Main Births etc
Westerly, Rhode Island
—  Town  —
Dixon House Square in downtown Westerly
Location of Westerly in Washington County, Rhode Island
Coordinates: 41°21′19″N 71°48′7″W / 41.35528, -71.80194
Country United States
State Rhode Island
County Washington
 • Total 74.8 sq mi (193.8 km2)
 • Land 30.1 sq mi (77.9 km2)
 • Water 44.7 sq mi (115.8 km2)
Elevation 36 ft (11 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 22,787
 • Density 757.0/sq mi (292.5/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 02808 (Bradford), 02891 (Westerly)
Area code(s) 401
FIPS code 44-77000[1]
GNIS feature ID 1220091[2]

Westerly is a town on the southwestern shoreline of Washington County, Rhode Island, United States. Founded in 1669 by John Babcock, it is a beachfront community on the south shore of the state. The population was 22,787 at the 2010 census. The town is part of the Norwich–New London, Connecticut, New England city and town area.

On the western border of Westerly flows the Pawcatuck River, once renowned for its own species of Westerly salmon, three of which are on the town's crest. The Pawcatuck River flows from some fifteen miles (24 km) inland, emptying into Little Narragansett Bay. The Pawcatuck River also serves as the boundary between Westerly and Pawcatuck, Connecticut. Along the coast of Westerly lie salt ponds, which serve as shallow reeflike pools, whose outer walls form the long, white beaches for which the town became renowned. From west to east, these ponds are called Maschaug Pond, Winnapaug Pond, and Quonochontaug Pond. The town also has a fresh water lake, Chapman's Pond, which is undergoing revitalization. A type of granite, known as Westerly granite, has long been quarried here. Westerly granite, ideal for statuary, has been used in numerous government buildings of several states along the eastern seaboard. The Westerly area was known for its granite and stone-cutting industry.[3][4][5]

Westerly becomes a large tourist attraction during the summer months during which the population nearly doubles.[6] From east to west, well-known beaches include Weekapaug Beach, Westerly Town Beach, Misquamicut State Beach, East Beach and Watch Hill Beach.


Westerly's primary industries today are textiles and tourism, but historically Westerly was also famous for its granite, quarried in at least two locations in Westerly also in Bradford and Potter Hill.

Westerly was named for the settlement's location, respective to Rhode Island's geography, being the westernmost town in the state. There is also a possibility that Westerly got its name from the English village of Westerleigh, in the county of Gloucestershire. The English village was the home of one of Westerly, Rhode Island's founding fathers, Elder John Crandall (ca. 1612-1676). Elder John settled in Westerly in 1661 and the early history of Westerly contains many references to him and his sons.

Westerly sits atop a glacial moraine, a series of small hills of debris left behind by receding glaciers in the last Ice Age. A pristine sample of the moraine encompasses a 140-acre (0.57 km2) preserve owned in perpetuity by the Westerly Land Trust. Within the trust land are the rare "kettle" formations that extend out under the sea to Block Island.

Four trolley lines - the Groton and Stonington Street Railway, Norwich and Westerly Railway, Pawtucket Valley Street Railway, and the Ashaway and Westerly Railway, converged in Westerly and shared trackage between the railroad station and Dixon House Square downtown. The lines were built in the 1890s and 1900s and ran until the 1920s.

Physician, American Revolution general, and Rhode Island Supreme Court justice, Dr. Joshua Babcock and Chief Justice and Governor of Rhode Island Samuel Ward were born in Westerly.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 74.8 square miles (193.8 km²), of which, 30.1 square miles (77.9 km²) of it is land and 44.7 square miles (115.8 km²) of it (59.78%) is water.


Westerly consists of a number of small villages. Downtown Westerly, on the Pawcatuck River, is the municipal seat of the area, with the old town post office, library, YMCA, railroad station, former police headquarters (which is now located on Airport Road), granite buildings and Wilcox Park.

File:Westerly Town Beach.JPG

Westerly Town Beach on Atlantic Ave. in Westerly.

