Newport Rhode Island
The Queen of Resorts
Presented as a public service by
The Drawing Room Antiques
The following tour is reprinted from a book printed in 1897 by John F. Murphy titled: "Newport : Block Island and Narragansett Pier Illustrated" The following is the chapter on Newport. We have substituted where still standing contemporary photo of notated sites.
Chapter III "Old Newport"
"Newport is reached from New York by the Shore Line which connects at Wickford with the steamboat for Newport six times a day.
The Fall River Line steamboat from New York also stop here at Long Wharf each morning on the way to Fall River.
Steamers for Rocky Point and Providence run twice daily on week days and three times on Sundays from Commercial Wharf, Thames Street, foot of Franklin Street. This is a beautiful sail of two hours, past Canonicut, Prudence and the smaller islands with their cottages, farms and lighthouses, through the whole length of Narragansett Bay and up the Providence River, by the summer resorts of Warwick, Barrington, Cranston and East Providence. Round trip 60 cents; fare on way 50 cents.
A Steamer for Block Island leaves Long Wharf Tuesday, Friday and Saturday forenoon, Round trip 75 cents; fare one way 50 cents.
Another Block Island steamer leaves Commercial Wharf daily at 1.30 p.m., Sundays excepted.
The steamer H.S. Caswell leaves Commercial Wharf for Narragansett Pier four times daily. Round trip 75 cents; fare on way 50 cents.
The Jamestown ferryboat to Canoicut Island runs about once an hour from Ferry Wharf, Thames Street, foot of Mill Street.
The usual route to Newport from Boston is over the Old Colony Railroad (Providence division, Park Square Station) which has a terminus at Newport; although one may reach the city by the Fall River Line steamship which touches here on the way to New York.
If we make the trip by the Old Colony Line, we find ourselves, on leaving the station, at the foot of Marlborough Street. Passing up this street, a walk of one or two minutes brings us to Thames Street; this is the oldest street in the city, and has been and is now the principal business avenue. It passes the head of every important wharf in town.
Turning down Thames Street to the right, the first opening we come to is Long Wharf, one of the most historic in New England. It has been for over two hundred years one of the public institutions of Newport. It is first mentioned in the Town Records on April 29, 1685, and was built on land granted by the town earlier than this. In 1769 it was extended at a public expense of £1350. In 1779 it was burned to the water's edge by the retiring British and nearly ruined. Thus it remained until 1795, when thirty-six leading merchants of the town, associated as a board of trustees, petitioned the General Assembly for a grant to raise $25,000, by a lottery, toward rebuilding the wharf and also for building a hotel, with the assurance that "all profit accruing from said wharf and hotel" should be used in building one of more free schools. This idea of raising money for public use by a lottery seems strange to us to-day; but from 1752 until 1840 lotteries were the most popular enterprises in Rhode Island for raising large sums of money. In this way means were obtained for paving streets, building court houses, bridges, colleges, libraries and even churches and parsonages. Fort George now Fort Walcott, was built in this way. But in 1840 lotteries were prohibited by the State Legislature. This particular lottery referred to above netted about $12,000.00. The wharf was rebuilt but the hotel enterprise was not carried out. We pass directly up the wharf to Thames Street, on reaching which we find ourselves facing Washington Square. In this old part of the City every ancient house and every foot to ground is associated in some way with interesting historical events. Right here on Thames Street, at the head of Long Wharf and facing the parade, stands a large brick building erected in 1763. It is painted a yellowish brown with dark brown trimmings; large pilasters extend from the top of the first story to the roof cornice. When first erected the building was used for a market and granary; for a time a theatre was run in the upper story, but finally it was refitted and is not used as the City Hall. On the ground floor are the offices of City Clerk and Probate Clerk. In the Council Chamber is a portrait and coat-of-arms of William Coddington, the first governor of Rhode Island.
This wide thoroughfare in from of us in known as the Parade. It was once called Congress Street, but the British named it the "Grand Parade" and the title has been retained. The left-hand or north side is called Washington Square; the right-hand side is called Touro Street. The park in the centre, called the Mall, was laid out in the year 1800; it was them ornamented with rows of Lombardy Poplars given by Major Tousard, but in their place are now seen elms and lindens. At the foot of the Mall stands the statue of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, unveiled September 10, 1885. On this occasion the late Hon. Geo. Bancroft, ex-Gov. Wetmore and other distinguished persons delivered addresses or responded to toasts. The statue was modeled by William S. Turner, a native of Newport, and was erected at an expense of $15,000.00. The General Assembly appropriated $7,500.00 on condition that a sum sufficient to complete the work should be raised from other sources. Accordingly the city of Newport gave $5,000.00 and $2,500.00 more was voluntarily subscribed by individuals to make the total amount required.
