top of page

Rhody Radio episode transcription has been been made possible by the American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries, which is an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.


If These Walls Could Talk: The Paine House Museum

Brenda Jacob: [00:00:00] Even to this day, when we have meetings in here and we still talk politics and we still talk about major events that are happening, this house has heard all of it. I've always said, wouldn't it be so cool if the walls could talk and they could tell us everything that's heard throughout the years?

Lauren Walker: You're listening to Rhody Radio, Rhode Island Library Radio online. [music] Welcome to If These Walls Could Talk, a new segment on Rhody Radio where we learn about the historic houses of Rhode Island. Rhode Island was founded in 1636, and its history has been well-preserved. House museums are a great way to learn about what everyday life was like at different times in history. With over 30 different historic house museums throughout the state, there's a lot to learn about life in Rhode Island from the colonial era through present day.

I'm your host, Lauren Walker, from the Rhody Radio crew and Coventry Public Library. While I was in college, I worked as a tour guide at the Newport Mansions, and it sparked in me an interest in architecture and historic preservation. Ever since then, I love to go to historic house museums to learn about how people used to live but also to learn about how house design has changed over the years. I'm excited to tour Rhode Island's many historic homes, talk with the people who take care of them, and share all of this great history with our listeners.

For this first episode, I'm at the Paine House in Coventry, Rhode Island, with Colleen Hodges and Brenda Jacob, President and President Emeritus, respectively, of the Western Rhode Island Civic Historical Society. Coventry Library patrons and Rhody Radio listeners are probably already familiar with the at the Paine House. Both in-person at the library and in an episode of Rhody Radio, Ken DeCosta from RISEUP Paranormal has talked about his decade-long series of paranormal investigations at the Paine House.

If you'd like to listen to that episode, which aired in October 2022, [00:02:00] it's called Paranormal Activity at the Paine House. Today, though, Colleen and Brenda are going to talk about the history of the house itself. Hello, if you'd like to introduce yourselves for the listeners.

Colleen Hodges: Hi there. I'm Colleen Hodges. I'm the current President of the Western Rhode Island Civic Historical Society.

Brenda: I am Brenda Jacob. I am President Emeritus. I've been President before for about 10 years, and my family has been a member of this society since its inception.

Lauren: Tell me a little bit about the history of the Paine House.

Brenda: This house has a lot of mysteries. First of all, would be when it was built.

Lauren: It's a big one.

Brenda: It is a big one because there wasn't a lot of paper dating back then. We've been told it was built in 1668, but we have been able to track the deed to 1691. We do know, as early as 1630s, that they were out here getting lumber, growing corn. By 1741, there was roughly 100 people that were living out in this area, which they called the hinterlands.

Lauren: Oh, okay.

Brenda: It was built by Samuel Bennett. That would be the original room. We do know that Bennett did apply for a license to run a tavern because in order to have a town meeting, they had to have a tavern license. We do know that a permit was pulled for a tavern by Samuel Bennett, and that's where the meetings were held actually to form the Town of Coventry.

Lauren: Oh, very cool.

Brenda: Then the Braytons bought it in 1741, and they added on to it, and they made it into a-- There was again a tavern. They had a permit for a tavern, but it was also stables for horses. [00:04:00] It was for travelers because remember, at that time, we had the stagecoach going through, which would have been Washington Street. They were also coming up the river, too, so that's what made this a hub.

They were using the river in order to have sawmills and gristmills, and that was why this little hamlet here was actually called Braytonville, was because they had so many businesses right here in the center of the town. The other thing architecturally is that we have surmised that the front part of the house along Station Street was actually other houses that were moved here.

They recycled everything back then because remember, when Britain needed the lumber, England, they needed the lumber, so they clear-cut just about everything. This would have been very open and barren. There was a shortage of lumber, so they moved buildings and added them on, which is where we get our unique shape from.

Lauren: Oh. That's pretty cool.

Brenda: That's part of the architectural history. We can't really say that it's a particular style although we do believe the main center room that Bennett built was a stone-ender because that giant fireplace in there has been modified when the Braytons moved in 1741. You can tell by the hearth plate that that actually did take the whole wall of that room in there. We do know that it was a stone-ender, but then it got its unique shape from being added on.

