Wickford has a number of interesting little shops along its two main streets. Unlike nearby Newport, which has been invaded by national chains, Wickford's shops still have a lot of local character. We found the shopkeepers to be friendly and helpful.
Wickford is one of the best-preserved colonial-era towns in New England, with blocks of historic buildings dating back to the 1700s and 1800s. We enjoyed just walking around the town, enjoying the well-preserved houses, churches and other buildings.
It's all part of the atmosphere of Wickford. Old Americana at its finest. The nice thing is that altho the town has been discovered by a lot more tourists nowadays...it still has a very "real" feel to it. From the fishing docks and quohaugers to the funky shops on the main street...to the funny little houses tucked in here and there.... I enjoy these places that are valued but not too gentrified or pristine.
This old house was built in the 1700's. (2nd pic) It could have been smaller and then added to later. Or...sometimes they would simply roll a 2nd house on logs to join the first...and enlarge their living space. Waste not, want not, so they say. Perhaps the family grew or a son got married.....wonder who those people were...
Gilbert Stuart was one of America's greatest painters. He is best known for his portraits of George Washington, the first President of the United States.
Gilbert Stuart was born near Wickford, Rhode Island in 1755. His birthplace has been preserved as a small museum, which is open to visitors. In addition to the house, you can tour the adjacent mill, which was powered by a small waterwheel on the local creek. he entire tour only takes about 45 minutes, so it is easy for families with children. Unfortunately, the museum doesn't have any of his paintings, which are hung in museums throughout the United States.
This is such a relaxing easy going and lovely tiny town. You can just spend the day strolling, taking pictures, getting and ice cream and later a lobster roll, and sitting on one of the many benches that I saw all over town.
I was really amazed to see all the benches in Wickford. This wouldn't work in NY in the town where I live. People would take them over and sleep on them.
Just south of the Wickford village, you can visit another National HIstoric site. It's the birthplace of the most well known portrait artist of the 18th century. Gilbert Stuart painted the portrait of George Washington which is found on our one dollar bill.... as well as in many other places. He actually painted the portraits of 5 presidents and many other notables of the time. He was born Dec. 3, 1755 in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, which is the community just south of the Wickford village. His father operated a snuff mill on the site. He lived here until he was 7 yrs. old...and then the family moved to Newport. He lived in a number of places, including Europe over his life of 72 years...and died in Boston, Mass. The birthplace site is a lovely little museum back in the woods...with young docent guides who are very devoted to their history lessons. I will create a travelogue on the buildings, grounds, and interiors....which I felt were well worth seeing. My husband was intrigued with their May celebration when the herring come up stream to spawn in the little pond on the grounds of the museum. There are a number of interesting programs throughout the year including rug hooking, spinning, and artists in residence.
As you come into the main street in Wickford, you find a sweet little park right on Main Street. It's a nice respite from all the retail and hustle and bustle on busy summer days. The old architecture in the background lends interest to the gardens, making it a pleasing rest for the eye.
There are many 18th and 19th century homes in Wickford. Restoration is part of life here. Several churches are worthy of exploration as well. You could spend hours if you are an architecture buff. Bring your camera...take your time...walk a lot.
The Wickford Art Festival is a very old and popular tradition in Wickford. There are 250 artists scheduled to be on the street displaying their works this year. Festival is scheduled for July 8 and 9. Parking and traffic are always a problem in the little village, so plan to park a distance away and bring your walking shoes. There are some very good artists in the area...as it has been a popular haven with its picturesque waterfront and quaint architecture for many years.
Guys who work the waters for quahaugs are a salty lot indeed. They rise before dawn and dig the quahaug beds til their arms ache and their back is sore. Unfortunately these shell fish are more scarce all the time....or the waters have polutted them so they cannot be taken. Often the bay is closed because heavy rains cause the pollution to worsen. Then the diggers must wait until the all clear signal is given before they can resume. Their boats give little shelter from the cold and rain and snow. The quohaug is an oversized clam...a bit tougher and usually they are used for "stuffies", chowder, or clam cakes. Delicious if they are prepared by an old salt.
The Old Narragansett Church is Wickford's oldest church. It was built in 1707 and was moved to its current location around 1800. It is open to tourists only in July and August. However, it is the site of religious services at certain times in other parts of the year. An example is Easter Sunday, when the church is the site of a sunrise Easter service.
You can see how close to the road everything here has been built. My husband drove our big pickup truck down the street here, and broke one of the wing mirrors on a telephone pole. There are additional pictures which I took at the time in the vicinity of Wickford, but can't really identify.
Wickford Historic District, Roughly bounded by Tower Hill and Post Rds. as far N as Mill Cove and S to Lindley Ave, North Kingstown, 7400001. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Period of Significance: 1700-1849. This historic district encompasses 18th-century homes and Old Narragansett Church. Unfortunately I do not appear to have a picture of that church.
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 website says that the house is in Wickford, but other websites say that it is in North Kingston. Rather than try to decide, I've put tips in both places.
Richard Smith's original 1637 building was a trading post and perhaps fortified leading to the name of castle. 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.
For additional information on the architecture see the North Kingston tip.
The house underwent many other renovations and passed through many hands until 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 and was added to the NRHP in 1972..
At the time we visited, the house was painted red.
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
Smith's Castle grows the flowers to be used in workshops where women can learn to dye fabrics or clothing the old fashioned way. The workshops also include candle making, cooking on an open fire and weaving. I'm going to sign up for a day in the 1700's. Such a beautiful atmosphere here...so serene and pure.
This is not the sort of castle we sometimes envision. It is a structure which would have been considered quite large in its day. Parts of the house date to the 1600's, however much of it had to be rebuilt after fires in the 1700's. The house is on the National Historic Register and there are costumed guides to take you through and tell you the story of the house and its many inhabitants. It's worth the trip. Love the grounds and the gardens. More pics in my travelogue and in other tips.