Press & Media

North Smithfield Heritage Association: Partner Spotlight

Pictured above with a new Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park interpretive sign at the Memorial Town Building are (left to right) Jeffrey Harris, Rich Keene, and Sam Turco.

The North Smithfield Heritage Association (NSHA) is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that was founded in 1970 with a mission to preserve and promote the culture, heritage, and natural resources of North Smithfield, Rhode Island.  It has over 180 members and 21 volunteers who are in the Blackstone River Valley Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) program. NSHA became a partner in the VIP program in February of 2022 and received a Partner of the Year award in December of 2022.

Volunteers work on identifying, acquiring, maintaining, and preserving historic buildings and historic locations, as well as making them open to the public. Additionally, members preserve for posterity historical documents and photos, relics, landmarks, abandoned historical cemeteries, as well as objects of historical, educational, architectural, cultural, and aesthetic value related to the Town of North Smithfield, Rhode Island. The Association also maintains an extensive archive of local historical documents, photos, and artifacts. Volunteers serve on 19 committees ranging from archive to maintenance and research.

The Forestdale Schoolhouse, originally opened in 1877, is now the NSHA Museum. Extensive restoration work has been done to the exterior, and this summer, they are tackling interior renovations and will reopen once it’s complete. The schoolhouse is located at 190 School Street.

Heritage Hall (the former Union Grange #3) at 101 Green Street has been completely restored and serves as a community hall where NSHA hosts many events. It is available for rentals.

The Memorial Town Building at 1 Main Street was constructed in 1923 as a memorial to town residents who served during World War I. Formerly the location of the North Smithfield Town Hall, the Heritage Association now leases the building from the town.  It serves as the organization’s archives, research center, and headquarters. The NSHA is currently renovating the upstairs for additional museum space and a multipurpose area.

In August of 2017, volunteers began to locate and restore abandoned historic cemeteries in town.  They have located and photographed over 60 cemeteries.  Volunteers work on clearing brush in the most overgrown lots, and three specially-trained restoration crews began to repair and reset broken and fallen gravestones. The newest project is the Luke Phillips Cemetery.

NSHA’s archive team is currently digitizing its entire collection.  Soon they hope to conserve some of the rarest and most valuable artifacts, including a Dorr Rebellion Flag and original canvas portraits of Thomas Dorr and Dr. Metcalf Marsh. (Learn more about the conservation efforts on the flag here: https://www.valleybreeze.com/news/local-conservator-repairs-the-dorr-flag/article_81cd3098-1506-11ee-a21f-175fd70e73a8.html). Many historical artifacts are displayed in the Forestdale Schoolhouse (which is being renovated this summer). NSHA is currently working on a collections management policy that they will share with other historical societies in the Valley.

 Current projects include creating interpretive signs for the Mammoth Mill Ruins site in partnership with Riverzedge Arts and the development of a national historic district on Grange Road. NSHA recently commissioned a painting of the First Battle of Nipsahuchuk by artist Tal Dibner. Learn more about the story behind the painting here: https://nrinow.news/2023/06/27/the-first-battle-painting-commissioned-by-nsha-depicts-history-at-nipsachuck/.







NSHA hosts many public outreach programs throughout the year (including monthly heritage walks and weekly recreational hikes), has an active social media presence, and sends out regular newsletters instilling community appreciation for the town’s unique and rich history.  Learn more at nsheritageassn.org. Follow NSHA on Facebook facebook.com/northsmithfieldheritage.