The City in Brief
Founded: 1639 (incorporated 1784)
Head Official: Mayor John J. Trifero (since 2005)
2004 estimate: 25,879
Percent change, 1990-2000: – 6.2%
U.S. rank in 1990: 958th (State rank: 7th)
U.S. rank in 2000: 1,223rd (State rank: 7th)
Metropolitan Area Population (Newport County)
Percent change, 1990-2000: – 2.0%
U.S. rank in 1990: Not reported
U.S. rank in 2000: 611th
Area: 11.47 square miles (2000)
Elevation: From 6 to 96 feet above sea level
Average Annual Temperature: January, 30.4° F; July,71.0° F; annual average, 50.78° F
Average Annual Precipitation: 44.7 inches rainfall; 35.7 inches snowfall
Major Economic Sectors: U.S. Navy-related activities, tourism and related activities, education and healthcare Unemployment Rate: 4.8% (April 2005) Per Capita Income: $25,441 (1999)
2004 ACCRA Average House Price: Not reported
2004 ACCRA Cost of Living Index: Not reported
2002 FBI Crime Index Total: Not reported
Major Colleges and Universities: Salve Regina University, U.S. Naval War College, Community College of Rhode Island-Newport
Daily Newspaper: Newport Daily News
Historic Newport is best known as a summer resort colony. Three distinct communities comprise its population: the settled, predominantly Catholic community, the summer colony, and the United States Navy. The city has been called ”The Birthplace of the Navy;” the presence of navy personnel builds on the distinctly nautical flavor of the seaside town. Newport is located on Aquidneck Island, which has expanded its role in naval activities in recent years, resulting in the growth of high technology industries and support services in the development of sophisticated communications and defense weaponry systems. Newport’s beautifully preserved architectural heritage, including the summer ”cottages”—actually late nineteenth-century mansions built by wealthy New York families—have made the city a warm-weather capital of American ”high society” and a mecca for tourists interested in the colonial history of the United States. Newport’s past is a fascinating mix of religious tolerance, slave trade, the military, and the very wealthiest of U.S. capitalists.
Geography and Climate
Newport is located at the southern end of Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay and is bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the north by Massachusetts, on the south by the Rhode Island Sound, and on the west by mainland Rhode Island. The bay moderates the climate, making this area of the state somewhat warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The weather is of the kind described by meteorologists as humid continental.
Area: 11.47 square miles (2000)
Elevation: From 6 to 96 feet above sea level
Average Temperatures: January, 30.4° F; July, 71.0° F; annual average, 50.78° F
Average Annual Precipitation: 44.7 inches rainfall; 35.7 inches snowfall
Ironically, Newport and the rest of Rhode Island started out as part of the western coast of Africa—more than 500 million years ago. Tectonic forces gradually moved what is now Rhode Island toward the North American continent, where it collided and stuck, creating the Appalachian Mountains in the process. A series of ice ages changed the landscape over time through the approach and retreat of glaciers, which scraped a channel into the earth that separated Aquidneck Island from the mainland. About 3,000 years after the glaciers cleared out, humans moved in; evidence indicates that people have been living in the greater Newport area for somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 years. These hunter-gatherers transitioned into the native tribes more familiar today, with the Narragansett (members of the Algonquian tribe) and Wampanoag Indians being the primary occupants of the Rhode Island area before the new neighbors moved in.
The first European known to have visited the Narragansett Bay area was Giovani Verrazzano, who briefly touched down in the region during an expedition in 1524. Furtraders came next, peacefully doing business with the native people for many years. A defining moment for Newport was the advent of religious dissidents who had been expelled from Massachusetts and many of whom were following Anne Hutchinson, who in 1638 founded Pocasset (later Portsmouth) on the northern end of Aquidneck Island with a small group led by William Coddington and John Clarke. In 1639 Coddington and Clarke moved south and established Newport.
As more settlers moved south to Newport, they adopted the predominant beliefs that church and state should be separated and that all people should be free to practice the religion of their choice. This atmosphere of tolerance attracted an eclectic mix of religious refugees, including members of the Society of Friends (also known as Quakers), Irish Catholics, and the Jewish community. In 1663 Newport and three other towns were chartered by England’s King Charles II as the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation, which free-thinking New porters didn’t much care for.
Pirates, Slaves, and Civil Unrest
By the 1690s, Newport was one of the principal ports in North America. Most of the trade was legitimate, but pirates were a common sight in Newport. The state’s reputation as a haven for individualists and pirates earned it the nickname ”Rogues Island.” By the 1760s Newport was also notorious for being the major slave-trading port in the British Empire—the ”Triangular Trade” was an endless cycle of Caribbean molasses being imported to Newport, where it was made into rum that was shipped to Africa to trade for slaves, who were transported to the Caribbean to be sold for molasses that would make its way back to Newport. ”Surplus” slaves who weren’t traded for molasses were brought back to North America and sold in the south to work on plantations. Freedom appeared to be a limited commodity in colonial times.
