Welcome to Newport and welcome to Historic Tours of Newport. This tour takes about 90 minutes. By looking at architectural and cultural landmarks, we will take you back in time to experience life in the 1650s, 1750s, 1890s and 1900s. You will see beautiful summer residences and mansions along Belleview Avenue, and its sister, the lovely Atlantic Ocean Drive, just around the bend. Then we will circle around Brenton Point towards Hammersmith Farm, Jackie Kennedy’s childhood home and former President John F. Kennedy’s Summer White House.
The word ‘Aquidneck’ comes from an Indian tribe that settled here long before colonies arrived to the New World from Europe. The island has three towns: Portsmouth, Middletown and Newport. Newport is the most popular town because of its Historic Mansions and the America’s Cup race.
Native Americans, called Aquidnecks, inhabited Aquidneck Island for thousands of years before the colonists started arriving from across the Atlantic. Other tribes in the area, living along the shorelines of Newport, Jamestown, southern Rhode Island, and most of North America were called the Pequot, Narragansett, Meshantucket and Pawtucket. These names are still used today and many of the tribes still exist. As you probably know Connecticut is also a name of an Indian tribe.
Geographical studies have told us that long ago, the East Coast was covered by glacier, which when it melted, deposited large amounts of very rich topsoil. This made the area an ideal place to settle and grow food.
According to the 2014 census, the population of the state of Rhode Island was 1.05 million and Newport was home to 24, 089 people.
102: Roger Williams & Ann Hutchinson
Moving on to the colonists: One of the larger original settlements in the area was Plymouth, Massachusetts about 60 miles Northeast of here. As the population grew, so did the inhabitants’ desire to expand farther and test new waters. Two brave forward-thinkers decided to leave the colony and head south. These two individuals were Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson. Roger Williams is credited with beginning the colony of Providence Plantations and for starting the first Baptist Church in America. He was also one of the earliest supporters of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. Hutchinson, equally ambitious, with the encouragement of Williams, settled on the Northern end of Aquidneck Island in Portsmouth, RI. In 1639, Anne Hutchinson and several others like William Codington, William Brenton, John Clarke, and the Easton family headed south to settle Newport after some governmental dissension in Portsmouth.
SUB STOP: More about the colonists
Later the colonies reunited and Codington became governor of Aquidneck Island. It didn’t take long for Newport to become the most prominent port in Rhode Island. The superb geographic location enabled the colony’s rapid growth. A founding principle of the colony, spearheaded by people like Anne Hutchinson, was religious freedom and the separation of Church and State. Over time, more and more people settled in Newport in order to peacefully practice their beliefs: Baptists, Quakers, and Jewish peoples coming from places like Lisbon, Holland, the West Indies and more. These early settlers were keen business people with a natural ability for commercial enterprise and a capacity for orderly and conservative government.
Some dissension arose in 1657, when a number of members of the colonies demanded that the Quakers be excluded from Rhode Island. Benedict Arnold, Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the time, demanded that the colony’s policy for religious tolerance be upheld. This is remarkable when considering that Arnold was not friend to the Quakers and actually thought they were subversive to government. This shows how truly important the idea of religious toleration was at the time.
While the Quaker issue was being decided, Newport was now twenty years old and rapidly growing. The merchants joined together and built wharves. By 1680 they named their enterprise The Proprietors of Long Wharf and promoted the town’s rapid growth of shipping and shipbuilding. Newport and Boston already led the colonies shipbuilding. When they reported to the Lords of the crown they would downplay the fact that they were doing so well in hopes of avoiding more taxation.
106: Great Friends Meeting House
The Quaker, Great Friends Meeting House constructed in the 1650s. As you know the Quakers, Jews, and Baptists came with one thing on their mind, religious freedom and separation of church and state. The building you see now is actually the product of three different building stages. The oldest stage dating from the 1650s is still at the center of the building. It is the oldest constructed structure on Aquidneck Island.
107: The Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House
As we turn onto Broadway, coming up on your left is The Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House. It is the oldest surviving house in the city. Built ca. 1697, it is also one of the oldest surviving houses in the state.
