History of the Homestead
Built by Nathanael in 1770, the "Homestead" as it historically has been known, was originally called "Spell Hall" as it was indicated in one of Nathanael's letters. Constructed on the hillside, the site chosen for the Homestead was well sheltered on the west by natural woods. The land to the front sloped eastward as a terrace to the Pawtuxet River. Originally the house overlooked a broad area of open woodland meadow. The building is a well preserved 18th century structure of simple, yet refined design. Originally the site had 83 acres but at the time of the 1919 sale to the Homestead Association, it had been reduced to 13 acres of open space and woodlands. The 2 & 1/2 story structure is typical of it's time in design. Around the 1870's, the front door area was Victorianized with a bracketed hood and double window door. During the early 1920's, an 18th century door with appropriate trim was attached to the opening making it look as it would have in Nathanael's time. During the 1870's a fire started that burned up to the second floor in the vicinity of the door.
The two main floors of the home each consist of four rooms on either side of a central hall. The rooms on the first floor are dining room, parlor, library and kitchen - each having a paneled fireplace. The completely intact interior was first restored in the early 1920's with the establishment of the building as a museum. A second major restoration was accomplished in 1990 showing from then on a more correct perspective of the house when the Quaker family lived there. An extensive paint analysis was accomplished in the 1990 restoration giving now the earliest colors used throughout the 18th century home. The rooms on the second floor are what we feel they would have been there in the 18th and 19th centuries. The first bedroom on the right as you ascend the stairs might have been used by Nathanael and later his brother Jacob. The room diagonally across the hall might have been used by Jacob Varnum Greene, the son of Jacob and the bedroom on the right is decored Victorian style with wallpaper and lace curtains since the occupant, Elizabeth Margaret who was the daughter of Jacob Varnum, lived until 1899, the Victorian era. The fourth room is used now as a museum shop.
Earliest known photo of the Nathanael Greene Homestead - 1899
When Nathanael and Caty moved from Coventry, the house was purchased by Nathanael's brother Jacob. He and his wife Peggy continued to live there until they died and the same was true of the next two generations. Upon the death of Elizabeth Margaret, the property was inherited by the children of her first marriage, Patience and Harris Inman. In 1915 the home was sold out of the family. Showing great concern for the property, four members of the Kent County Chapter of the Rhode Island Sons of the American Revolution purchased the property in 1919, restored it and gave it the name we know today as the Nathanael Greene Homestead. the first caretaker, actually lived in the house but by 1935, a caretaker's cottage was built and is used to this day.
Homestead - June 30, 1919, the day of purchase by the N.G. Homestead association.
Left to right are Henry Greene Jackson, Herbert M. Clarke, Dr. Frank B. Smith & Dr. Benjamin Franklin Tefft
Signing day-June 30, 1919
Left to right are Dr. Frank B. Smith, Henry Greene Jackson, Adelard Loranger(owner), Dr. Ben Franklin Tefft & Herbert M. Clarke
Homestead on Dedication Day in 1920 Homestead in 1928