During the 1700s Newport rivaled Boston, New York, and Philadelphia as a major trade and cultural center. It also developed as a resort colony, attracting vacationers from the Carolinas and Caribbean seeking to escape the heat and humidity of summers there. At the same time Rhode Island merchants chafed at the restrictions placed upon them by the British government. This tension came to a head in 1763 when the British sent vessels to police Narragansett Bay against smuggling activities. Several skirmishes broke out between the colonists and the British Navy; the British exacted their revenge in 1765 during the American Revolution by seizing the town of Newport and occupying it for nearly three years. As a result of this occupation, Newport’s maritime trade collapsed. Although the city ranked as a leading whaling center from 1775 to 1850, its economy did not fully recover for nearly a century.
With the aid of the French, Newport was regained by the United States; French troops remained in the area until 1783 to ensure that it stayed in U.S. control. This time of instability left the city out of the industrial leaps that had occurred in other parts of the country, and Newport began to rely increasingly on its image as a summer resort. Writers, architects, scientists, and artists converged on the scenic area.
An End to the Triangle Trade
In 1774, Newport outlawed slavery, shattering the Triangular Trade. As part of the Union during the Civil War, Newport was designated the site of the U.S. Navy; the Naval Training Station, the Torpedo Station (now the Naval Underwater Systems Center) and Naval War College were established there during the 1880s, creating an important naval presence that continues to this day. Following the Civil War, in a time Mark Twain called the Gilded Age (1890 to 1914), income tax was an unknown concept. Wealthy families such as the Astors, Vanderbilts, and Morgans began to build opulent mansions they referred to as cottages in Newport to entertain each other during the brief summer season. At the cottage of Mrs. William Astor, where the ballroom held exactly 400 people, the legend of the Four Hundred was born, becoming America’s first social register.
Newport’s economy was given another boost by World War I as its shipyards built combat and cargo ships, but the city suffered heavily when the stock market crashed in 1929. The decline continued through the 1970s as the Newport Naval base was closed and the city lost 15 percent of its population. However, modern Newport is still a center of naval activities, housing the Naval War College and other training schools.
The New Newport
Newport today retains the cachet of a seaside resort, but the city today has more affordable housing than any other community in Rhode Island, and the military presence remains influential in the culture and the economy. The city has reinvented itself as a destination for all tourists, not just the wealthy, offering family-oriented activities and sightseeing excursions. Restoration of historic buildings has been a priority in recent years, from the Cliff Walk past staggeringly massive mansions to the downtown Brick Market. Newport hosts yachting events, tennis tournaments, golf championships, and a broad variety of festivals that honor the city’s ethnic heritage.
In the summer of 2007, tall ships will again dock at Newport; the accompanying festival will include concerts, art exhibits, block parties, and fireworks as well as the breathtaking spectacle of dozens of towering ships parading on Narragansett Bay, in celebration of Newport’s seafaring history and future.
Historical Information: Newport Historical Society, 82
Touro St., Newport, RI 02840; telephone (401)846-0813
Metropolitan Area Residents
Percent change, 1990-2000: – 2.0%
U.S. rank in 1990: Not reported
U.S. rank in 2000: 611th
2004 estimate: 25,879
Percent change, 1990-2000: - 6.2%
U.S. rank in 1990: 958th (State rank: 7th)
U.S. rank in 2000: 1,223rd (State rank: 7th)
Density: 3,336.3 people per square mile (2000)
Racial and ethnic characteristics (2000)
Black or African American: 2,053
American Indian and Alaska Native: 225
Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 23
Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 1,467
Percent o residents born in state: 45.6% (2000)
Age characteristics (2000)
Population under 5 years old: 1,526
Population 5 to 9 years old: 1,465
Population 10 to 14 years old: 1,412
Population 15 to 19 years old: 1,986
Population 20 to 24 years old: 2,671
Population 25 to 34 years old: 4,229
Population 35 to 44 years old: 4,117
Population 45 to 54 years old: 3,481
Population 55 to 59 years old: 1,276
Population 60 to 64 years old: 904
Population 65 to 74 years old: 1,646
Population 75 to 84 years old: 1,261
Population 85 years and over: 501
Median age: 34.9
Total number: 318
Total number: 222 (of which none were infants under the age of 1 year)
Money income (1999)
Per capita income: $25,441
Median household income: $40,669
Total households: 11,562
Number of households with income of . . .
less than $10,000: 1,343
$10,000 to $14,999: 941
$15,000 to $24,999: 1,400
$25,000 to $34,999: 1,440
$35,000 to $49,999: 1,632
$50,000 to $74,999: 2,271
$75,000 to $99,999: 1,090
$100,000 to $149,999: 923
$150,000 to $199,999: 233
$200,000 or more: 289
Percent of families below poverty level: 12.9% (55% of which were female householder families with children under 5 years)
2002 FBI Crime Index Total: Not reported
Newport is governed by a council and a city manager under a home rule charter. The council consists of seven members, one elected from and representing each of three city wards and four that are elected at-large. A mayor is chosen by the four at-large councilors. The council is seated for two-year terms. The City Manager directs all administrative departments for the municipality.