ON the pedestal may be seen the words of Perry's celebrated report written on the back of an old letter, after the victory on Lake Erie --"We have met the enemy and they are ours." In front of the statue is a pretty little fountain surrounded by flower-beds. Outside of the enclosure and planted upright in the ground at either corner are old cannon which once formed a part of the armament of the "Tartar," a sloop of war of 115 tons, built by the colony in 1740. The Parrott gun standing on the Mall beyond the Perry monument was given to the city at the beginning of the late was, by Samuel Powell, Esq., but it has never been in active service.
On our right, at the corner of Thames and Touro Street, is the Touro House, next to that the Perry House, is a large, square house antedating the Revolution; the lower floor is now occupied by a meat market. The house is of special interest as having once been the home of Com. O.H. Perry.
The large, brick building seen in the rear, is a parochial school.
Next the Perry home is another mansion of Revolutionary times, having diamond panes in the upper half of every window.
The building with Greek-pillared portico, on the other corner of Clarke (the next street) is Zion Episcopal Church.
Looking across the Mall, we see Odd Fellows Hall on the corner of Charles Street and Washington Square. Just above, on the corner of Prison Street, is a fine, old three-story mansion with fenced, pyramidal roof, which has descended to the mother of ex-governor Van Zandt, from the Hazard family, of which she is a member.
The old drab, brick building seen standing across the end of Prison Street, is the Jail, referred to in a recent magazine article as "absolutely delightful and characteristically domestic."
A few steps into Clarke Street is the Central Baptist Church, on our right. The Second Congregational Society erected the building in 1735. At the time of the Revolution it was presided over by Rev. Dr. Stiles, an intimate friend of Dr. Benjamin Franklin. The church, which was much abused by the British, and afterward restored, was purchased by the Baptists a number of years ago.
Next (to) the church, is the armory of the Newport Artillery Company, the governor's body-guard, and the oldest active military organization in the country, dating from the year 1741. Here are kept some very valuable and interesting relics. Open daily.
At the left-hand corner of Clarke and Mary Streets, stands the William Vernon mansion, a square, white house, strongly built and of a fine interior finish. To Mr. Vernon the nation is much indebted for invaluable services in organizing the American Navy at the time of the Revolution. This house, once occupied by British troops, was made the headquarters of Count de Rochambeau on his arrival at Newport, and here he entertained Gen. Washington during the visit of the latter in 1781. On this occasion, the French soldiers were formed in two lines three deep, from Long Wharf where Washington landed, up Touro Street and down Clarke Street to the Vernon House. Washington passed between these lines, the whole distance from the wharf to the house.
Turning back, we re-enter Washington Square and continue our walk across the Mall.
The large, plain building with a cupola and clock, facing the Parade, is the Old State House, or as it sometimes called, the Old Court House. In 1739 the construction of a new court house at Newport, was authorized by the General Assembly, and this building now standing, was at once begun, and it a little over two years, was finished. The former building was of wood, but for this one a more durable material was selected. Richard Munday was chosen as architect, and all details of design and construction were left to his judgement. This permanence of the structure shows that the confidence reposed in him was not misplaced. The building is of brick, trimmed with freestone; the basement is high, and broad steps on three sides, lead to the first floor. On the side next the Parade is a balcony from which it has been the custom to announce important public events; the name of the governor-elect of Rhode Island,. is even now proclaimed here after each election. The interior staircase is an interesting example of old colonial work. In the Senate Chamber may be seen a fine full-length portrait of Gen. Washington, which Gilbert Stuart painted under commission from the State of Rhode Island, in 1801.
From the balcony referred to above, the death of George II, was announced in 1761. In front, on the Parade, where we now stand, a body of troops was drawn up wit drums muffled and arms reversed, while gathered all about were citizens with badges of mourning. Following the death announcement came the proclamation, "George III, King of Great Britain ! Long live the King !" after which a well-prepared public banquet was discussed in the Council Chamber.
In January 1774, there was holden here, a meeting (the first in the state) to make arrangements to resist the introduction of tea by the East India Company.
In this building the General Assembly set the seal of its approval upon the act of Congress, which declared the colonies independent; and on July 20, 1776, John Handy, standing on the steps, read aloud the Declaration of Independence to the assembled townspeople. Half a century later, he read it again from the same place.
The building was used by the British and afterward by the French troops, as a hospital, thus becoming badly damaged; but the work of restoring it to its former condition was begun at once and thoroughly executed. On April 25, 1783, the return of peace was celebrated by cannon firing, flag raising and general rejoicing; then the procession which paraded, reached the State House, the proclamation of peace, was read by the Sheriff.
At the time of Washington's last visit to Newport, in August, 1790, tables were spread the length of the lower hall of the building, and a great dinner was given in his honor; the silver glass-ware and cutlery, were loaned for the occasion by private families.
