The Sprague Mansion at the corner of Dyer Avenue and Cranston Street is the home and headquarters of the Cranston Historical Society.
The original house was built by William Sprague in 1790 and remained the family homestead for four generations. At first, farming was their primary interest. However, in 1808 after machinery for spinning cotton was invented, the Sprague converted a small grist mill on the nearby Pocasset River into one of the first cotton mills in New England. This was the beginning of the “Sprague Empire” which later spread throughout the Pawtuxet River valley.
The A & W Sprague Company was one of these mills and was located next door on the present site of the Cranston Print Works. Its manor system in those days was duplicated in many other Sprague communities where workers lived, prayed and shopped on company property. Through the years, the Sprague enterprises sprung up along rivers in RI and several other states and ultimately consisted of nine mills, controlling interest in many industries, railroads and three banks.
Along with the family fortune, the old homestead grew. In 1864, a second section, containing a large ballroom for entertaining and several more bedrooms, was added by Colonel Amasa Sprague II. The home, with its 28 rooms and beautiful gardens, became a center of social life in the community.
The family produced two governors who also became United States Senators. The first was William Sprague who was served as governor and then U.S. senator between 1838 – 1844. The second Governor William Sprague was known as the “war governor” because of his heroic actions during the Civil War. His terms of office extended from 1860 to 1875.
Hampered by the generally weakening economy following the Civil War, and heavily dependent on credit, the great “Sprague Empire’ gradually crumbled, leaving only the Mansion as a symbol of its lost dynasty. All of the mills and business interests were sold off. The old homestead was later acquired by the owners of the Cranston Print Works and served as a home for its superintendents until 1966. Soon after this, the Historical Society purchased the property and restored it to much of its original elegance. It is now much in demand for cultural, business and civic activities.
Furnished throughout by gifts and items on loan, the Mansion hold relics of the Sprague family and the merchant prices of their era. The extensive grounds include a large carriage house built by Colonel Sprague in 1864. The Sprague Mansion is a living museum depicting the lifestyle of two of Rhode Island governors. The Cranston Historical Society uses the mansion for its membership meetings as well as for many special events. It is also used extensively for civic meetings, weddings, receptions, birthday parties and other events on a rental basis.
The Sprague Mansion is open for tours on Thursdays 1 – 4 pm from April to November. For tours at other times, please call (401) 944-9226 for an appointment. Mansion tours are $10 for adults, $5.00 for children under 12.
To rent the Mansion for your next event, please call Mary at 944-9226.
The Cranston Historical Society is a private, non-profit educational and historic preservation organization. The Cranston Historical Society is categorized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and membership donations and other contributions are deductible for Federal income tax purposes to the extent permitted by law
Write to us at the Sprague Mansion, 1351 Cranston St, Cranston, Rhode Island 02920.