Stepping back in time invites one to use all of one's senses, not just visual appreciation. Attending a wedding at this lovely and lovingly preserved building and grounds... read more
It was 1773 when James Mitchell Varnum purchased a large plot of land...
It was 1773 when James Mitchell Varnum purchased a large plot of land overlooking Greenwich Bay in East Greenwich, RI, for the sum of $90. Varnum, a gifted 24 year-old lawyer, did not buy the property solely for the view, but also because it sat behind the Kent County Courthouse (now East Greenwich Town Hall) where the most powerful and influential colonial leaders frequently met. As a prominent figure in the Revolutionary War and early-American politics, Varnum attracted a “who’s who” of guests to his mansion including George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette, Rochambeau, John Sullivan, Nathanael Greene, and many others.
This house museum contains numerous historical artifacts ranging from the late 17th century through the mid 19th century. The Varnum House Museum is open format, meaning that very few exhibits are behind glass or ropes. It is as if you’re touring the house as it appeared in the late 18th century! The Varnum House Museum’s exhibits focus on early American furniture, household items, musical instruments, children’s toys, documents, paintings, and much more. Some of the more impressive exhibits include a 1690 officer’s chair, a 1794 pianoforte made by William Frecker of London, a miniature punch bowl gifted from General Lafayette to Varnum as a housewarming present, and General Varnum’s own desk.
A very unique aspect of the house’s exhibits is the large number of historical items sourced from the Far East, including China, Japan, Persia (now Iran), and more. This includes Chinese punch bowls and dinner ware dating to the 18th century, hand-carved ivory sewing kits, hand-painted Chinese wallpaper dating to the early 19th century, and Persian reverse-glass paintings dating to the 18th century.