At some point, someone from the south actually was involved in some of the construction because, in the upstairs, the summer beams are made the way they would've been made in the south, not the north. That has been pointed out to us by Keith Farless, who's done a lot of work on the house.

Lauren: What's a summer beam?

Brenda: A summer beam is it holds up the other rafters, [00:06:00] but the way that that summer beam is at an angle upstairs, that is more of a southern influence than a summer beam in that room right there. That's more of a northern influence. We have all these mysteries, and that's why we need volunteers to come and help unravel some of the mysteries.

We'd love to have time to go through more town records and more state records to find out the actual history of the property and the building because remember, Coventry didn't start taking records till 1741, and they became a town. All of these records that we really need to dig into are pre. They would be in Warwick and Providence.

Lauren: It's like 40 or 50 years before they started taking records. Wow.

Brenda: Yes. That would be a really neat project for someone who would like to solve a mystery and do some digging.


Lauren: Who lived here?

Brenda: Unbelievably, there's only been five families that have owned the property. You had the Bennetts, the Braytons, the Holdens, the Whipples, and then the Paine's. The reason it's named the Paine House is because they lived here the longest. They lived here 85 years. The house was donated to our society in memory of Herbert and Phoebe Paine from Zilpha Foster. That's why it's named the Paine House. That's probably the third most asked question, is "Why is it called the Paine House?"

Colleen: No. It's not Thomas Paine.

Brenda: Right, and we're in no relation to Thomas Paine.

Lauren: No.

Colleen: Actually, Herbert was the last person who actually lived in the house. At his passing, it was left to his half-sister, Zilpha, and Zilpha is the one who donated the house to the society.

Lauren: When was that?

Brenda: 1953.

Colleen: It was donated in 1953. Herbert passed in, I believe, 1946, [00:08:00] and Zilpha inherited it, and then on her passing, it was donated to the house.

Lauren: Wow. Someone lived here into the '40s.

Brenda: Yes.

Lauren: Wow.

Colleen: At some point, it may have been a boarding house or divided up into apartments. You can see where little rooms have been made and sinks were added. Although there's no water in the house now, there was a rudimentary water system at one point in time. You can see where this would have been a bedroom, this would have been a living room, and this would have been a small pantry.

There's two or three places in the house where you can see that because there were, at one time, multiple families living here. It may just not have been earlier than Herbert. He may have had people who stayed here probably maybe through the Depression when things were really tough. They just divided it up and took in boarders.

Brenda: In one of the censuses, there were 23 people living in the house. It was, I think, four families and then two boarders. One boarder ran the train station, and one boarder ran the post office.

Lauren: Oh.

Brenda: 23 people with no running water

Colleen: And no bathroom.

Brenda: -and an outhouse.

Colleen: [crosstalk] There's never been indoor facilities in this house. [crosstalk] It's always been an outhouse or chamber pots. There has been no indoor facility in this house ever.

Brenda: We know that it's been a clock shop. It's been a tavern, an inn, a stable. Zilpha and Orville were seamstresses. Then you had George Foster, who was in the house next door. He's woodworking. It has been a lot of different business hubs throughout the years because this little corner was just booming with business back then.

Lauren: I guess that makes sense when you mention the location with the river and everything.

Brenda: It's unusual for a house this old to only be owned by five people, by five families.

Lauren: That's very cool. [00:10:00] You said that the Paine House question was one of the main questions that visitors ask on tours. What are a couple of other questions that people tend to ask?

Colleen: They want to know, obviously, who built it. They want to know how long it's been here. They want to know why it's shaped so oddly. That's usually a big question. Honestly, and it's not really a question, but the biggest comment we get is, "Oh, I've lived here all my life and I've never been in this house." Hopefully, presentations will help solve that particular issue and get people to come in.

Lauren: Yes, that mystery.

Colleen: Yes, really. The mystery of why people don't come in. Maybe just as simple as they don't know what to park. I don't know.

Lauren: It's right across the street. There's a sign.