SUB STOP: More about the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House
The Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House is located at the corner of Broadway and Stone Street, in the downtown section of the city in the Newport Historic District. It has passed through several owners since its construction, and has been renovated and improved over time. The three owners for whom it is named were not the first, but they were all members of a particular family that owned the house for over a century: roughly from just before the Revolution until 1911. Since the 1920s it has been owned by the Newport Historical Society (NHS), which has renovated and converted it to a historic house museum. In 1960 it was among the first National Historic Landmarks designated by the Department of the Interior.
200: The Colony House
The Colony House was built in 1739. At this point, Newport had been settled for 100 years. During the American Revolution it was used as a site for storing weapons and in 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read from the front steps. When the Revolution was over, George Washington even dined there in celebration. Around this time, pirating was illegal but profitable. From the Red Sea back to Newport the pirates had a safe haven and they buried their treasure here. Captain Kidd and many others visited Newport and the settlers would sidestep the laws to protect profit. Many pirates were revered as heroes and when their ships came into port, large crowds would form.
By 1680 Newport had become a thriving seaport town 30 ship per day were emptied and reloaded, with grist mills and sawmills, tanneries, masons, breweries, bakeries. This supported shipwrights and house wrights, blacksmiths, shopkeepers, and artisans. Remember the Triangle Trade, which began in England, went south to Africa carrying manufactured goods, and then west from Africa to North America, and then home back to England carrying sugar and rum, tobacco, rice, cotton back to England.
At roughly the time period of the Revolution, there were 400 small, wooden houses with brick and stone walls in the city. Brick was common because it was used as ballast for big ships to keep them sitting upright in heavy winds. Bricks were used for chimneys along with stone taken for local quarries. Between 1726 & 1763, three important buildings were built: Trinity Church, the Quaker Friends Meeting House, and the Colony House.
201: Brick Market
Peter Harrison designed this market from 1762-1772, is right in front of us, now a registered historical landmark, as a trading center and granary. Harrison was Newport’s foremost architect during the years following 1750.
SUB STOP: More about Brick Market
Peter Harrison designed many public buildings during the English Palladian Revival. Arriving in Newport at the age of twenty-two, Harrison later married the rich Newport merchant John Bannister’s youngest sister-in-law. Peter and his new brother Joseph opened up a shop and shipping center near John Brown’s wharf. It is not known how he obtained his training in architecture, but his skill cannot be doubted. Other designs by Harrison are the Redwood Library and the Touro Synagogue both just up the street. The Brick Market later was used as a town hall and theater. Now it is a museum and store operated by the Newport Historical Society.
Massachusetts’ towns were Congregational towns. This means that they were laid out according to plan around the village green and were set with church, schools, and a town house. Different churches settled Rhode Island towns, so the shape of the town was dictated by the shoreline. Out of necessity, the first structures were built along the coves, ocean side, and wharves.
202: Jane Pickens Theater
Coming up on your right is Jane Pickens Theater. The building was originally a Greek Revival Episcopal Church in 1834. In 1919 it underwent an extensive renovation and became a theater. It is still operated as a theater and event center today.
203: Touro Synagogue
Coming up right in front of us, the big building with brown roof is the oldest synagogue in America, Touro Synagogue. Jewish people started coming to Newport in the mid-seventeenth century, because of its reputation for religious tolerance. Peter Harrison designed this 1763 Georgian place of worship to stand diagonally on its small piece of land so that the worshipers would be facing east towards Jerusalem. It combined the forces of the Sephardim and Ashkenazim Jews. George Washington sent a letter to the congregation pledging religious freedom to the Jewish community in 1790.
Inside is a Scroll of Laws that dates back to 1658.
204: Jewish Cemetery
A short walk up Touro Street brings us to the Jewish Cemetery (at the corner of Kay Street).
300: Gentlemen’s Reading Room
The Gentlemen’s Reading Room; an exclusive men’s club where once two men enjoyed a summer day: James Gordon Bennett, Jr. and his friend Captain Henry Augustus Candy.
301: Redwood Library & Athenaeum
Redwood Library and Athenaeum (library reading room) was built in 1750, is the oldest community library in the United States. It was designed by Peter Harrison according to a design for a Greek Temple and is the first public classical building in America.