Other villages include Avondale (with antique colonial and Queen Anne-style homes), Bradford (with its own post office and postal code), Dunn's Corners, Mastuxet, Misquamicut (a beachfront community with small amounts of nightlife and several hotels), Potter Hill (where the Town Forest is located), Shelter Harbor, Watch Hill (with its beaches and summer cottages), Weekapaug, White Rock, and Winnapaug (with its public golf courses). Apart from Bradford, Shelter Harbor, Watch Hill, and Weekapaug, West'lyans normally identify themselves with the town, as opposed to the village in which they reside.

The town holds a number of annual events such as the Pawcatuck River Duck Race in April, Virtu Art Festival in May, Shakespeare in the Park and The Summer Pops (hosted by the Chorus of Westerly) in June, and Riverglow in July. In recent years, the Westerly-Pawcatuck Chamber of Commerce's Big Screen Movies on the Beach through July and August, Westerly's Columbus Day Parade in October, and several beachfront events have attracted many visitors.

The former granite mining and the stone-cutting industry is historically important. Its quarries produced blue granite, in addition to pinks and reds. The Smith Granite Company, which employed many granite cutting craftsmen, was one of the town's major employers until the quarries stopped operating in the 1950s. Hundreds of examples of their work can be seen in the battlefields of Gettysburg and in city squares, municipal buildings, cemeteries throughout the United States, and even the Georgia State Capitol.

The Guild Guitar Company, founded in 1952 by Alfred Dronge in New York City, moved production to Westerly in 1967 and continued to make its well respected archtop, acoustic and solid body guitars there until 1996, when they were bought by Fender Musical Instruments and production was moved to Corona, California.

A number of figures from the history of sports were residents of Westerly. Eddie Sawyer, former major league baseball manager (Philadelphia), is from Westerly, as is former Washington Senators pitcher Dave Stenhouse. Frankie Frisch, player-manager of the St. Louis Cardinals' famous "Gashouse Gang," retired to and lived the remainder of his life in Westerly, and Elisson "Tarzan" Brown, one of the finest marathon runners in the world, is from the Westerly area. Another famous resident is country pop singer Taylor Swift who maintains a beachfront estate in the Watch Hill area.


For demographic information on the urbanized area of Westerly, see Westerly (CDP), Rhode Island.

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 22,966 people, 9,402 households, and 6,130 families residing in the town. The population density was 763.3 people per square mile (294.7/km²). There were 11,292 housing units at an average density of 375.3 per square mile (144.9/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 95.17% White, 0.71% Black or African American, 0.57% Native American, 1.99% Asian, 0.34% from other races, and 1.22% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.18% of the population.

Amtrak station in Westerly.

There were 9,402 households out of which 29.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.2% were married couples living together, 11.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.8% were non-families. 29.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the town the population was spread out with 23.5% under the age of 18, 7.0% from 18 to 24, 29.7% from 25 to 44, 22.7% from 45 to 64, and 17.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 93.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.6 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $44,613, and the median income for a family was $53,165. Males had a median income of $37,887 versus $26,800 for females. The per capita income for the town was $24,092. About 4.3% of families and 6.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.6% of those under age 18 and 6.6% of those age 65 or over.

The most frequent ancestries among the town's population are Italian (34.2%), Irish (17.9%) and English (14.2%). Many Italians moved to Westerly from Italy around the start of the 20th century (particularly from Sicily and Calabria), and Italian dialects are still spoken at the homes of many older residents.


Washington Trust Bancorp Inc, a publicly traded regional bank with operations in Rhode Island and Connecticut, is headquartered in Westerly.

Points of interest[]

  • Wilcox Park
  • Westerly High School
  • Westerly Town Beach
  • Misquamicut State Beach
  • Watch Hill
  • Westerly (Amtrak station)
  • Westerly State Airport

National Historic Register sites[]

  • Babcock-Smith House
  • Bradford Village Historic District, in Hopkinton and Westerly
  • Former Immaculate Conception Church
  • Lewis-Card-Perry House
  • Main Street Historic District
  • North End Historic District
  • Nursery Site, RI-273
  • Watch Hill Historic District
  • Westerly Armory
  • Westerly Downtown Historic District
  • Wilcox Park Historic District


External links[]

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Coordinates: 41°22′39″N 71°49′38″W / 41.3775, -71.82722

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Westerly, Rhode Island. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.