Brenda: I think one of the number one questions, too, is "Is it haunted?"

Colleen: Yes, they do ask that. "Is it haunted or not?"

Brenda: That's all been shared with your audience through Ken at RISEUP, who spends a lot of time here.

Lauren: And is coming back.

Brenda: Yes, and we'll be here all summer, and he'll be doing public investigations all summer long, and all of that information is on our website. People ask me because I've been part of the house for so long, what do I think about it being haunted? I can tell you I've never ever felt uncomfortable here.

Colleen: No, and I've been here at two o'clock in the morning [crosstalk] pitch black all by myself, and it's fine.

Brenda: I've never felt uncomfortable here. The only thing I can tell you is there have been a lot of unexplained things that we have come across. The other thing I find is where this has been such a hub for the community for so long. I love when we have events because I actually feel like the house is happy when we have the market day and flag day and all these other events. Whenever we have a full lawn and a house of people, I feel like the house is happy. People can think I'm crazy, [00:12:00] but I feel like--

Lauren: No, that's nice.

Brenda: I do. I feel like the house is happy because this was a hub, and it's been used for so many years as a pillar of the community, and I think it knows its purpose. I think that that's very special.

Lauren: I can get that. When I used to work at the Newport Mansions, one of my favorite houses was Rosecliff, which people don't usually say that because it's actually the least furnished because they use it for weddings and events. They basically only have a few pieces, and they're easy to move. I don't know. I just always really liked the house, and we had our Christmas parties there, and I felt like it was like this is what it was supposed to be. They threw so many parties in the ballrooms that it was like when you're at a party in the ballroom, it's just like it feels right.

Brenda: It does feel right. That's how I feel when we have a full yard of people. I just feel like it's happy.

Colleen: There's music playing and people are coming and going and food is being served. That's what it was for.

Lauren: That's nice.

Brenda: Yes.

Lauren: You were already saying that it's been added to over the years, and you said it was divided up probably at one point into different apartments. Did it look different from how it looks now? Did you undo any renovations to get it to be more original?

Colleen: No, we haven't undone, is that a word, any construction-type things? Obviously, you repaint from time to time, but the front rooms were just repainted, and we chose gray. As they were scraping paint off, they actually found a layer of gray paint underneath two other layers with different paint colors.

Lauren: Oh. That's scary, though.

Colleen: As much as you can to go back to what may or may have been original-type colors, but as far as taking down walls or a door, no, we haven't done any of that. What you see here is how it was donated to us.

Lauren: How it's evolved.

Colleen: Yes, and how it's evolved. I can show [00:14:00] you what she was talking about about the fireplace in the other room. There was probably a fireplace in this room at one point in time, but that's long gone, but you can still see the remnants of where it may have been on the floor. We have not changed any of the construction other than stabilizing floors through the basement, putting in beamwork, and whatever to make sure that the building is stable.

Speaker: Sure. That's important.

Brenda: That's another architectural anomaly here, too, because everybody questions the shingles, right? There's cedar shingles on this. The oldest pictures we can find have always been shingles, which is very odd because it would have been more of a [crosstalk] clockboard. As far back as we can find pictures, it's always been shingles. That would be another thing to look for in the state archives to see if we could find a picture of the building pre-shingles because those were not very common although Brayton could have done it because he owned a sawmill, and-

Colleen: He had access to the materials.

Brenda: -he had the technology at that point. Another mystery that we would love to solve, we know when we took the shingles off to re-shingle it back probably about 15 years ago, we did find that the lumber from the Bennett room, which is the oldest part of the house, was pit-sawn lumber. That means that that lumber predated the sawmill. That's another indication that brings us back to the 1668 date because we know, in 1691, there was a sawmill here but pits-sawn means that it predated any sawmill out here because they wouldn't have brought lumber that far inland.

Colleen: When they had so much available here, why bring it in?

Brenda: Every time we've tried to unsolve the mystery, it brings us to more mysteries, which is very cool.

Lauren: Well, that's fun. What would a day in the [00:16:00] life look like for the people who first lived here?