Head Official: Mayor John J. Trifero (since 2005; current term expires 2007); City Manager James C. Smith (since 2002)
Total Number of City Employees: 346 (2005)
City Information: Office of the Mayor, City Hall, 43 Broadway, Newport, RI 02840; telephone (401)846-9600
Major Industries and Commercial Activity
Since the days of the Civil War, Newport has been an important naval base, and the United States Navy is still a major employer in spite of the closing of several installations in the 1970s. Today, the Naval War College, the Naval Education and Training Center, and the Naval Underwater Systems research center continue to stimulate the economy in Newport, particularly in the area of technological research and application related to national defense. The adjacent communities of Middletown and Portsmouth experienced a high-tech boom in the 1980s spurred in part by the location of the Naval Underwater Systems Center in Newport, and Aquidneck Island as a whole is becoming a high-technology hub with more than 80 software and engineering firms employing a large portion of the labor force.
Internationally known as a summer resort and yachting center, Newport depends heavily on wholesale and retail trade and services catering to summer residents and tourists. Some light industry plus fishing and lobstering also contribute to Newport’s economy.
Items and goods produced: electronic equipment, health and beauty aids, fabrics
Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies
Most incentive programs for development in Newport are offered at the state level. The Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation provides direct access to state economic and business resources including finance, export trade, federal procurement, and marketing. The Rhode Island Small Business Development Center provides services to businesses with fewer than 500 employees, including the presentation of training seminars and workshops in business planning, marketing, financing, and other business subjects, as well as free consultations by experts in all aspects of business.
Local programs—The City of Newport offers private businesses access to low cost capital through the Economic Development Revolving Loan Fund, with the intent of creating and retaining jobs. Businesses that are just starting up or expanding can utilize the funds to come up to compliance with the State Fire Code. Recipients can take up to 5 years to pay back the loan at 3.5 percent interest. Newport City also provides tax relief to encourage the reuse of historic properties, including expansion, renovation and development that fit within the Historic District Commission standards. To be eligible for the tax exemption, the property must increase in value no less than $100,000. Newport has consistently been a recipient of a pool of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) monies that it has parceled out to support development projects that benefit low and moderate income residents.
State programs—Rhode Island provides a corporate income tax rate reduction for those firms increasing employment. Manufacturers and traded service firms paying above average wages or investing significantly in work training are able to take a 10 percent credit on purchased or leased equipment. Businesses may also take a significant credit for expenses for approved job training programs. Creativity is rewarded by income tax exemption for writers and artists who sell their works. Research and development activities may also be eligible for tax credits under a variety of programs administered by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. Restoration of historic buildings as businesses or residences may qualify for tax breaks, as may businesses residing in certified mill buildings. Other state programs offer benefits to businesses that provide adult education, that create apprenticeship opportunities, or that are engaged in manufacturing, particularly within the areas of defense, medical instruments, or pharmaceuticals.
Job training programs—The Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training provides employers and small businesses with counseling and direct access to federal and state training, labor market information, recruitment and skills enhancement programs, and grants. The state additionally coordinates services to dislocated workers, foreign workers, youth who wish to be employed, and military veterans. The state maintains a large database of available jobs that can be accessed by those seeking employment. The Workforce Partnership of Greater Rhode Island supports the Department of Labor & Training by assisting businesses and industries in grant writing, goal-setting, job fair coordination, creation of school-to-work linkages, and employee training to address critical skill shortages.
In the early part of the twenty-first century, Newport and other Aquidneck Island communities received a $50,000 grant as part of the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC), allowing for a thoroughly researched and thoughtfully implemented plan for the former Navy lands on the west side of the island. Stated goals include preservation of open space and ocean views, economic development that is controlled and compatible with Naval Station Newport, increased passive and active recreation opportunities, and affordable housing. The planning process, which began in 2000, was ongoing as of 2005.
An associated project involves analysis of the island’s primary water source, Bailey Brook; funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Services has allowed the AIPC to develop an environmental management plan that will ultimately lead to cleaner drinking water. The AIPC has a Transportation Improvement Plan prepared for implementation in 2006-2007, involving a study of current traffic patterns and usages of existing roads and paths, analysis of the data, rerouting of vehicular traffic to maximize efficiency, and creation of bike paths to encourage use of alternate modes of transportation.
The Washington Square Historic Restoration Project seeks to revitalize the historic downtown area with improved parking and traffic flow, restored historic buildings, enhanced signage that will better connect destinations and facilitate traffic movement, and to overall beautify area amenities. Construction started in 2004 and, accounting for cessations in work due to winter weather, the project is expected to be complete by fall of 2005.
The City of Newport has continued its ambitious North End Redevelopment Plan, which will promote jobs, education, and housing opportunities. By 2005 the city created space for a Newport branch of the Community College of Rhode Island, completed work on the Maple Avenue Ball Fields, and realigned the Pell Bridge. Ongoing projects include redevelopment of the old Navy Hospital facility, market analysis for the entire area, an enterprise zone, Pell Bridge land redevelopment, and affordable housing replacement unit construction. Altogether, millions of dollars have been allocated to restoration and renewal projects such as reinforcement of the Cliff Walk, updating of Goldberg Field, paving of historic Southern Thames Street, construction of quality affordable housing within Newport Heights, redevelopment of former military housing, and creation of a new harbor shuttle system to alleviate vehicle congestion.
