The New International Encyclopædia/Newport (Rhode Island)
NEWPORT. A port of entry and the county-seat of Newport County, R. I., and until 1900 one of the capitals of the State, 17 miles south by west of Fall River, Mass., and 30 miles south of Providence; on Rhode Island in Narragansett Bay, and on the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (Map: Rhode Island, C 4). It has also regular steamboat communication with New York, Providence, and other cities, with increased transportation facilities in summer. Newport is an important United States naval station, but has far greater reputation as a summer resort. Its splendid harbor, defended by Fort Adams and Fort Greble, admits the largest vessels and usually presents a scene of great animation, while its varied scenery, its points of historic interest, equable climate, and excellent facilities for boating, bathing, and driving have combined to establish Newport as the most exclusive and fashionable watering place in the United States. The narrow streets and quaint houses of the old town adjoin the harbor; the ‘society’ quarters with their new and more elaborate architecture reach over to the ocean side of the island. Among the popular objects of interest are First or Easton's Beach, and Bailey's Beach, the bathing resorts; Cliff Walk and the ten-mile Ocean Drive; the Hanging Rocks; the rocky fissure, fifty feet deep, locally known as Purgatory; and Spouting Rock, where the water, when disturbed by a storm, is forced through an opening in the rock, sometimes to a height of fifty feet. On Coaster Harbor Island is the United States Naval Training Station and War College, and on Goat Island, a United States torpedo station. The naval hospital on the mainland was opened in 1897. On Canonicut Island, opposite Newport, is the town of Jamestown, which has an individual reputation as a summer resort. There are numerous public fountains, statues and monuments, and public parks, notably Touro and Morton parks; several libraries—Redwood and People's together containing more than 60,000 volumes, and the Newport Historical Society, which has an interesting collection of relics; Saint George's and Cloyne House schools. Other attractive features of Newport are its historic buildings: the State House, erected in 1742; the old city hall, in 1763; the synagogue (1763), said to be the oldest in the United States; Redwood Library, in 1748; Trinity Church (Protestant Episcopal), in 1725; the Sayer House, headquarters of the British army in 1777; and the Vernon House, Rochambeau's headquarters in 1780. In commerce and industry Newport is comparatively of small importance; there is, however, a large trade in fish. The government is administered under a charter of 1853, which provides for a mayor, annuallv elected, and a bicameral city council that has important elective powers in municipal offices. Population, in 1890, 19,457; in 1900, 22,034.
Newport was settled in 1639 by William Coddington and a few followers, who in the previous year had been driven from Boston for sympathizing with Antinomianism. In 1647 it was united for governmental purposes with Providence, Portsmouth, and Warwick, under the charter of 1643, but there was much dissatisfaction until a second charter was issued in 1663. Here, in 1640, one of the first public schools in America was begun; and here, in 1656, came some of the first Quakers who emigrated to this country. In 1729 Bishop Berkeley came to Newport, and remained in the vicinity for nearly three years, the house, Whitehall, occupied by him, being still in fairly good condition. Here he wrote much of his Alciphron and his ode on Western progress. In the latter half of the eighteenth century Newport was a great trading centre, and by 1769 its commerce exceeded that of New York. On May 17, 1769, the British sloop Liberty, engaged in enforcing the smuggling laws, was destroyed here—this being one of the earliest acts of American resistance to England. From December, 1776, to November, 1779, Newport was occupied by British troops, by whom 480 of its houses were destroyed and its shipping so crippled that the town never recovered its commercial prestige. Rochambeau with his French troops was stationed here in 1780. First incorporated in 1784, Newport surrendered its charter two years later, and was not reincorporated until 1853. It was the birthplace of Commodore M. C. Perry and of William Ellery Channing. In Touro Park stands the famous ‘Old Stone Mill,’ formerly supposed to have been built by the Northmen in the eleventh century, but now very generally believed to have been erected by Gov. Benedict Arnold about 1675. The Newport Mercury, founded in 1758 by James Franklin, is still published. Consult: Greene, The Providence Plantation (Providence, 1886); “Newport in the Revolution,” an article in the New England Magazine, n. s., vol. ii. (Boston, 1890); Brooks, The Controversy Touching the Stone Mill (Newport, 1851).