Colleen: Very isolated, probably very cold in the winter. As near as I can tell from looking at the artifacts that we have and the information that we know from the time period, they were out here on their own. Whoever was living here, there was no immediate neighbors. Your neighbors were quite far away. If you didn't grow it or raise it, you didn't have it, and their lives were pretty much work constantly just to survive.

You have to remember that this house has no central heat. The original building that the room would have been heated lit with fire, so you would've to have had a lot of lumber built up. Yes, if you have a sawmill, that's not as difficult as it sounds, but you still have to have it for an entire New England winter and food preparation, just so you don't starve to death all winter long.

It was a constant work. Make your own candles, make your own soap, make your own fabrics, spin it, weave it, sew it. It's constant work.

Lauren: Yikes. That sounds rough.

Colleen: You always wonder about, "Oh, Sunday is a day of rest, and why do you need a whole day?" You need a whole day because you worked from sun-up to sun-down and beyond because once the sun set, you sat there with a lamp, and you spun whatever fibers you needed to do so you could weave cloth the next day. A lot of work.

Lauren: Wow.

Brenda: Remember that the Town of Coventry was actually formed because the people that did live out here were tired of going into Apponaug and into Warwick to be able to handle any type of business.

Lauren: Oh, wow.

Brenda: We know that, in the late 1730s, early 1740s, we do know that 100 people lived out here. That might sound like a lot, but you have to remember Coventry [00:18:00] goes from where 95 is now all the way out to Connecticut. There was 100 people in all of that area, all just sparsely-

Lauren: Spread out.

Brenda: -spread out. That gives you an insight as to how sparse it was out here and that these 100 people didn't want to trek all the way to Warwick, so they formed their own town. That's a lot of land for just 100 people to be living in. It was very desolate out here.

Lauren: Wow. Rhode Islanders don't even want to go from Coventry to Warwick in a car.

Brenda: Can you imagine walking or a horseback?

Colleen: I joke with my mother, she packs a lunch to go to Providence.

Lauren: When I used to live on Aquidneck Island, we would always joke that if you're going over the bridge, you have to stop at Duncan first.

Colleen: Oh, yes. I guess it's a trip.

Lauren: What do you think is the most interesting fact about the Paine House? If you guys have different favorites, that's fine.

Brenda: For me, being here as many years as I have, I think some of the artifacts are the most fascinating, only because I can't walk through this house without seeing something or learning about something that I've never noticed before because we have so many artifacts. It's so neat, every once in a while, we'll find a story behind an artifact. I find that just fascinating.

We have a bonnet basket upstairs, and it's a bonnet basket. We walk by it hundreds of times. One time I just happened to open the lid of the basket. We'll come to find out it was a bonnet basket and that the woman who owned the bonnet basket was known for her bonnet basket, and she sat one row back from John Quincy Adams at church.

Lauren: Oh my God.

Brenda: That is so cool. Then the clock in the front room is another one. I would never think to touch [00:20:00] it or open the door, but one day, I had a clock person in here. He opened the door. There's the whole story of the clock and that it was the clock that used to sit at the train depot right up the street. It was the depot clock. I love that kind of stuff. Another reason why volunteers, you might not be much into the history of the architecture or the history of the town, but you might like the artifacts.

If you like clocks, we have so many clocks that we need to look up the history on them. You can trace a lot of clocks by serial numbers. We have dishes. We have furniture. There's just so many items here that it would appeal to just about anybody if they have an interest in something, and we can use help getting research done on all these items so that when people ask us questions, we can give them more accurate information back. That's another niche that people could find and join and volunteer and just find their niche and help us out with these little mysteries that we have.

Colleen: We have many boxes of mysteries in the attic that need to be solved. Like Brenda said, it's a research project. You take pictures of what you're looking for and then thank heavens for the internet because everything is on the internet now. Years ago, you had to actually pack up an item and take it to an antique dealer or porcelain shop or wherever to figure out what it is; Now, you can do a lot of this stuff online, which is very helpful.

Lauren: That's good. I feel like that's such a good soundbite. We should call the episode Mysteries in the Attic.