Economic Development Information: Newport County Chamber of Commerce, 45 Valley Rd., Middleton, RI02842; telephone (401)847-1600. City of Newport Planning, Zoning, Development and Inspection, City Hall, 43 Broadway, 3rd Floor, Newport, RI 02840; telephone (401)846-9600
Logan International Airport is approximately two hours from Newport and provides access to a number of national and international cargo carriers. On an annual basis, Logan moves more than 364,000 metric tons of cargo and mail. The airport is part of Foreign Trade Zone #27, allowing for temporary storage of imported goods that are exempt from full U.S. Customs scrutiny. The Port of Providence, easily accessible from Newport, has been increased to a 40-foot depth in order to accommodate medium and deep-draft vessels. The Port can handle any type of cargo, has approximately 300,000 square feet of warehouse capacity, and offers twenty-five wharves and docks. In addition, Newport offers docking facilities suitable for barge transportation or smaller ships. Excess Navy bases operated by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation in Portsmouth, Middletown, and North Kingston can handle bulk and general cargo. Two trucking firms serve the area.
Labor Force and Employment Outlook
Approximately 87 percent of Newport’s residents possess a high school diploma or its equivalent; about 41 percent hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, making for a well-educated workforce. Statewide, it’s anticipated that overall employment will increase by 11.5 percent by the year 2012, with significant gains in construction, professional and technical services, healthcare and social assistance, leisure and recreation businesses, and accommodation and food service industries. It is anticipated that manufacturing jobs will fall by approximately 13.5 percent by 2012, the only employment sector in which there are projected losses.
The following is a summary of data regarding the Providence-Fall River-Warwick, RI-MA metropolitan statistical area labor force, 2004 annual averages.
Size of nonagricultural labor force: 581,300
Number of workers employed in . . . natural resources and mining: 300 construction: 25,600 manufacturing: 75,700 trade, transportation, and utilities: 102,700 information: 11,700 financial activities: 37,200 professional and business services: 60,900 educational and health services: 106,900 leisure and hospitality: 58,900 other services: 26,500 government: 74,900
Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $13.45 (April 2005)
Unemployment Rate: 4.8% (April 2005)
Largest employers (2004) Number of employees
Naval Underwater Services Center 2,824
Naval Station Newport 950
Newport Hospital 804
James L. Maher Center 700
Salve Regina University 460
Newport Public Schools 380
City of Newport 346
Naval War College 250
Cost of Living
The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors in the Newport area.
2004 ACCRA Average House Price: Not reported
2004 ACCRA Cost of Living Index: Not reported
State income tax rate: 3.75 to 9.9%
State sales tax rate: 7%
Local income tax rate: None
Local sales tax rate: None
Property tax rate: $13.72 per $1,000 of assessed value(2004)
Economic Information: Newport County Chamber of Commerce, 45 Valley Rd., Middletown, RI 02842; telephone (401)847-1600
Education and Research
Elementary and Secondary Schools
Newport Public School District bills itself as a ”student-centered learning community” that provides an academically rigorous experience for students from kindergarten through grade 12. The district has one of the highest amounts of total spending per pupil in the nation, with a well-developed visual and performing arts program, advanced technology in preparation for careers or college, and a community literacy program utilizing volunteer tutors. Up until 2002, Thompson Middle School was located in a circa-1897 building; a new facility was built from the ground up on the original site, opening in 2002.
Newport Public Schools also operates the Aquidneck Island Adult Learning Center, designed to serve youth and adults with GED and alternative diploma programs. The agency provides job skill development and work transition activities, arranges job shadowing opportunities, and cultivates adult literacy. Assessment for learning disabilities is available as well. The Newport Area Career and Technical Center is another program under the Newport Public Schools umbrella.
The following is a summary of data regarding the Newport Public School District as of the 2004-2005 school year.
Total enrollment: 2,826
Number of facilities
elementary schools: 6
junior high/middle schools: 1
senior high schools: 1
Student/teacher ratio: 13:1 (statewide)
Teacher salaries: minimum: $32,769
Funding per pupil: $12,500 (2004)
Several charter and private schools are open for enrollment in the Newport County area, including the Meadowbrook Waldorf School in West Kingston, Rhode Island, and St. George’s School, a college preparatory institution in Newport. The List Academy of Music and Arts is a nonprofit visual and performing arts institution offering enrichment classes to students of all ages and abilities.
Public Schools Information: Newport Public Schools, 437 Broadway, Newport, RI 02840; telephone (401)847-2100
Colleges and Universities
Newport is home to one private Catholic coeducational four-year university of arts and sciences, Salve Regina University, which offers baccalaureate degrees in 44 areas of concentration. Thirteen masters programs are available, and a PhD can be earned in Humanities. Enrollment in the 20042005 academic year stood at 2,479 students representing 34 states and 14 countries. Salve Regina has well-respected nursing and elementary, secondary, and special education programs.
The Naval War College (NWC) operates a military leadership institution in Newport, with a core curriculum that addresses national security decision making, strategy and policy, and joint military operations. NWC works on a trimester system; its student body of mid- and upper-level officers can earn baccalaureate degrees in any of five colleges, while a masters of arts degree is available in National Security and Strategic Studies. The NWC is part of the Naval Education and Training Center, as is the Naval Justice School that trains judge advocate generals and other military legal experts.
