About Babcock-Smith House

Since the middle of the eighteenth century the Babcock-Smith House has stood amid an ever-changing area atop Granite Street in Westerly, RI. One of Rhode Island’s important architectural and historical landmarks, the house as it now stands clearly reflects the modes of life of the several generations who continuously occupied the house until 1972.

The land originally extended from what is now Tower Street to Wells Street, then Eastward into a wedge-shaped mass for about 1 3/4 miles. Now the property is about 200 feet square. Its location was on the main road from Mastuxet (Mastuxet Brook on Watch Hill Road at the intersection of Winnapug Road) to Hopkinton.

exterior house restoration

Our History

Babcock Smith Timeline

The Early Years

portrait of Joshua Babcock
Joshua Built the Mansion

Joshua Babcock built the mansion from which he practiced medicine, ran a retail business, and became involved in colonial politics.

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin made several visits to his friend Joshua.

Colonial Postmaster

Joshua was appointed first colonial postmaster of Westerly with the post office located in this house.

Last Will

Joshua died; see his Last Will and Testament: authentic transcription or easy-to-read version.

circa 1818
Joshua's grandson

Dudley Babcock, Joshua's grandson, sold the house to Oliver Wells to recoup financial losses from the War of 1812. The property became a tenant farm and gradually fell into disrepair.

The Emerging Granite Industry

House Exterior
Granite Outcropping

Orlando Smith discovered a granite outcropping on the old Babcock farm.


Orlando bought the Babcock Farm for $8,000. The house was in such disrepair that his father-in-law, Isaac Gallup, rebuilt the foundation and the floor joists of the north wing before Orlando and his wife Emeline moved in.

Orlando moved his business to the top of the hill and used the granite on his property as a raw material for his work as a stonemason.

Business Expanded

The granite business expanded to include cutting monuments.

His Wife Emeline

Orlando died and left the farm and The Smith Granite Company to his wife Emeline.

The Prosperous Years

House Exterior
Following the Civil War

Following the American Civil War, the granite industry flourished because of the desire to memorialize Civil War heroes and a trend toward park-like cemeteries.

Changes to the house during this period included the building of the back stairway and the granite wall in front.

1870 - 1880's
Guests at The Smith Home

The Smith Granite Company continued to thrive. Wealthy customers who came to Westerly to approve the work they had ordered were often guests at the Smith home. Consequently, the home needed to have an air of prosperity appropriate for customers.

Victorian Renovation

A major Victorian renovation moved the front entrance forward, allowing for stained glass windows in the entryway, and added a balcony over the front door, a wrap-around porch, and an elaborate outhouse. The highly decorated interior and furnishings reflected the ornate style of the period. The two-seat, elaborate outhouse had plastered walls, mahogany trim, wainscoting and a pine floor. It had a stove for heat in the winter months -- a luxury that would be fitting for the wealthy guests.

Emeline Gallup Smith

Emeline Gallup Smith died.

Julia Emeline

The Smith Granite Company was incorporated with stock owned by family members. For $1.00 Julia Emeline Smith bought the farm, which remained a prosperous, working farm. It was the first on the hill to have gaslights, electricity, and a telephone which people from the neighborhood used in an emergency.

The Colonial Restoration

House Exterior restoration
Orlando R. Smith, Jr.

Julia Emeline Smith died and her nephew Orlando R. Smith, Jr. inherited the property. He was interested in local history, genealogy, and antiques.

Norman Isham

Orlando R. Smith, Jr. began an extensive colonial restoration. He hired Norman Isham, noted restoration architect, who removed the Victorian details, enlarged the dining room, added the butler's pantry, restored the fireplaces in the parlor and dining room, and installed a steel beam in the keeping room. He oversaw the choices of reproduction colonial wallpaper for the parlor, dining room, front hall, and bedrooms. With these changes the house returned to its former Georgian appearance. Many of the current furnishings are from the collection of Orlando R. Smith, Jr.

The Museum

Babcock Smith Granite Sign
Orlando R. Smith Trust

Orlando R. Smith, Jr. died. His will established the Orlando R. Smith Trust to preserve the house and its furnishings. His widow, Phebe Alice Smith, maintained the house and the collection for the next forty years despite the decline of the granite industry and its income.

Late 1950s
The Adjoining Cottage

In order to fund the maintenance of the house, Phebe Alice Smith petitioned the court for permission to sell the adjoining cottage which had been the home of the farm manager during the prosperous years.

The House Could Become a Museum

The trust was reorganized so that the house could become a museum.

Carriage House

The Carriage House was built to support the museum and its programs.

Joshua's Store

The original corn crib became Joshua's Store and a workshop was added.