302: Newport Art Museum
Right next to the Redwood Library is the Newport Art Museum. This unique Stick Style architecture was the masterpiece of Richard Morris Hunt, whom also designed The Breakers.
303: The Newport Naval Academy
Coming up on your right is the Newport Naval Academy. It was leased from the Atlantic Hotel 1845 on the corner of Bellevue Ave & Pelham Street during the American Revolution because the academy in Annapolis, Maryland was too close to the Confederate lines. After the war the academy relocated back down south.
SUB STOP: More about the Naval Academy
In 1865 the Naval Academy building burned to the ground and the existing building was erected. Narragansett Bay is called the Cradle of the American navy and we host the Naval War College here today.
400: Bellevue Avenue
Coming back to the Gentleman’s Reading Room, Bennett was the New York Herald Publisher and Candy was a retired Royal Lancer for the Queen of England. Bennett made a wager with Captain Candy that he would not dare to ride his horse on the porch and into the club. Of course, Candy was not one to back down from a challenge so he did it, both of them thinking that it would be a good joke.. Instead, Bennett was reprimanded and Candy was asked to permanently leave the club.
Bennett responded by buying land down the street on Bellevue Avenue and by building a Casino Club, which over the years became popular and today it is known as The International Tennis Hall of Fame.
SUB STOP: More about Bellevue Ave
With the southerners and New Yorkers establishing Newport as a fashionable summer resort, thus began the Gilded Age and an architectural competition of sorts. Everyone wanted the biggest, grandest mansion. Living in Newport meant you could join the 400 club via Mrs. Astor the great and most important lady in Newport. She put the first list together of the rich and most influential. Mr. Berwind who had the largest coal mines was not allowed in the club because he was considered new money!
Mrs. Astor would not invite him to her parties, so Mr. Berwind had his face carved into the limestone urns on Bellevue Ave on both sides facing north & south so Mrs. Astor would have to see him on her way in to and out of town.
Kingscote, dating to 1839, is an early Gothic revival mansion. It is one of the first summer cottages in Newport and was owned by Mr. George Noble Jones. During the Civil War the Joneses left Newport permanently and the house was sold in 1864 to William Henry King, a China trade merchant. He renovated the house in 1876 hiring the famous architects McKim, Mead, & White. The family owned the house until 1972, when the house was deeded to the Preservation Society of Newport County. Mrs. Jones wanted the house saved for future generations.
Isaac Bell House also known as Edna Villa, was built in 1883 for the Bell Family. McKim, Mead, & White were the architects and they designed the house in Shingle Style. It was purchased by The Preservation Society of Newport County in 1994 and restored a few years later.
403: The Elms
Coming up, this large mansion on your right is The Elms – The house that ran by magic! The Elms was designed by architect Horace Trumbauer for the coal baron Edward Julius Berwind, and was completed in 1901. Its design was inspired by the Château d’Asnières in Asnieres, France. C. H. Miller and E. W. Bowditch, who worked closely with Trumbauer, created the gardens and landscaping. The estate was constructed from 1899 to 1901 and cost about 1.5 million dollars to build. Like most Newport estates of the Gilded Age, The Elms was constructed with a steel frame with brick partitions and a limestone facade.
Like many of the grandest summer residents of Newport, Edward Berwind was “new money” (his parents were middle-class German immigrants); by 1900 his friends included Theodore Roosevelt and Kaiser Wilhem II of Germany as well as many high-ranking government leaders from Europe and America. At this time Berwind was hailed as “one of the 59 men who ruled America”, making him one of Newport’s most important summer residents
Mr.Berwind was interested in technology, and The Elms was one of the first homes in America to be wired for electricity with no form of backup system. The house also included one of the first electrical icemakers. It was one of the most sophisticated houses of the time. When The Elms opened in 1901 the Berwinds held a huge party. The estate has been designated a National Historic Landmark and today is open to the public.
SUBSTOPS: More about ELMS
The first floor of the estate consists of a grand ballroom, salon, dining room, breakfast room, library, conservatory, and a grand hallway with a marble floor. The second floor contains bedrooms for the family and guests as well as a private sitting room. The third floor contains bedrooms for the in -house servants.