Civilians can also gain hands-on experience with boats at the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, where students learn the history of yachts while honing their skills in restoration and boat-building. The school coordinates an annual Summer Gala in celebration of the yacht. Newport is also home to a branch of the Community College of Rhode Island, the main campus of which is located in Warwick. Students of CCRI-Newport can pursue a variety of associate degrees, certifications, or transfer credits for four-year institutions of higher education.
Libraries and Research Centers
The Newport Public Library has served the community for more than 130 years; the library operates a bookmobile service, offers a number of programs tailored to youth and teen readers, and maintains a collection of more than 124,000 volumes supplemented by upwards of 4,000 audiovisual materials. In 2005 the library received a grant of $27,500 to strengthen technological resources available to patrons. Through a reciprocal borrowing agreement, patrons have access to library materials in communities throughout the state.
Special libraries in Newport include those coordinated by various departments of the U.S. Navy on such topics as military science and antisubmarine warfare. Libraries are maintained by Salve Regina University, Newport Hospital, Newport Historical Society, the U.S. Naval War College, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Of unique interest is the Redwood Library and Athenuaeum, founded in 1747 and said to be the oldest continuously circulating library in the United States. The library contains a valuable collection of rare topics, paintings, furnishings, and historical items. The building itself is reminiscent of a Grecian temple; services have been relocated in 2005 while the structure undergoes restoration.
The library and museum materials housed within the Newport Historical Society can jumpstart genealogical and local history research with access to more than 200,000 photographs, 12,000 volumes and 10,000 collectible objects. The U.S. Naval War College conducts war games research, hosts strategic think tank sessions and houses a Naval Underwater Systems research center, all of which contribute to the future direction of the Navy.
Public Library Information: Newport Public Library, 300 Spring St., Newport, RI 02840; telephone (401)847-8720
Most health care needs in Newport are attended to at Newport Hospital, a general hospital containing 217 beds. The facility features the Drexel Birthing Center, a renovated surgical floor (Turner 2), emergency services, cardiac rehabilitation, and cancer care. The hospital conducts outreach to the community via the Newport Alliance, a workplace-based substance abuse and immunization program. The Naval Ambulatory Care Center (NACC) offers a range of service to Navy personnel, including emergency and acute care, dental health, immunizations, occupational therapy and an aviation medicine clinic. NACC provides inpatient services through an External Resources Sharing Agreement with Newport Hospital.
A number of walk-in and acute care clinics also operate in Newport, along with a plethora of private practitioners of medical specialties. Alternative healthcare seekers can find massage therapists, acupuncturists, and other holistic service providers in and around the city.
Health Care Information: Newport Hospital, 11 Friendship St., Newport, RI, 02840; telephone (401)846-6400
Newport is best known for its splendid mansions, located mainly along Bellevue Avenue, Ocean Drive, and Harrison Avenue; the area is known as Historic Hill, a living museum of history and architecture. Kingscote, one of the more modest structures, was built in 1839 in the Gothic Revival style. It features a mahogany and cherry dining room illuminated by natural light shining through a wall of Tiffany glass. The most opulent structure is Breakers, built in 1895 for Cornelius Vanderbilt in the style of a sixteenth-century Italian palace. The firm of Frederick Law Olmsted designed the landscape. Perhaps the most extravagant of the mansions is Marble House, commissioned by William Vanderbilt for his wife. The house cost $2 million to build and $9 million to furnish; it was awarded to Mrs. Vanderbilt in a divorce settlement. Other mansions include the Astors’ Beechwood, where the Gilded Age is recreated through live theatrical performances, and Belcourt Castle, a French castle built in 1894 for Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont and his wife, the former Mrs. William Vanderbilt.
Cliff Walk, a three-mile path winding along the coast, offers views of the mansions and of Rhode Island Sound. In 2000, Rough Point on Bellevue Avenue, the summer home of the late heiress Doris Duke, was opened to the public and allows viewers to see one of the finest private art collections in the area. Newport boasts more pre-1830 buildings still standing than any city in the country. Many are open to the public, such as Colony House—built of English bricks, the structure was a rarity in 1739 and was the scene of a reading of the Declaration of Independence and a Newport visit by George Washington. Touro Synagogue, the oldest Jewish house of worship in the country, was built in 1763. Hunter House, considered one of the most beautiful eighteenth-century mansions in the country, displays porcelain, silver, paintings, and furniture.
A quiet history of Newport can be traced at the Common Burying Ground and Island Cemetery, affectionately known as ”God’s Little Acre.” Headstones dating back to the 1600s reveal the ebb and flow of life in the colonies, with some particularly poignant remembrances for African American slaves. Some of the gravestones were hand-carved with great artistry by slave Zingo Stevens, and there are Europeans laid to rest among the African Americans who contributed to the creation of Newport.
In cooler weather, Newport and its fauna can be experienced from the sea, on the weekly Seal Safaris and Newport Harbor Seal Watches. However, anytime of year is a good time to view Newport from the ocean; motorized and sailboat charter tours are offered throughout the year or can be arranged.