Colleen: Yes, right. She was saying how Zilpha and Orville were seamstresses, and they were. We actually have boxes of started but not completed garments, so skirts that don't have waistbands or hems on them yet, but the shape is there. To have someone come in and tell us, [00:22:00] "What is it actually made of, what does it date to?" and then help us with preservation of some of these fabrics because we have lots of them.

Sometimes, it's a mystery as to how to proceed to stop any further deterioration. Obviously, we don't want to remake it. We want to preserve it in the style that it is but not let it deteriorate any further and save these things because they may very well have been something that Orville and Zilpha were physically working on at some point in time. 100 years ago or more when Zilpha was married here in the late 1890s, that's what she was working on, and they're still in the attic.

Brenda: Yes, plus we also have spools of thread and other findings up there that actually have mill names on them. It would be neat to be able to research where the mills were and see if we could find pictures of the mills, and we have a loom downstairs that has a mill. It was a mill loom because it has a specific number assigned to it. That's another thing that we would love to know exactly what mills, where they were, and--

Colleen: What did they make on it?

Brenda: Yes.

Colleen: Who bought it? Who wore it?

Brenda: Yes.

Colleen: Was it a carpet? Was it a dress? What happened to the story of that fabric that was spun from whatever or wherever it came from? How did the mill get it? What did the mill make with it? Where did it go to after that? Those are the kinds of interesting little mysteries that need to be solved.

Lauren: Perhaps the attic is the answer to this question, but what is your favorite room in the house?

Colleen: My favorite room in the house? The attic is fun, but I think my favorite room is probably the Victorian Music Room, and the reason I like it is because of the musical instruments that are in it, the Stella Music box. I think that goes back to the house being filled with [00:24:00] people and filled with entertainment and a community hub. Like Brenda said, I really like the idea of this facility being a community center and a heart of a community and trying to bring that back to the house and make it a place where people want to come and want to take part in and continue the history of the house.

Everybody gets bogged down in a particular history. It was 1690. It was 1741. It was whatever, whatever, but it's that continuum that interests me probably the most. It has always been a center of this community and trying to maintain that into the future and giving people that place to go to get their information, to get their gossip, to get their entertainment, whatever, let's continue that tradition as we go into the future so that 100 years from now when people look back, they can go, "Oh, in the early 2000s, people went here," [crosstalk] and maybe they'll be talking about us 200 years from now.

Brenda: I think the tavern, this area right here, is my favorite. It's more for the people. Through the years, we've had so many awesome volunteers, and we've talked about so many things and made so many plans for the future sitting here like they would've done back then. I find that this, to me, steeps the deepest in the history of the building and knowing everything that was talked about here. I find that very fascinating.

Lauren: Very cool. I think you've talked about it a little bit, but why preserve the Paine House? Why is that important?

Brenda: I think it's important because people need to understand both the good times and the hardships that our country's endured. I think history is very important. I feel like I want to continue the legacy [00:26:00] like Colleen said, of being a community hub. That's why there's been talk about why are we two different names. We're Paine House in Western Island and Civic Historical Society, and that's a lot to say, but this house has always been a pillar of the civic society.

I find that that's very important for us to continue that legacy and in all different ways. That's why it's very important, and it does give a glimpse of what people endured in the past and how they lived. It's very important to us to keep that legacy going.

Colleen: There's a feeling of permanence to it that I think is comforting to people when you find something that has endured through a relatively long amount of time. Granted, compared to Europe, it's not a long amount of time, but still, for us, it is, and it has endured, and it has changed and yet remained true to itself. I think people find a great deal of comfort in that and in learning where others came from to maybe get a glimpse of where they want to be.

Just that traversing through history and still maintaining some sense of permanence and stability, I think, is good for everyone to sink their teeth into and say, "Well, if they could do it then, come on, so can we?

Brenda: Yes. It's interesting when you do tours when you separate the ages. For example, the kids are fascinated. We like to relate the phonographs to-- and we also have an old video camera. These kids are carrying this on their phone. Can you imagine having to carry this? It's 300 pounds. We like to relate that. I also find it fascinating when you have an older person come through.