In keeping with the French architecture of the house, the grounds of The Elms, among the best in Newport, were designed in French eighteenth-century taste and include a sunken garden. On the edge of the property a large carriage house and stables were built, over which lived the stable keepers and gardeners. When the Berwind family began using automobiles, the carriage house and stables were converted into a large garage. The head coachman, in order to keep his job, became the family driver but he could never learn to back up, so a large turntable had to be installed in the garage.
Coming up on your left is Chateau-sur-Mer. It was built in 1852, as a French villa for the Wetmore’s. In the 1870s Richard Morris Hunt remodeled the house into a Second Empire style, year-round residence. The roof was raised and a cornice added to make it appear very grand.
406: William Watts Sherman House
On your right is William Watts Sherman House; built 1876, is a Shingle Style house with half- timber panels and textured stucco, along with diamond panel glass window and massive chimneys.
407: Salve Regina University
We are driving through Salve Regina Campus. Salve Regina was founded in 1934 by the Sisters of Mercy. Salve Regina means “hail the Queen” in Latin. Mr. Robert Goelet, a banker and developer, donated Ochre Court to the school to serve as their main building. We will see Ochre Court around the Corner. The structure is French Flamboyant Gothic and sits right on Newport’s famous cliff walk. Richard Morris Hunt was the Architect and the grounds by the Olmsted Brothers. This campus is considered one of the most beautiful campuses in North East. Salve maintains 21 Historic buildings and 23 modern buildings.
408: The Breakers
Coming up on your left is none other than the famous Breakers. It was constructed in 1895 by Richard Morris Hunt for Cornelius Vanderbilt II, who made his fortune in the railroad and steamship industries. It is the largest house in Newport. Cornelius’s brother built Biltmore, the largest home in America in Ashville, South Carolina. Vanderbilt’s summer home was used for entertaining his business clients, friends and the home of many summer parties. The Vanderbilts also owned one city block in New York on 5th Avenue, a four story building which was destroyed by redevelopment. Mr. Vanderbilt also built the Grand Central Station in New York City and ran his train line from New York to Chicago. He reportedly made $100,000 dollars an hour with no income tax. Imagine that! This was at a time when conspicuous consumption was beginning to upset people working 50 hours a week for $3.50. A loaf of bread costs 3 cents and a handmade suit from England costs $3.00.
It was rumored that during the Depression the Vanderbilts discussed cutting the wages of the staff to save money. The chauffeur left the family and began driving for another family, but when Mrs. Vanderbilt found out she sent him a note stating that if he should return she would increase his pay form $3.50 to $4.50 per week. He soon accepted and it was never discussed again.
SUBSTOPS: More about the Breakers
There was another house on this site before the The Breakers. It was owned by Pierre Lorillard and burned down in 1892. Mr.Vanderbilt bought the land and wanted a fireproof house to be safe. So he built a house of solid limestone and brick with steel floor joists. The boilers were put in the gatehouse and a tunnel was dug to the house. Mr. Vanderbilt died in 1899 from a cerebral hemorrhage caused by stroke at age 56. His wife lived for another 35 years and left the house to her daughter.
Coming up on your left, this lovely mansion in white is Rosecliff. Nevada silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs commissioned Rosecliff in 1899. During a summer in Newport, Theresa met Hermann Oelrichs playing tennis at the Newport Casino. They were married in 1890. A year later, they purchased the property known as Rosecliff from the estate of historian and diplomat George Bancroft.
She hired architect Stanford White, who modeled Rosecliff after the Grand Trianon, the garden retreat of French kings at Versailles.
SUBSTOP: More about Rosecliff
As an amateur horticulturist, Bancroft was the one who developed the American Beauty Rose. The Oelrichs later bought additional property along Bellevue Avenue and commissioned Stanford White to replace the original house with the mansion that became the setting for many of Newport’s most lavish parties. The famous Great Gatsby was filmed here in the 70s. True Lies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was also filmed here and around Newport. Harry Houdini performed right here in Rosecliff.
