House Lust: Lincoln’s Butterfly House is Back on the Market

The Great Road landmark has a fascinating history.

You’ve probably heard of the House That Love Built. But what about the Mill That Heartache Built?

Nobody really calls it that. But Lincoln’s Butterfly House is one of a few projects Stephen Hopkins Smith threw himself into after his misery at Hearthside House, which he’d constructed with lottery earnings in 1810 for his lady love. She refused to live so far out in the country, they broke up and he couldn’t bear to occupy the grand home, so Smith’s brother and his family took up residency. The property is now managed by the very dedicated Friends of Hearthside House. (Read more about Hearthside House here.)

Smith then poured his heartache into building up the neighborhood, including Butterfly Mill just across Great Road. According to a historical account on Hearthside House’s website, the textile mill was completed in 1812 using the same locally quarried stone as Hearthside.

Per the account, “When the stone cutter split one of the stones, which was darker than the rest, he noticed that the two halves resembled a butterfly’s wings. Smith instructed the masons to set the two stones on the front of the building. The design was so unique that the mill became known as the Butterfly Mill.”

The space was reincarnated several times over the course of the nineteenth century and housed weaving, yarn making, tanning, woodworking and other manufacturing operations. It also served as a grocery store, a schoolhouse, a distillery and a riding stable. In the mid-twentieth century, a winter storm caused extensive damage to the mill’s roof. The building was then converted into a single-story residence, with the butterfly stones incorporated into the two street-facing chimneys. Today, the sprawling Cape Cod-style home is known as the Butterfly House.

The history is just part of the allure. Smith ran from romance — albeit not very far — and, in turn, landed at one of the most visually romantic properties in Lincoln. The nearly seventeen-acre estate is all tall trees and rolling pastures made lush by a trout-fed river, which can be scaled via two bridges. And, a relic from its stable days, the property boasts a converted two-story barn.

Inside, the home — which maintains historical details from its 1812 construction but feels thoroughly updated — features three fireplaces, a reading room with vaulted ceilings, post and beams and wide-plank pine floors.

Stephen Hopkins Smith didn’t find his happily ever after at Hearthside House, but Butterfly House is just as worthy of a fairy tale ending. And now, after going on and off the market in the last year and a half, it’s up for sale again with a reduced price.

Here’s your House Lust:

For more information on the Butterfly House, call Lila Delman’s Jacob Rochefort 401-688-3000 or visit


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