We had a member, she was 94 when she passed. We used to argue all the time just like, "Throw that out. It's junk. [00:28:00] I had one of those when I was a kid." It's like, "Well, you're almost 100 years old. It's not junk to us [crosstalk]. I love it when older people come through, and they're like, "Oh, my grandmother had one of those," or "Oh--" It just brings them so instantly back to a time and a place in their life. I find that very rewarding to see that and especially when they come through as families, and you have a grandmother explaining to her grandchildren, "Oh, this nana had one of these."

Colleen: We have a carpet beater in the other room, just the wire beaters that people would use their carpets. We have a lot of older people that remember having those when they were quite young and having to take the carpets out in the clothesline and beat them, and the kids, you can just see the expression on their faces. They're totally confused like, "You did what?"

I find that very rewarding when you see those stories being told. Actually, through the years, I think I've learned more from visitors than I have from just being around. I've absorbed a lot of knowledge from my relatives, but I've learned so many things about the artifacts in here just from people coming through and explaining their stories about them, which I think is really great.

Lauren: Yes. That is really nice. When can people tour the house? What is the season and the hours?

Colleen: We are generally open, and again, there's no heating in this building, so we are dependent on weather, but generally, we open the first week in May, and we're open through October, weather permitting. We're open Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 to 2:00. People are welcome to stop in for a tour. We don't have set tour times except on special occasion days when it gets really crazy busy.

Tours are $6 for adults and $4 for children, which is eminently reasonable by today's standards, and tours generally take an hour to an hour and a half, depending on questions. Like you said, [00:30:00] if you get a grandma and she's got a lot of information, we'll spend some extra time there. We are always looking for people to help with tours, especially on event days, because I think the last opening day, we had probably 12 tours going on in a four-hour time frame. We got really, really busy.

Lauren: Wow. Sorry, I was one of those tours.

Brenda: No. That's so good. That is good.

Colleen: As we get more and more proficient with these event days, and we've been doing them, the house has always done them, but we've really put some emphasis on them in the last couple of years, we realized that there is interest out there, and if you give people some advance information, they will come, and they did come. We get better and better at this all along.

Lauren: That's good. Do you offer membership, and if so, how much does it cost, and what do the proceeds go towards?

Colleen: All proceeds for just about everything we do goes towards the upkeep and acquisition and preservation of the artifacts that we have and the ones we want to acquire. The memberships are graded depending on a family membership is $25 a year. Individual membership is $15 a year. I think a senior membership is $10 a year. Again, trying to keep them affordable and using that money to pump back into the house and back into the Merck Fire building, which we recently took over on the corner here, and some repair work that we need to do with that to make it weather-tight so that we can proceed to redo the inside, make it safe, and make it usable again.

We have a small fire museum part of it, but then the other plan for that building is to have a small community meeting space that people can access for extremely reasonable rates for Cub Scout meetings or whatever they have going on that they need a small space for.

Lauren: Oh, that's nice.

Colleen: Again, trying to bring in [00:32:00] that community and maintain that community hub feeling, that civic organization and civic pride and civic participation.

Lauren: If anyone is interested in getting involved at the Paine House as a volunteer, how do they go about doing that?

Colleen: They can either stop by the house on any Friday or Saturday between 10:00 and 2:00, or they can email, and we will get back to you and plumb the recesses of your mind as to what you're interested in, and then plug you in. We want people to be able to do what they're interested in. At the beginning of the year, there's a lot of cleaning and straightening and painting and stuff.

As we get past the opening, then it's more about the investigation into the artifacts and figuring out what belongs here and what may be of more benefit to another society. If it's not something that directly relates to us or this house or this organization, then maybe it belongs in a different organization, and we'll reach out to those groups and see if they're interested in those items.

We've had groups do the same with us as far as things they may have had. We have the carpentry shop now that is open, and we have had groups donate things to us that don't fit in with their mission or vision but fit in here. It's a reciprocal thing where you work with other organizations and try to help each other out when you can.

Lauren: That's nice.

Colleen: There's a lot of historical organizations in Rhode Island, and [unintelligible 00:33:28] us to work together and be helpful.

Lauren: Yes, definitely.