491: Astor’s Beechwood
Coming up on your left is Lady Astor’s Beechwood. Living in Newport meant you could the join the 400 club via Mrs. Astor, the most important lady in Newport. The 400 club was run by 3 women mostly Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt of Marble House along with Mrs. Mamie Fish of Crossways, and Mrs. Tessie Oelrichs of Rosecliff. Mrs. Astor would stand-alone and play off the other three, always trying to outdo the others, hiding gemstones in soup and in sand piles as party favors. Mrs. Astor had quite a reputation to churn out fun parties and only kept the best of company.
SUBSTOP: More about Astor’s
Astor’s Beechwood was built in 1851 for Daniel Parish and it burned to ground in 1855. A replica was built in 1881, which was purchased by Mr. Astor. Mrs. Astor hired Richard Morris Hunt Architect to remodel the mansion for 2 million. Today, Larry Elison of Oracle, San Francisco owns it and he has been working on it for about three years now.
492: Marble House
Right next to Astor’s Beechwood is The Marble House, built in 1892. The Marble House was designed by Richard Morris Hunt for William K. Vanderbilt. He then gave it to his wife Alva for her 39th birthday. This palace used 500,000 cubic ft. of stone. White Marble came from Hudson River quarry, New York. The Vanderbilts chose it because they loved the gold and large mica chips in the stone, which makes it glimmer under light.
493: Belcourt Castle
Coming up on your right is the former summer cottage of Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, the founder of Belmont Race Track. Begun in 1891 and completed in 1894, it was only intended to be lived in for six to eight weeks of the year. Designed in a multitude of European styles and periods, Belcourt has a heavy emphasis on French Renaissance and Gothic decor, with further borrowings from German, English and Italian design.
Today, Alex & Ani a local jewelry company owns this lovely estate.
SUBSTOP: More about Belcourt Castle
During the Gilded Age, the Belcourt Castle was well noted for its extensive stables and carriage areas, which were incorporated into the main structure. Oliver graduated from the Naval Academy and served for 3 years. After that he became a banker and publisher, becoming very wealthy. When his father died he decided to build Belcourt. He was a difficult and sometimes demanding person. At one point he commissioned a statue of himself and had it placed in Washington Square. It was later removed when the park was dedicated to President Eisenhower in the 1959. At this point in time, the statue was moved to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City until 2005 when it was given back to Newport for display. Today it rests on the corner of Bellevue and Narragansett Avenue.
494: Rough Point
Coming up on your left is Rough Point. It was owned by James Buchannan Duke and his second wife. They had one daughter named Doris Duke. The Dukes lived in New York City on Fifth Avenue. Mr. Duke died in 1925 when Doris was 12 years old. Mr. Duke was a benefactor of Duke University named for his father. He made his fortune in tobacco industry, Camel cigarettes. He left half of his fortune to the Duke endowment and the other half $ 100 million dollars to Doris. Doris at 12 years old summered in Newport with her mother and lived in New York City and attended school in her a chauffeured limo. The maids who took care of her maintained a picture album of her clothes so she could plan her wardrobe. She also had guards to protect her from being kidnapped (after the Limburg Baby) for ransom.
In 1966, Doris Duke and her interior designer Eduardo Tirello were leaving Rough Point in her car when Doris accidently puts the car into gear running Eduardo into a tree, killing him.
Doris started the Restoration Foundation and restored about 80 buildings, which are now rented to locals. There is a 5-year waiting list. Doris died in 1993.
500: Baily’s Beach Spouting Rock
Spouting Rock Association is the beach for the 400 Club, comprised of Newport’s rich and famous. Today, this club is still very much a private beach. The public section next to it is affectionately called Reject’s Beach because non-members of the club can use it.
This big white mansion up on a hill is known as Crossways. This southern looking estate was Mamie Fish’s pride and joy being a southerner herself.
As you know, the 400 Club was run by 3 women (Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt of Marble House, Mrs. Mamie Fish of Crossways, and Mrs. Tessie Oelrich of Rosecliff). Mrs. Fish hosted a lavish party honoring Prince Del Drago visiting from England. When all the guests had arrived, she asked for everyone’s attention so she could introduce the Prince. Then a chimpanzee walks down the staircase dressed in black tie! The guests roared with laughter.
