Take a step back in time. Visit the authentically restored and furnished 1750 home of the Stuart family and learn about the life of one of America's best-known portraitists, Gilbert Stuart.
• Learn about the life and portraits of Gilbert Stuart
• Learn about daily life in the 1700's
• Learn about waterpower technology through waterwheels
• Learn how corn was ground in the 250-yr-old Hammond Gristmill
• Explore our herb gardens, woodland trails, streams, and birds
• Enjoy scenic views of the 57-acre Carr Pond
• Rent a rowboat and fish or take a quiet tour of the pristine pond
• Explore exhibits and art sales by local artists
• Paint or photograph on the grounds
A Registered National Historic Landmark
Museum and Grounds
The Gilbert Stuart Birthplace and Museum is situated on 23 acres in the woods of Saunderstown, Rhode Island on a beautiful millpond and stream. You will discover the 1750 home and birthplace of renowned artist Gilbert Stuart, operational waterwheels for a snuff mill and a gristmill, a fish ladder, and a colonial herb garden. Boat rentals, available to members, provide an opportunity to experience the pristine 57-acre Carr Pond. Our nature trails provide scenic overlooks of the pond and opportunities to observe the birds and wildlife on the property.
The Gilbert Stuart Birthplace and Museum is a unique experience.
Welcome Center and Gallery
Begin your visit at the Admissions Office, explore historic paintings and enjoy art exhibits and sales by local artists in our Gallery, and browse in our interesting Gift Shop.
The Birthplace and Snuff Mill
Take a step back in time when you visit the 1750 home and snuff mill of the Stuart family and learn about the life of one of America 's best-known portraitists. This authentically restored eighteenth century, gambrel-roofed workingman's home is furnished with period antiques. It is a showplace for reproductions of Stuart's works. Beneath the window of Gilbert's tiny room, water diverted from the millpond turns the huge wooden undershot waterwheel. Watch the wooden gears turn to power the snuff mill which was used to grind locally grown tobacco in colonial times. Stuart's Birthplace is unique because it was both a family dwelling and a place of industry. This is the site of the first snuff mill in the American colonies.
The Stuart family lived here and operated the snuff mill for eleven years until 1761 when they moved to Newport . Many families lived in the Birthplace over the next 170 years. By the late 1920's, the Birthplace had fallen into disrepair and was in danger of demolition. Local art-lovers formed a group to save the Birthplace from destruction. They raised money and purchased the buildings and grounds in 1930. The Birthplace was restored under the direction of architect Norman Isham, a renowned specialist in colonial restoration. A new waterwheel was built, exactly like the old one. An authentic 1700's snuff mill was installed in the exact spot of the original in the basement of the family home.
The museum was incorporated on January 31, 1931. The Birthplace is a National Historic Landmark.
18th Century Gristmill
The fully restored eighteenth century Hammond Gristmill houses the original granite millstones dated 1757. The mill was very important to local farmers, grinding their whitecap flint corn into corn meal for the famous Rhode Island jonnycakes. A succession of milling families lived in the Birthplace house and operated the gristmill. One such family, the Hammonds, were widely-known for their finely ground cornmeal. They lived here and operated the gristmill from 1813 – 1867. After a final restoration in 2007, water once again powered the millstones of the Hammond Gristmill, grinding corn for the first time in almost one hundred years.
Watch the water flow through the sluice gate and turn the fascinating 8000-pound white oak waterwheel. Hear the rumble of the millstones as the miller grinds corn several times a year. Truly an exceptional experience!
River herring, an anadromous fish, live in the ocean and migrate upstream to spawn in freshwater ponds. A fish ladder was installed in the stream in front of the Birthplace by the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife in the 1960's. This ladder allows thousands of migrating river herring to pass over the dam to spawn in the upper pond each spring. In early fall, the juvenile river herring journey downstream to the ocean.
The Gilbert Stuart Museum herb garden showcases herbs original to the colonial period. Herbs were planted close to the kitchen door, making them readily available for use as food flavorings, tonics and medicines, teas, air fresheners, insect repellents, dyes, beauty treatments, and for superstitions. The museum's herb garden provides a learning landscape for all visitors. The Plum Beach Garden Club designed, installed, and maintains this garden.
Enjoy a stroll through the woods. Our well-marked and well-maintained nature trails cross our 23 acres of property. Enjoy views of our millpond, streams, stonewalls, the historic Burlingame and Hammond cemeteries, scenic overlooks of the marsh, and a panoramic view of the private 57-acre Carr Pond. Nature lovers can view a variety of woodland and water wonders. Over 85 species of birds have been sighted on the property.
Museum members have the exclusive right to rent one of our rowboats to fish or explore the tranquil and pristine 57-acre Carr Pond. Call (401-294-3001) to make a reservation.