Colleen: Again, civic, community involvement, that's what we're here for.

Lauren: Is there anything else you'd like listeners to know about the Paine House that we haven't mentioned yet?

Brenda: Well, I would like to just recap a little bit on volunteers because, in this day and age, you have to think outside the box when it comes to volunteering. There's a lot of different ways that people can volunteer and not just as an individual but sometimes as a group [00:34:00] as well. If you have a gardening group, volunteer an afternoon with your group. You can come here. You can use the house for meeting space. You can volunteer in our gardens.

We're looking to get active with theater groups because it would be nice to have people in period clothing come and help at some of our events, dressed in period clothing. That also would be fun for teens. If anybody knows of a theater group that might be interested in collaborating with us, that would be great. If you like to shop, we have a gift shop, so if you want to spend a day in the shop and help us volunteer run the store.

There's a lot of different ways that people can even collaborate with and join all of our groups together and help each other because we have a venue. You can use the yard for picnics. You can use the inside for meetings. We have the alarm buildings for meeting space. If you'd like to hold your meeting here, like the Spinners Guild, they have their meetings here, and then they help us at some of our events.

Just don't think of it as a boring individual project. Although you might find interest in researching and helping us solve some of the mysteries, some of the architectural mysteries, or just do antiques, or maybe you're a social media buff, we can use help with marketing and social media, grant writing. There's a million volunteer opportunities, but don't be afraid to approach us as a group and come and maybe we can collaborate together because it's very hard nowadays to find volunteers.

The other opportunity that we offer is if you're a student, sometimes we've had kids come and do their master's projects out of items in the house or architecture. You have Eagle Scout projects or Girl Scout projects. We're very open to working with groups like that too to help you with your Eagle [00:36:00] projects or any type of community service that is school-related, we are open for ideas and suggestions.

Just stop by and say, "Hey, I have a senior project coming up. What can I do?" We find something that's interesting to them, and they can pick whatever they want, and they could do their whole senior project on anything in here. We even do the man versus machine.

Colleen: Man versus machine.

Brenda: It doesn't even have to be history-related. It could be engineering, architecture. Those things were still around back then, only in a different form. When people look at us and say, "Oh, boring history," we're not boring history; we're exciting history. Everything started somewhere, and it probably started here.

Colleen: How does it relate to if it started here, bring it through the centuries up to how it relates to what we do today? Some of those communication things as far as being the hub of communication and how does that relate to what's a communication hub today, and how do we bridge those gaps? Like you say, if somebody wants to do that as a project, somebody wants to put together a presentation on that, we will supply the audience for them, and they can do the presentation. There's all kinds of ways to volunteer.

Lauren: That's great. I'm sure there are some history buffs out there listening that would love that. I know when I was a kid, I grew up near Fall River, and me and a friend of mine had a project where we were supposed to do a diorama of a local place, and we picked the Fall River Historical Society just so that we could get to go and see their employees-only upstairs area. We were so like, "What is behind that sign?" We got to go upstairs and see where they kept the clothes that they didn't have on display from the Victorian era and stuff. That was really cool. Hopefully, there is some--

Brenda: Solves some mysteries.

Lauren: [00:38:00] Yes, exactly.

Brenda: Yes, that would be great. It would be fun, too. I find that so interesting and hope that other people will love it as much as we do.

Lauren: Yes. Well, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. It was great. That was nice.

Colleen: Thank you.

Brenda: Thank you. This is great.

Lauren: Thank you for listening. I hope you learned something about your local history, and I encourage you to visit the Paine House to see it in person, learn even more about its fascinating history, and support its maintenance for future generations. For more information about the Paine House, visit their Facebook page at Rhody Radio is proud to be a resident partner of the Rhode Island Center for the Book and brought to you by library staff and community members all around the Ocean State.

This episode was made possible in part by a grant from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities seeds, supports, and strengthens public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders. You can find more from Rhody Radio on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If you enjoyed today's episode, subscribe to Rhody Radio and rate or review us on Apple Podcasts or Spotify to help us reach more Rhode Islanders.

[00:39:37] [END OF AUDIO]

Related Posts

See All


bottom of page