Portsmouth, founded with the Compact of 1638, is the second oldest town in Rhode Island. The main museum of the Portsmouth Historical Society is housed in the former Union Church building, built in 1865. Also on the museum grounds is the Southermost School building, a one-room schoolhouse which is the oldest preserved such schoolhouse in Rhode Island and may be the oldest in the nation, and the “Old Town Hall” that was used as one of the first town administrative buildings. The museum has a number of artifacts of Portsmouth’s history that date back to when native Americans lived on the land. In addition to the restored church congregation room, the museum has memorabilia that belonged to Julia Ward Howe, a Portsmouth resident, whose poetic verses were used for the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Other artifacts include a 19th century horse-drawn hearse and a mail wagon from the early 1900’s.
The Portsmouth Historical Society is a volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of Portsmouth, Rhode Island’s history.
Our long term vision is to protect and promote Portsmouth’s cultural heritage by creating a secure and sustainable facility, where, in conjunction with other local organizations, we can store, maintain and display our collection of historic artifacts, offer lectures and research assistance to the public, and stimulate the study of our town’s history for future generations. We strongly believe that the uniqueness of Portsmouth today is defined by our past.
The Society fulfills its mission by:
1. Maintaining and providing tours of the historical buildings in its possession:
a. The Christian Union Church (1865)
b. The Southernmost School (1725)
c. The Old Town Hall (c. 1850) .
2. Collecting, conserving and interpreting historical documents and objects linked to historical sites, houses, farms, and families of Portsmouth.
3. Providing direction and resources to assist genealogical and scholarly research related to Portsmouth’s history.
4. Arranging exhibitions which use historical materials to enrich the public's understanding and appreciation of Portsmouth's rich history.
5. Presenting programs on topics that build enthusiasm for preserving and supporting our local history.
Open Sundays Memorial Day Weekend to Sunday before Columbus Day
2 PM to 5 PM
Pets allowed on leash
On Street Parking Available
Free. Donations accepted
All efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this website, however it is subject to change. Information is updated in an ongoing manner in partnership with local tourism offices, individual businesses and organizations and via a direct feed from goprovidence.com, discovernewport.org, southcountyri.com and Yelp.com.