Both President Eisenhower and President Kennedy maintained a Summer White House in Newport; the Eisenhower House, used by the president from 1958 to 1960, is located within the bounds of Fort Adams State Park. Fort Adams itself deserves a visit; the fortification was created between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, undergoing frequent revisions as theories of coastal defense revised over time. The Museum of Yachting features a small crafts collection, the America’s Cup Gallery, and a Single-Handed Hall of Fame. Science and technology are the focus of the Thames Science Center, while the art and science of tennis are celebrated at the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum at the Newport Casino. For a real taste of the local flavor, a visit to the Newport Vineyard provides samples of homegrown wines aged in French oak barrels. The vineyard is about 10 minutes outside of Newport along Route 138.
Sightseeing Information: The Newport Convention and Visitors Bureau, 23 America’s Cup Avenue, Newport, RI 02840-3050; telephone (401)849-8048; toll-free (800)976-5122. Newport Historical Society, 82 Touro St., Newport, RI 02840; telephone (401)846-0813; fax (401)846-1853
Arts and Culture
The Fireside Theatre in Newport stages a minimum of five plays during its year-round performance season, mounting productions that range from comedies to drama. The Beechwood Theatre Company puts on historical vignettes that transport visitors to the Astors’ Beechwood Mansion back to its heyday. Dinner and a theatrical production can be experienced year-round at the Newport Playhouse and Cabaret, a family-owned dinner theater that has been entertain-ing the city for more than 20 years. Musical entertainment ranging from rock and roll to disco, jazz, and Broadway tunes is offered at local bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. For aspiring young actors, the Newport Children’s Theatre coordinates activities, games and performances to build confidence and skills.
Newport’s Trinity Church, built from 1724 to 1726, houses an organ that was tested by G.F. Handel before it left England in 1733.
The Swanhurst Chorus has been entertaining Newport since 1928; the ensemble performs several major pieces each season, including a sing-along to Handel’s Messiah. The Newport Baroque Orchestra specializes in seventeenth and eighteenth century music using period instruments; the orchestra also sponsors the Newport Children’s Choir and the Newport Youth Symphony Orchestra. The Island Moving Company puts on contemporary ballet performances in Newport while also providing outreach to local schools and corporations.
The works of famous Newport cabinetmakers are displayed at Samuel Whitehorne House and at the headquarters of the Newport Historical Society, which also features permanent and changing exhibits on various aspects of Newport’s past. The society’s marine museum, also at this location, depicts the history of the Merchant Marine. The history of American and foreign militia and of naval warfare can be studied at the Military Museum and at the Naval War College Museum. The Museum of Newport History, in the renovated Brick Market, highlights the city’s past in interactive displays and local artifacts. Newport is also the home of the International Tennis Hall of Fame Museum, housed in the Newport Casino, once a fashionable resort. The Rhode Island Fishermen and Whale Museum allows firsthand experiences with whale bones and with skippering a ship.
The Newport Art Museum is located in the former Griswold Mansion, itself a major example of late Victorian domestic architecture; the museum displays permanent and changing exhibits of nineteenth and twentieth century American art. Sculptural works are displayed on the museum grounds, and the Museum additionally hosts an art school within the Coleman Center for Creative Studies. A powerful piece of sculpture depicting the ”triangular” slave trade in Newport is housed in the lobby of the Newport Public Library. Island Arts coordinates a large exhibition space for local artists and also offers a Creative Arts Camp for children between 6 and 12 years of age. After-school arts programs are available for teens. Project One is a public arts initiative, and the Four Corners Arts Center oversees a variety of arts programs for the Aquidneck Island region. Artists also run the Deblois Gallery space for professionals as well as beginning exhibitors.
Just north of Newport, in Middletown, are the Norman Bird Sanctuary and Museum and Whitehall Museum. The Norman Bird Sanctuary consists of 300 acres of preserved open space with 7 miles of trails that take hikers through a variety of habitats. Hooded warblers, black-crowned night herons, Caspian terns, and salt marsh sharp-tailed sparrows can all be viewed within the grounds of the sanctuary. The Whitehall museum, used at various times as a farm house, a tavern, and as a residence for British officers during the American Revolution, is of architectural and historic interest.
Festivals and Holidays
The Newport year kicks off with Opening Night, the city’s New Years Eve Arts Celebration, which can be followed up with the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge. February brings 10 days of food and festivity with the Newport Winter Festival. March celebrations include Newport Irish Heritage Month. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is bolstered by a Kinsale Ireland Festival of Fine Food, quite fitting as Newport is a sister city of Kinsale.
April’s festivities include the Newport Metaphysical Faire, while the month of May offers the Newport Fun Cup Windsurfing Regatta and the Newport Spring Boat Show, featuring hundreds of used and new boats. Food and film festivals abound in June, which first dishes up the Great Chowder Cook-Off and the Newport Film Festival.
Summer offers the Newport Fourth of July Celebration and Public Clambake. Later in the month, the Black Ships Festival commemorates the signing of a treaty between Japan and the U.S. that ended 200 years of isolationism. Asian cuisine, arts, dance, and music are coordinated by the Japan-America Society and Newport’s Japanese sister city, Shimoda. Fine summer weather greets the Newport Kite Festival, with the sky full of demos and instruction; then the air is filled with music as the city hosts the Newport Music Festival in mid-July. The Dunkin’ Donuts Folk Festival-Newport happens in late July or early August, and the JVC Newport Jazz Festival takes off in mid-August.
