A wedding celebration steeped in granite legacy and local history

A wedding celebration steeped in granite legacy and local history


WESTERLY — For the first time in generations, a descendant of Orlando Smith — the man who started the Smith Granite Company in 1846 on a farm owned by Dr. Joshua Babcock — was married in the historic family house on Granite Street.

“It was beautiful, just amazing,” said the bride, Jennifer Poirier, who married John Tehan on Sunday, July 23, in a ceremony held in the parlor of the Babcock-Smith House Museum.

Poirier, who grew up in Ashaway, is the daughter of Linda Smith Chaffee, who is the daughter of the late Isaac Gallup “Ike” Smith Jr., the granddaughter of Isaac Gallup Smith, Sr., and the great-granddaughter of Orlando R. Smith.

“What a special day for a special couple,” said Smith Chaffee, whose husband, Kenneth Chaffee, Poirier’s step-father, served as the officiant at the ceremony. “It was once the home of Jenny’s third great grandfather.”

Poirier, who lives in Milford, Mass., said because it was a second wedding for her and for her husband, they were planning on something small and low key for just immediate family.

The wedding was certainly small, she said, but with a seven-course, candlelight dinner, rose petals gently strewn around the table, and her service dog, Barkley — dressed in his canine tuxedo — taking part in the ceremony, it was far from low key.

Barkley was their ring bearer, she said, and her husband’s daughter, Jillian, and her son, Eddy, stood up for them.

“I got dressed in Julia’s bedroom,” said Poirier. “She was my great, great, great aunt.”

Her aunt, Julia Emeline Smith, bought the prosperous, working Granite Street farm in 1887, for $1, according to the museum’s website.

The house was “the first on the hill to have gaslights, electricity, and a telephone which people from the neighborhood used in an emergency.”

“The docents did such a lovely job,” said Poirier, “there were fresh flowers inside and outside and on the tables.”

Poirier, who wore a simple dress with a chiffon lining, empire waist, and small train, said another highlight of the wedding was having the two nonagenarians — her own grandmother, Gertrude Smith, and her husband’s grandmother, Virginia Teehan, seated close to one another in the historic Victorian dining room.

The two matriarchs not only hit it off, but they served as the couple’s official witnesses.

“You rarely meet a new friend when you’re in your nineties,” said the new bride. “They did and I was so glad.”

Poirier said having the ceremony and wedding dinner at the museum — one of Rhode Island’s important architectural and historical landmarks — hadn’t occurred to her at first. She called initially to inquire about the possibility of having a reception in her ancestral home.

Janice Tunney, a volunteer who oversees the museum’s popular candlelight dinners, said she made the suggestion when Poirier called her to ask about the dinners.

“It was a perfect day,” said Tunney, “and the first wedding in the house for as long as anyone can remember.”

With help from museum volunteers who raided their own gardens, and Broadview Florist and Garden Center, she said, the historic house was decorated with “huge, white hydrangeas and pale, pink roses.”

The ceremony was held in the parlor with toasts in the keeping room followed by the candlelight dinner in the dining room.

Cathy Larsh of Westerly, the meal coordinator for the candlelight dinners, said the menu has remained unchanged since the docents first began making them about 15 years ago.

Inspired by what would have been served at a dinner party in the late 1800’s when wealthy customers of the Smith Granite company would have come to Westerly to approve the work they ordered and often stayed at the house.

“The Smiths were a prosperous family,” said Larsh, “and they entertained quite a bit.”

Larsh said the menu — then and now — typically includes a squash soup, stuffed clams, a salad featuring greens from the garden, root vegetables, also from the garden, beef tenderloin and “a fancy meringue dessert.”

“We were so excited to have a Smith wedding in the Smith House,” said Larsh.

“The docents were superb hostesses for the evening,” added Smith Chaffee.

“They know how to put things together, said Poirier. “Their efforts made it a perfect wedding.”


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