The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Newport (Rhode Island)
NEWPORT, one of the capitals of the state of Rhode Island, on the W. shore of Rhode island, and on Narragansett bay, 5 m. from the ocean, and 22 m. S. S. E. of Providence, in lat. 41° 29′ N., lon. 71° 19′ 12″ W.; pop. in 1870, 12,521.
It is a port of entry, and has a fine harbor, which may be entered at all times without a pilot, and is safe, commodious, and deep enough for the largest ships. It is defended by Fort Adams on Brenton's point. The city is on a declivity facing the harbor, and contains a state house, custom house, city hall, the Redwood library with 20,000 volumes, the People's library (free) with 15,000 volumes, the masonic hall, armory hall, and numerous elegant private residences. Its salubrious climate, refreshing ocean breezes, facilities for sea bathing, and charming natural scenery have rendered it one of the most popular summer resorts in the United States, and the visitors during the fashionable season are numbered by thousands. The whole S. portion of the island is now dotted over with villas, and there are several large hotels. The older part of the city is interesting for its quaint and picturesque appearance. The “old stone mill,” whose origin and purpose were once a theme of much learned discussion, and which is still asserted by some antiquaries to have been built by the Northmen 500 years before the arrival of Columbus; the ruined Fort Louis, at the entrance of the harbor, and its surrounding rocks, called “the Dumplings;” Fort Adams, one of the most costly and extensive fortifications in the Union; the “Purgatory Rocks” and “Hanging Rocks;” the “Spouting Cave,” and “the Glen,” are the principal objects of interest. The beaches are excellent for bathing, and for promenades at low tide. Bellevue avenue, 2 m. long, and lined with villas, is at fashionable hours crowded with elegant equipages; and a fine drive, called the “Ocean drive,” has lately been laid out along the southern shore of the island. A favorite resort is Touro park, given to the town by Judah Touro, who was born here. The Jewish cemetery and synagogue are still carefully preserved through bequests left by him, although there are now no Jews to use them. The commerce of Newport is now very limited, and its manufactures are almost confined to a few cotton mills, a brass foundery, and lead works. The value of imports for the year ending June 30, 1874, was $11,135; of exports, $19,544; vessels belonging in the district on that date, 135, tonnage 8,660. The city is connected with Boston by the Old Colony railroad, and daily steamers from New York to Fall River, Mass., touch here.
—Newport was settled in 1638 by 17 colonists from Roger Williams's party, headed by William Coddington. The settlers were early distinguished for their enterprise as merchants and navigators, and for their activity in the whaling business. As early as 1764 their trade with the West Indies employed 150 vessels, and 14,000 hhds. of molasses were annually imported, to be converted into rum for the African market. Some years before the Boston tea party the British armed sloop Liberty, stationed here to exact an odious tax, was burned in the harbor. During the revolution 8,000 British and Hessian troops were quartered on the town, and its commercial interests have never recovered from the injury which they inflicted. They destroyed 480 houses, robbed the library, then the finest except one in America, burned the shipping, cut down all the groves and orchards for fuel, and carried off the town records. Before this period Newport had been a favorite resort of men of science and letters, and was noted for the opulence and refinement of its inhabitants. Bishop (then Dean) Berkeley resided here 2½ years, and built a house which is still standing in the adjacent town of Middletown. It was here that he composed his celebrated work, the “Minute Philosopher.” Commodore O. H. Perry was born near Newport, and is buried there, with a monument to his memory. A bronze statue of his brother, Commodore M. O. Perry, a native of Newport, has lately been placed in Touro park. It is by J. Q. A. Ward, and has bass reliefs on the pedestal, representing Commodore Perry's exploits in Mexico, Japan, and elsewhere.