In September, the Taste of Rhode Island allows attendees to sample the best flavors of the Ocean State on the waterfront, accompanied by music and children’s programs. October is a time of ethnic celebrations such as Festa Italiana, with food and music reflecting Newport County’s Italian heritage, and Oktoberfest’s Bavarian music, German food, and biergarten. October’s Haunted Newport presents 10 days of Halloween activities like ghost tours, pirate tales, a horror film festival, and the Sea Witch Ball. In November, local restaurants show off their chops at Taste of Newport. Later in the month, Christmas in Newport features concerts and candlelight tours in local mansions, a Festival of Trees, a Holly Ball, and visits by St. Nicholas. The festival extends from late November through December. The Newport year winds up with First Night Newport, a family-friendly celebration of the new year.
Sports for the Spectator
Special sporting events take place throughout the summer in the Newport area. Professional tennis at the Newport Casino includes the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championship tournament in July, where 32 of the top male players in the game will compete for the Van Alen Cup. From June through August every year, the Newport International Polo Series takes place, with competition between teams from France, Scotland, India, Egypt, Jamaica, Barbados, and many more. Games are held at Glen Farm in nearby Portsmouth.
From 1851 to 1983 the America’s Cup yacht races were held in the waters around Newport; today the city is the scene of many boating competitions, including a Mini America’s Cup Race, scheduled throughout the summer. In mid-June, the New York Yacht Club’s Annual Regatta is held, as it has been for the past 150 years. More than 100 yachts compete in a variety of races testing skill and speed. The Rolex Swan America Regatta is held toward the end of July and features more than 50 Swan yachts.
In 2001, the Newport Gulls brought New England Collegiate League baseball to the city. The nonprofit team competes in Cardines Field, a historic stadium that has been home to amateur baseball since the early 1900s. Satchell Paige at one point sat in a rocking chair near one of the dugouts while he waited to pitch. From February through December, the Spanish Basque sport of jai alai, a competition similar to handball, and parimutuel betting are offered at Newport Jai Alai.
Sports for the Participant
Newport’s most popular outdoor sport is sailing, and boat rentals can be arranged locally. Excellent sea kayaking opportunities abound in Newport Harbor, and other water-related activities can be had at Easton Beach, which is maintained by the city of Newport. A boardwalk lines the beach, where boogie boards, surfboards, beach chairs, umbrellas, and bathhouses are all available for rent. From April to November, anglers may take advantage of some of the best saltwater fishing in the Northeast in Narragansett Bay, the Sakonnet River, and along the Atlantic coastline; many local ponds offer freshwater fishing; spear fishing and scuba diving are also available. When the water freezes, the Born Family Outdoor Skating Center at the Newport Yachting Center offers up family fun.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame offers grass and court tennis open to the public, along with professional instruction. There are several golf courses in the area and, in 2006, the United States Women’s Open Golf Championship will be held at the Newport Country Club. Newport National Golf Club has been named the top course in Rhode Island in 2004 according to Golf Digest, offering 18 holes and greens that were designed to play fast. The Recreation Department oversees nine soccer, baseball and softball fields, two outdoor basketball courts, and five tennis courts.
Several state parks are within an easy drive from or just outside of Newport, including Fort Adams State Park and Brenton Point State Park. Hiking trails, fishing holes, and overlooks where visitors can view the Atlantic are highly recommended.
Shopping and Dining
Downtown Newport offers the Brick Market, originally a market and granary and now a center for specialty, gift, and antique shops. Thames, Spring, and Franklin streets also offer antiques; there are more than three dozen antique shops in Newport County. Cadeaux du Monde specializes in handmade folk art from the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The Long Wharf Mall features jewelry, gift items, men’s apparel, and leather goods. Galleries and shopkeepers at Bannister’s Wharf offer a variety of upscale gift items, along with a real Newport dining experience in the Clarke Cooke House Restaurant’s eighteenth century dining rooms. Another historic waterfront shopping site is located at Bowen’s Wharf, with top-shelf clothing, jewelry and art shops. In reflection of its immigrant history, Newport hosts several Irish import stores. Aquidneck Island’s only enclosed mall houses 25 stores, and there are two large malls in nearby Warwick.
From June to October, Newport puts on two farmers’ markets with fresh produce, breads, cheeses and other goods sold in an open-air setting. The Aquidneck Growers Market II is held Wednesdays on Memorial Boulevard, while the Newport Farmers Market takes place on Thursdays and Saturdays on Marcus Wheatland Blvd.
As might be expected, seafood figures largely on restaurant plates in Newport. Lobster and quahog (hardshell clams) are local favorites; the quahog is the state symbol. A traditional Rhode Island clambake, featuring layers of clams, mussels, potatoes, onions, corn, sausage, fish, and lobster cooked over hot stones and seaweed, can be arranged. Catering to the tastes of the many immigrants who created the town, Newport serves up an array of restaurants offering Irish, French, Japanese, Italian, Lebanese, and Chinese cuisines. Ambience ranges from chain fast-food spots to delis to bistros; some restaurants are located in historic buildings and many are located harborside. The Newport Dinner Train offers a three-hour dinner excursion as the luxury train meanders along the Narragansett Bay coast. Specialty coffees can be found at a variety of locales throughout Newport, and dessert really ought to be had at the Newport Creamery, which has been scooping up ice cream in Rhode Island since 1928.
