History bursts behind every corner here in Newport. From the oldest continually operating lending library in the country to the oldest standing Jewish synagogue in North America, step back in time with sites to delight the eye and intrigue your mind.
ISAAC BELL HOUSE
The Isaac Bell House was remarkably innovative when it was originally built in 1883 for Isaac Bell, a wealthy cotton broker and investor. Located on Historic Bellevue Avenue, it flaunts a combination of Old English and European architecture with colonial American and exotic details, such as a Japanese-inspired open floor plan and bamboo-style porch columns.
The Breakers is the grandest of Newport's summer "cottages" and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family's social and financial preeminence in turn of the century America. In 1893, after the original wooden house burnt down, Richard Morris Hunt directed an international team of craftsmen and artisans to create a 70 room Italian Renaissance- style palazzo in its place inspired by the 16th century palaces of Genoa and Turin.
CHATEAU SUR MER
Chateau-sur-Mer was originally built as an Italianate-style villa for China trade merchant William Shepard Wetmore. When Mr. Wetmore died in 1862, his son left architect Richard Morris Hunt to remodel and redecorate the estate in the Second Empire French style. Chateau-sur-Mer's grand scale and lavish parties ushered in the Gilded Age of Newport.
The house was purchased by the Preservation Society in 1969 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.
The Elms was the summer residence of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind of Philadelphia and New York. Mr. Berwind made his fortune in the coal industry. In 1898, the Berwinds engaged Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer to design a house modeled after the mid-18th century French chateau d'Asnieres (c.1750) outside Paris. Construction was completed in 1901, upon which the Berwinds filled the large estate with their collection of Renaissance ceramics, 18th century French and Venetian paintings, and Oriental jades.
The Preservation Society of Newport County purchased The Elms in 1962 and opened the house to the public. In 1996, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
Fort Adams is the largest coastal fortification in the U.S. It was established on July 4, 1799 as a First System coastal fortification named for President John Adams who was in office at the time. Step back in time as you trek the maze of underground tunnels and visit the quarters where officers and their families lived more than a century ago.
The Griswold House, home to Newport Art Museum, was built in 1864 by Richard Morris Hunt for John Griswold, an Old China Trade merchant and member of the Griswold Family. The house is one of the earliest American Stick–style buildings and one of Hunt's first works in Newport.
Hunter House is one of the finest examples of Georgian Colonial architecture from Newport's "golden age" in the mid-18th century. The north half of the house was constructed between 1748 and 1754 by Jonathon Nichols, Jr., a prosperous merchant and colonial deputy. After his death in 1756, the property was sold to Colonel Joseph Wanton, Jr., who enlarged the house by adding a south wing and a second chimney, transforming the building into a formal Georgian mansion.
Today, the house exhibits examples of the finest achievements in the arts and crafts of 18th century Newport.
EDWARD KING HOUSE
Designed for Edward King in the "Italian Villa" style by Richard Upjohn, Edward King House was built between 1845 and 1847, making it one of the earliest representations of the style. It was the largest and grandest house in Newport when it was built. The house is built in brick, has asymmetrical massing, arched window heads, and a prominent three story tower. It was Upjohn's first use of the "Italian Villa" style.
Kingscote is a landmark of the Gothic Revival style in American architecture. Its appearance in Newport marked the beginning of the "cottage boom" that would distinguish the town as a veritable laboratory for the design of picturesque houses throughout the 19th century.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Jones family left Newport and the house was sold to China Trade merchant William Henry King. His nephew David took over the house in 1876, and several years later decided to enlarge Kingscote. He added a new dining room, which combines Colonial American details with exotic ornament.
Kingscote is a rare example of a Gothic Revival house and landscape setting preserved intact with original family collections.
Marble House was a social and architectural landmark that set the pace for Newport's subsequent transformation from a quiet summer colony of wooden houses to the legendary resort of opulent stone palaces at the time it was built between 1888 and 1892.It was designed by the architect Richard Morris Hunt, inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles. The cost of the house was reported in contemporary press accounts to be $11 million, of which $7 million was spent on 500,000 cubic feet of marble. Upon its completion, Mr. Vanderbilt gave the house to his wife as a 39th birthday present.
The Preservation Society acquired the house in 1963 from the Prince estate. In 2006, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The Newport Casino was first opened on July 26, 1880 as a social club for Newport’s turn of the century summer elite.
Cruise down the 10-mile shoreline-drive in Newport featuring panoramic ocean views. The Ocean Drive Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1976 for its unique landscape and architecture, which is less formal and generally not as ostentatious as the grand summer properties on Bellevue Avenue.
NEWPORT COLONY HOUSE
The Newport Colony House is the fourth oldest statehouse still standing in the United States. Many important events associated with the shaping of the United States occurred at the Colony House. In 1761, the death of George II and the ascension of George III was announced from the balcony. In 1766, citizens of Newport celebrated the repeal of the Stamp Act in and around the Colony House. On July 20, 1776, Major John Handy read the Declaration of Independence from the front steps. During the British occupation of Newport from 1776 to 1779, the Colony House was used as a barracks.
Touro Synagogue is the oldest synagogue building still standing in the United States, the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue building in North America and the only surviving synagogue building in the U.S. dating to the colonial era.
U.S. NAVAL WAR COLLEGE
Legend has it that in 1884, Commodore Stephen B. Luce, USN, rowed ashore to Newport and proceeded to a large stone building, the former Newport Asylum for the Poor. He climbed its rickety stairs and announced to his few companions and the empty grounds, "Poor little poorhouse, I christen thee United States Naval War College."
Of all the early libraries founded in the American Colonies, Redwood Library and Athenæum is the oldest one still housed and operating in its original building. The Redwood Library and Athenaeum predates the Charleston Library Society (founded in 1748), New York Society Library (founded in 1754), and the Boston Athenaeum (founded in 1807). Today the "little poorhouse" is a well preserved and stately structure, and home to the Naval War College Museum.
WILLIAM WATTS SHERMAN HOUSE
Completed in 1875, the property is one of America's earliest examples of Queen Anne architecture. Designed by architect Henry Hobson Richardson, the house was built for New York financier William Watts Sherman and his first wife, Annie Wetmore. Richardson combined medieval European, English Renaissance and Colonial American elements to create a fanciful shingle and stucco structure enhanced by decorative woodwork.
Trinity Church is Rhode Island's oldest Episcopal congregation, and home to the only center-aisle, freestanding, triple-decked pulpit left in America today. Keep an eye out for box pew on the south side of the main aisle, adjacent to the Clerk's Desk, ornamented with engraved silver plaques. It commemorates famous visitors seated there. The earliest is George Washington; others include Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Andrew, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah.
UNITED CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
Newport Congregational Church is the only surviving comprehensive architectural interior by John LaFarge. In the 1880s, the congregation retained LaFarge to redecorate its interior. LaFarge had recently completed work on Trinity Church, Boston, and sought to provide a more elaborate interior than he was able to in Boston. He produced twenty stained glass windows and a series of murals, which represent the only fully integrated ecclesiastical interior he produced.
The Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House is the oldest surviving house in Newport. Originally it was built with a single room on each side of a central chimney. It was a full two stories with a garret. Sometime before 1725, a lean-to kitchen was built at the northeast end of the house. When Martin Howard bought the house he installed fine paneling and handsome moldings. These changes were in keeping with the high-style, genteel taste that was so important to refined Newporters during this period and identified Howard as person of social standing. The Lyman family, which needed more room as it grew to include thirteen children, added a large two-story addition to the rear of the house about 1785.