When we lived in RI, we visited Smith's Castle which is one of the oldest houses in RI. It is a saltbox house on Mill Cove and Cocumscussoc Brook. The house address is Wickford and there is an additional tip at the URL below. That tip has a link to a map.
Richard Smith's original 1637 building was a trading post.. It was burned at the time of the King Philip's wars in 1676. (King Philip was the sachem of the Wompanoags). Forty colonial soldiers who were killed in the war are buried in a mass grave near here.
Richard Smith, Jr built a new home in 1678. According to tradition, many timbers salvaged from the burned blockhouse were reused in the construction of the new house. When Smith died childless in 1692, he bequeathed Cocumscussoc to his nephew Captain Lodowick Updike and Lodowick's wife Abigail Newton Updike. Lodowick and Abigail were first cousins and grandchildren of the elder Richard Smith.
Around 1740, Lodowick's son Daniel remodeled by removing the facade gables, projecting front porch, installing an elegant entry staircase, expanding the lean-to kitchen, paneled walls, and encased some beams, so that the house appeared much as it does today.
It was transformed into a modern dairy farm in 1919 by the Fox family. After Mr. Fox's death the home fell into neglect and suffered vandalism. It was purchased in 1948 by the Cocumscussoc Association.
At the time we visited, the house was painted red. It is now painted white.
An admission of $5.00 for adults and $1.00 for children 6–12 is charged to tour the house. Children under 6 and members are admitted free.
Guided House Tours
Docents in period clothing provide interpretive tours of the house at 12:15, 1:30, 2:15, and 3:00 as follows
June, July, and August: Thursday through Monday
May, September, and October: Friday through Sunday
Mid December through mid April the Castle is closed
There is no charge to visit the gardens and grounds which are maintained by the URI Master Gardeners
7825 Post Road, North Kingstown, Rhode Island, 02852, United States
6481 Post Road, North Kingstown, Rhode Island, 02852, United States
800 Boston Neck Road, North Kingstown, Rhode Island, 02852, United States
This traditional garden that we saw in the 1970s looks quite different today. The URI Master Gardeners have transformed it into an 18th Century Garden, by growing many of the same plants that would have been present in a similar garden during the 18th Century.
Sustainable practices include such items as crushed stone walkways and mulch to retain moisture, reduce watering needs, and reduce weeds. Where possible naturally disease and pest resistant plant varieties are used.
Admission to the Castle grounds is free and they are open for picnicing. When we went there were flower borders around the lawns in front of the house.
Now, the Castle gardens and grounds use sustainable landscaping methods overseen by the URI Master Gardeners. In this area they have Shoreland buffers, aka riparian buffers. These buffers control stormwater runoff.
Sustainable landscaping also includes using or encouraging natural vegetation instead of the lawns and flower beds that were there when we visited. It is felt that natural vegetation helps slow down stormwater runoff so that it can filter into the ground. The plants can help to remove some pollutants.
Shoreland buffers also provide habitat for many species. Trees in the buffer zone provide shade which helps keep the water cool. Cool water stores more oxygen than warm water
Near this site, Cocumscussoc Brook, a freshwater stream, enters Mill Cove
To make the passange to Providence along the west side of Narragansett Bay safer, this 54 foot tall cast-iron lighthouse was built using the pnuematic caisson method There are only 11 lighthouses built by this way. The fourth order Fresnel lens was illuminated on July 1, 1899.
Some visitors came by boat (and this is the best way to see the lighthouse today), but others swam. The Lighthouse Swim became an annual event in the 20s.
On September 21, 1938, it was becoming obvious that a major storm was on the way. When the keepers looked out a window, they saw a yacht passing by "at 60 miles per hour."
The keepers took refuge in the fourth level of the lighthouse, only to see .. wrecked boats and buildings .. sweeping past them. The 30-foot waves broke open a door in the tower, washing away furniture and the station's boats. The two men went as high as they could, to the fog bell room. There they lashed themselves, back to back, to the pipe that contained the weights for the clockwork mechanism that rotated the lens. They felt a gigantic wave,.. strike the lighthouse.. but they survived..Seven people at lighthouses in the general area were killed in the Hurricane of '38, and several lighthouses were destroyed or irrevocably damaged.
The bridge built in 1941 from North Kingston to Jamestown Island made the lighthouse obsolete and it was abandoned. It got rusty and the birds took over. The Coast Guard tried to give it to the state, but the state refused to take it.
In 1973, after this picture was taken, someone was hired to paint the lighthouse, but he became ill from the guano.
Eventually, the lighthouse was restored by the Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse. After the exterior was restored, 52 tons of pigeon guano was removed from inside the tower.
The interior has not yet been restored, but the Bay Queen Cruises, 461 Water Street , Gate #4, Warren, RI has several lighthouse cruises a year. The lighthouse has been put back in service as an active aid to navigation.
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Since it has been over 32 years since our family went to Smith's Castle, I just have a few slides to jog my memory of what we saw there. Somewhere I have a picture of my two girls next to a lifesized doll dressed as a colonial child.
In order to give some idea of what it is possible to see on the docent led tours, I've copied three of the Lesson Plans that Smith's Castle has published for various age children.
Everyday life and the colonial kitchen
Colonial cooking and food preservation. Compare and contrast old and new kitchen utensils. Role play carrying water and wash day. Hear a story or play a game.
Craft/snack Options: Make butter or string apples for drying. 45 minutes to one hour.
Fondest memory: Three Lesson Plans for Grades 3–8 Depth of program varies by grade level. 1-1/2 to 2 hours
A) 17th Century Rhode Island Trading Post
The Narragansett Tribe.
Roger Williams' and Richard Smith's trade and interactions with the Native people.
King Philip's War and the Great Swamp Fight.
Activity: make a Native American bead pouch craft,
Video available for loan.
B) What Was It Like to Live in Colonial Days?
Lifestyles, rooms and their uses, furnishings and equipment.
Food preparation and preservation.
Activity: Children's education with quill pen writing.
C) Plantation Life in Rhode Island
How did a plantation differ from a farm?
What was life like for owners and slaves?
Activity for grades 3 and 4: Design a quilt block to make a class quilt.
Activity for grades 5–8: Make a runaway slave poster.