Visitor Information: Newport County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 23 America’s Cup Avenue, Newport, RI 02840; telephone (401)849-8048; toll-free (800) 976-5122. Rhode Island Tourism Division, 1 West Exchange St., Providence, RI 02903; telephone (401)222-2601; toll-free (800)556-2484
Conference facilities in Newport offer a combined total of 80,000 square feet of exhibition space. A principal meeting facility in Newport is the Newport Marriott, overlooking the harbor. It features 11 function rooms, a 7,800-square foot ballroom, and can accommodate more than 1,100 people in its 12,000 square feet of space. The Hotel Viking, located downtown, recently underwent an extensive renovation that updated facilities while retaining the historic character of the building. The Viking contains more than 13,400 square feet of flexible meeting space that includes the 5,880-square foot Viking Ballroom and the 4,032-square foot Bellevue Ballroom. Five elegant, permanent executive boardrooms are fitted with wireless internet access. The Hyatt Regency Newport on Goat Island in Newport Harbor offers 27,000 square feet of meeting space and 3,000 square feet of exhibit space within its 16 meeting rooms, an amphitheater, boardrooms, and a grand ballroom that can accommodate up to 1,000 attendees. Newport’s many hotels, motels, and guest houses contain more than 1,500 rooms; in addition, there are many small guest houses.
The Newport Regatta Club is a dramatic setting for banquets and corporate retreats, with a Grand Ballroom that can accommodate 250 people, with room for an additional 150 guests on the waterfront patio area off the ballroom. Located about 10 minutes outside of the city, the Newport Vineyard has tent and outdoor spaces available for special events, with convenient access to the 1,000 square foot tasting room located in the winery.
Convention Information: Newport County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 23 America’s Cup Avenue, Newport, RI 02480; telephone (401)849-8048; toll-free (800)-976-5122
Approaching the City
Theodore Francis Green Airport in Warwick is located approximately 40 minutes from Newport and is served by a number of major airlines such as American and Continental, in addition to several charters. Newport State Airport in Middletown provides private and charter service with feeder flights to Warwick, Boston, and New York. Boston’s Logan International Airport is approximately two hours from Newport and provides access to all points across the country and the globe. In 2003, the airport saw 22,778,495 passengers move through its portals.
Highway access from the west is via Interstate 195 to state highways 138 and 114. Access from Boston in the north is via Route 128 to Route 24 South to the Sakonnet River Bridge via routes 138 or 114 into the city. Bonanza Bus Lines was started in Newport 50 years ago and connects the Aquidneck Island area to a number of major New England cities. Rhode Island Public Transit Authority links Newport back to the continental U.S., and Amtrak provides passenger service.
Traveling in the City
The streets in Newport have conformed to the shape of the island on which it’s located, giving the grid a slightly northeast orientation. Farewell Street and Bellevue Avenue intersect in the city center, providing a reference point for further navigation; Memorial Boulevard West provides another major artery as it crosses the Easton Bay. Traffic congestion is an ongoing problem in Newport, and a number of studies and rerouting projects are underway to address that issue.
Walking and bicycling tours of Newport are a popular way to see the city. The Chamber of Commerce offers taped walking and auto tours and maps outlining self-guided tours. Bicycles can be rented locally. Narrated harbor tours are also available. The Block Island ferry departs from Newport to Block Island daily in the summer. The City of Newport has received grants totaling 1.58 million dollars for implementation of a harbor shuttle system that will decrease street congestion. Landing areas are anticipated to include Perotti Park, Goat Island, Fort Adams, and the International Yacht Restoration School; the project is hoped to be complete by summer of 2006.
Newspapers and Magazines
The Newport Daily News is published Monday through Friday evenings and Saturday morning. The Newport Mercury, a community newspaper, is published weekly and provides subscribers with a summary of local events, news and sports, as does Newport This Week. The monthly Newport Traveler serves residents and tourists in southern
New England. Magazines published in Newport include Cruising World, Sailing World Magazine, and The Yacht, all marketed to the resident and visiting watercraft afficianados. The Newport Navalog is a weekly newspaper serving the local Navy community.
Television and Radio
Radio and television programming on Aquidneck Island is largely provided by way of Providence, Rhode Island and larger municipalities in Massachusetts. Television viewers in Newport are served by three major networks, a public television station, and a cable franchise. The Newport Musical Arts Association operates a low-power FM radio station that broadcasts a diverse mix of music and programming, including jazz, blues, ska and funk. Another local FM station focuses on swing music, while its AM affiliate provides news and talk radio to Newport residents.
Media Information: The Newport Daily News, 101 Malbone Rd., PO Box 420, Newport, RI 02840; telephone (401)849-3300
City of Newport. Available www.cityofnewport.com
Newport County Chamber of Commerce. Available www .newportchamber.com
Newport County Convention &Visitors Bureau. Available www.gonewport.com
Newport Public Library. Available www.newportlibraryri.org
Newport Public Schools. Available http://newportrischools.org
Rhode Island Convention Center. Available www .riconvention.com
Rhode Island Economic Development. Available www .riedc.com
Rhode Island Tourism Division. Available www.visit rhodeisland.com