Here the Constitution was adopted, and Rhode Island made one of the United States in May, 1790. On the return of Com. Oliver Hazard Perry from Lake Erie, he was given a great public ovation in this building, Nov. 15, 1813. On visiting the old State House, one should go to the attic story where may be seen the "business part" of a large pillory used in olden times, together with other odds and ends connected with the building many years ago. Notice the size of the lock on the attic door. Inside, we see the hand hewn oak rafters fastened with wooden pins, and showing plainly the marks of the axe along their sides. The view from the front attic window is very fine; we look straight out across the harbor to Jamestown. Here much wider from this point of vantage, which enables us to take in at a glance the whole stretch from the head of the Mall to the end of Long Wharf.
Turning to the right as we leave the State House, the street which forms a continuation of Washington Square, is Broadway. The one turning diagonally away at this point, is Farewell Street. Broadway leads straight out to the Middletown line at One Mile Corner. Turning down Farewell Street, the first cross street is Marlborough. On this street, next but one to the corner on our right, is the Friends Meeting House; it is a large, rambling building, painted drab and standing some distance back from the street, behind a little grove of old fir, chestnut and buttonwood trees. The Society of Friends was first established in Newport in 1659. This building was erected in the year 1700, but has had additions made to it since that time. Services are held here on Sunday and Thursday at 10:30 A.M. and 7:30 P.M.
White Street opens out of Farewell Street a short distance below where we now are; on the corner of White and Tilden Streets is the old Friends' Cemetery in which are buried members of many distinguished families of days gone by, the Clarkes, Hadwens, Wantons, Braytons, and others. Most of the old stones are now without inscriptions.
Leaving the Friends' Meeting House, and continuing down Farewell Street, a minute's walk brings us to a little graveyard on the left hand side of the street. This little plot of land, surrounded by and old wooden fence, contains the remains of some of the most noted people belonging to the early days of Newport; the Coddingtons, Carrs, Coggeshalls, Bulls, Jameses, Eastons and Noyeses; here lies Mary, daughter of John Wanton, also the "body of James Noyes physition who dyed March the 15, 1717-18 in the 41 year of his aget." Here is the Tomb Gov. John Easton and wife, and a stone erected to the memory of Gov. Henry Bull who died 1693-4; the same stone stands in memory of Elizabeth, his first wife, who was also the widow of Nicholas Easton, and who died in 1707. At the left of the gate and near the monument just referred to, is the simple stone in memory of William Coddington the First Governor of the state, who died in 1678; this is the oldest inscribed stone in the cemetery. At the foot of the grave is a larger slab erected to the memory by the people of the town on the second centennial anniversary of its settlement, May 12, 1839.
The brown church just beyond here is the Second Baptist. A walk of about two minutes brings one to a little triangular piece of ground formed by the junction of Farewell, Thames and Poplar Streets; this is called Liberty Square and contains the "Liberty Tree," a young oak within a small enclosure, which will be referred to in detail in a later chapter.
A very short distance beyond the "Liberty Tree," is the Old City Cemetery. It is a large graveyard standing on the corner of Farewell and Warner Streets with the carriage entrance on the latter street. Here are many interesting stones, some with long, elaborate inscriptions and carvings.
Now we will return on Farewell Street as far a Marlborough Street up which we turn, to the left, onto Broadway. A few steps further on Broadway takes us to the entrance of Spring Street.
Turning in here, to the right, we see, opposite Stone Street, a white house half clapboarded and half plastered stone. This is the oldest house in the city, being built by Henry Bull in 1639. The handiwork of the restorer is seen upon it, but essentially it is the same old building.
The first frame house in Newport (long since removed) was built by Nicholas Easton on a lot near the Friends' Meeting House.
Passing along Spring Street a few steps farther we come to the First Baptist Church, on the left; the society worshiping here claims to have been organized in 1638, which would make it the oldest of the denomination in the country.
Continuing on Spring Street we soon come to Church Street; on the south side of this street, on our right, stand the widely known Trinity Church, considered one of the finest specimens of Colonial Church-Architecture in the country. It is a large, white edifice, standing side to the street, with a spire which is a conspicuous landmark from whichever direction Newport is seen. This society first gathered for worshiping 1698, but the present building was not dedicated until May, 1726. It's appearance is very much the same as a century and a half ago; the clock in the tower, was the gift of Jahleel Brenton in 1733 and was made in Newport by William Claggett. A bell given by Queen Anne in 1709 was used until 1805, when it was unfortunately injured and replaced by another. Inside the church are the square, straight-backed pews, high pulpit with sounding board and the brass chandeliers, which have been in use from the first. Here Dean Berkeley often preached, and in English oak and surmounted by the central portion of the organ, made English Crown and bishop's mitres, was his gift, sent from England in 1733. At that time it was valued at £500. The sides were added later. Dean Berkeley also gave to Trinity Church School a Bell valued at £50, to Yale College 1000 volumes valued at £1500, and to Harvard College books to the value of £50.
To be continued
Antique Post Cards of Newport RI
The Drawing Room is located at 152 Spring Street in Historic Newport Rhode Island
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