WESTERLY — A set of china purchased the same year as Queen Victoria's coronation, two intriguing antique spinning wheels, a Victorian settee with a high back and long legs and dozens of books on Rhode Island history are just a small sampling of the items that will be included in "Treasures from the Museum at the Babcock-Smith House," Saturday's fundraising auction scheduled to take place on the lawn of the historic Granite Street Georgian Mansion, with local auctioneer Bob Ward running the show.
"It was time," said Ellen L. Madison of Westerly, a longtime member of the Babcock-Smith House Museum who has been heading up the auction committee. "We had stuff crammed in that attic."
"It's also very exciting," Madison added, explaining that although the pandemic put the event on hold for a while, come Saturday almost the entire contents of the museum attic — along with items people donated to the museum once word got out about the auction — will be sold off.
Organizing and preparing the antiques was "quite the undertaking," she added, and "a real group effort."
Madison let out a laugh when she described the process of carrying items from the attic to the ground floor of the building, which has narrow, winding staircases.
"We had a firemen's brigade," she recalled. "We'd hand down a bed board or a butter churner from one person to the next."
Madison, who has been posting photos of some of the items to be auctioned on social media, said she's had inquiries from people far and near.
"A few days ago a person from Maine was asking about the flax wheels," she said, explaining that flax wheels, while similar to spinning wheels, are slightly different and that the Babcock-Smith House Museum owns two of them.
"She asked me if they had the initials 'I.C.' or any stars or flowers carved into them," Madison said. "I went back and checked it turns out they both do and that the feeling is they were made by a Westerly wheelmaker."
Madison said in addition to the auction, a number of "specialty vendors" have been invited to attend and sell their wares, and Trustee Emeriti John B. Coduri, a former museum president, plans to staff a used book table to sell the many books from the museum's library.
"Most are about Rhode Island history," she said.
Madison said longtime trustee Linda Smith Chaffee also contributed something special to sell during Saturday's event.
"She made and donated nine quilts," said Madison.
Madison said she had another surprise when Ward, their "wonderful auctioneer," told her he was donating his services to the museum.
"It's such a gift," she said. "A few years ago, I invited him up to the attic to see what he thought, and he said, 'You guys should have an auction.'"
"It's been a long time in the making," said Ward, one of only seven official auctioneers in Rhode Island. "When I saw what they had up there, I said 'You've got enough for an auction.'"
Wood, who started in the business as a 7-year-old working for noted country auctioneer Ernest O. Maine, said he encourages people to come to the auction with their own chairs and prepared to bid high.
"It's for a good cause," said Ward, who is a co-owner of Homespun Antiques & Collectibles on High Street in downtown Westerly said. "And you'll help preserve a little bit of Westerly's history."
"Treasures from the Museum at the Babcock-Smith House" will take place outside on the museum lawn Saturday beginning at 2 p.m. with a rain date set for Sunday at 2 p.m.
A preview will begin at 1 p.m. and vendors will open their stands at 1 p.m. Ward has also organized more than 130 photos of the objects ready for auction at https://www.auctionzip.com/Listings/3597338.html.