Boat training base at Melville was commissioned in the spring of 1942.  In November of 1945 the PT base at Melville was de-commissioned, but by then it had trained approximately 2,500 officers and 20,000 men for duty on PT boats. The base was known as the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Training Center at Melville. The small but fast PT boats saw duty in the Pacific against the Japanese and were used in the Atlantic and Mediterranean as well.

Approximately 45 different squadrons of PT boats were trained at Melville which was the only training facility for these boats. Captain William C. Speech was the commanding officer of Melville. The training period consisted of a three month course with one of those months onboard a PT Boat.  John F. Kennedy was one of those trained at Melville.  On September 27, 1942, Kennedy entered the Training Center. He was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) during the training.  He completed his training there on December 2 and he took over command of a torpedo boat in early 1943. He ended up in the Pacific and the story of the sinking of PT 109 and Kennedy’s rescue of a crew member became famous when Kennedy ran for President.  The PT crews received a number of commendations for heroism and the small but swift PT boat was recognized for its value in the war effort.

Today Melville is known as a recreational and boating area.