WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
Justin Abrams Animal Farm. Manisses Farm. Abrams Animal Farm. The 1661 Exotic Farm & Gardens. While it’s been called many things over the years, one thing is for certain. Since 1973, this attraction has been a landmark institution on Block Island for the young and old alike.
But how did a small Rhode Island resort destination manage to house exotic animals from all over the globe? Well, like all great things in life, it all started with a llama and a dream.
FROM SAILS TO SUITES
The late 1960s were an interesting time for the Abrams Family. Justin and Joan Abrams would pack up their children. Rita, Mark and Rick. onto their sailboat and make regular trips to Block Island. But as the kids grew, as they’re known to do, the sailboat became a little too cramped for the family. A new housing solution needed to be found.
Searching for a home on the island, the Abrams instead found themselves the owners of the former Florida House. The family took over the renovations and inn-keeping of the hotel, renaming it The 1661 Inn. Over the years, other properties were bought, expanded, and created… including a little farm across the street from the Inn.
In 1973, a visitor from New York City came to the island. Justin Abrams purchased a llama from the Bronx Zoo and brought it over to New Shoreham as the first exotic member of his animal farm. Over the years, Abrams would adapt the property and add more residents to his menagerie.
There’s the standard New England farm fair including chickens, sheep, horses, donkeys, rabbits, goats, swans, ducks, and honeybees. But then there’s residents from parts all over the globe: camels, alpacas, emus, yaks, a zebu (an Indian humped cattle), lemurs, red kangaroos, a zeedonk (half zebra, half donkey), a tortoise named Tank, and more.
Abrams Farm was not a private collection, though. He made sure that visitors to the island were able to have access to these exotic animals, making their trip to Block Island that much better. In fact, his farm is one of only two zoos licensed for exotic animals in the state of Rhode Island (the other being Roger Williams Park Zoo).
THE FARM CONTINUES
Unfortunately, Justin Abrams passed away in 2016 at the age or 89. However, his daughter Rita Draper and her husband Steve took over management of both the farm and 1661 Inn as well as the various other properties on the island owned by the Abrams Family, including The Oar and The Narragansett. Today, her sons Seth and Ross run the 1661 Exotic Animal Farm & Gardens and, when they visit the island, her grandchildren will also lend a hand. What started as a search for a home in the 60s has become a Block Island landmark 4 generations in the making!
The 1661 Exotic Animal Farm & Gardens can be found south on Spring Street, just a 9-minute walk as soon as you step off the ferry. It is free and open to the public during daylight hours year-round. Whether you’re 1 or 100, it’s a great place to visit while you’re on the island and is sure to offer a lifetime of memories. Just don’t forget to bring your camera!
Go wild and Sail Away…