Mrs. Fish loved to host unusual events. Once, she even also hosted a dog party. Rumor has it that she placed one of the owners that she didn’t like at the dog table!
502: Gooseberry Beach
Gooseberry Beach is a private beach however you can get a day pass. Some scenes on the movie 27 Dresses were shot here.
503: Newport Country Club
Coming up on your right is Newport Country Club. Tiger Woods won the 1995 U.S. Amateur right here. His father Earl Woods was very proud of him. “I’m going to make a prediction,” Earl Woods said Sunday night, as champagne both tingled and loosened his tongue. “Before he’s through, my son will win 14 major championships.” America’s most prominent golf father clutched the Havemeyer Trophy, from which he was drinking, and looked around the nearly empty merchandise tent near the clubhouse of the Newport (R.I.) Country Club. The handful of friends and autograph seekers laughed and cheered. His son, 19-year-old Tiger Woods, smiled too – but bashfully.
504: Green Bridge Area:
We’re approaching Green Bridge, the only spot on Ocean Drive that has water on both sides. Water flowing in from the ocean feeds the salt ponds on the other side. This is a wonderful spot to return to in your free time, and go swimming, kayaking, or simply to watch the sunset. In the 1890s this was a great hideaway for pirates, as they could easily hide their ships. A short paddle away is Gooseberry Island, a great place for snorkeling or diving.
505: Ocean Drive:
Ocean Drive is a great place to enjoy the sun. You can drive up to Brenton Point and park your car for free, and then enjoy a lovely day with a picnic basket! Years ago, there was a huge estate here known as Budlong Estate. It was built at the southernmost tip of Aquidneck Island by Theodore M. Davis: a copper magnate, author, collector, and renowned Egyptologist. The Boston architectural firm of Sturgis & Brigham created an elegant shingle and stone clad Queen Anne villa destined to house Davis’ collection of Old Master paintings, largely bought through the art consultant Bernard Berenson, and later bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Between 1903 and 1912, T. M. Davis wintered on the Nile and was granted a license to dig from the Egyptian government. He discovered the tombs of Queen Hatshepsut, Tuthmosis IV, Siptah, Horemheb, Yuaa, and Thuiu, now in the collections of the Cairo Museum following Mr. Davis’ death in 1915.
506: Brenton Point State Park:
Coming up on your right is Brenton Point State Park. Occupying the former grounds of one of Newport’s grandest estates, Brenton Point State Park affords its visitors one of the most commanding and spectacular views on the East Coast. The park is located at the point of land where Narragansett Bay meets the Atlantic, midway along renowned Ocean Drive. Visitors can enjoy picnicking, hiking, fishing, or just relaxing with the cool breezes and majestic views of the Atlantic Ocean.
507: Rhode Island Lighthouse
Rhode Island has 21 lighthouses, 13 of them active, plus at least 6 former light stations where ruins or foundations are still visible. Beavertail Light House on Jamestown is the second oldest lighthouse in America.
508: Castle Hill Inn
Coming up on your left is Castle Hill Inn. In 1874, the renowned scientist and explorer, Alexander Agassiz felt from personal knowledge of the Atlantic coast, that no place offered better facilities for summer study of marine animals than Newport. One room of the house was fitted as a laboratory. In 1877, Agassiz replaced this with a very complete little research laboratory overhanging the cove. Its architecture suggests the chalets of his native Switzerland. It was fitted to accommodate some dozen advanced students.
The laboratory was discontinued after the Marine Biological Laboratory replaced its function at Woods Hole, MA. The building was turned into a guest cottage and was used as summer home by the family of the present owners of Castle Hill, until it became part of the Inn in the 1980’s.
SUBSTOP: More about Castle Hill
A watch house was built at Castle Hill in 1740 when England declared war against America. It was garrisoned during the Revolution and the War of 1812. In 1776, the British ships Scarborough and Cimiter, trying to escape the harbor after the bombardment by the Americans, “had another fiery ordeal to pass at Castle Hill where they received a severe and vigorous cannonade from the American batteries.” Historical records also tell that the Spanish brig, Minerva, was wrecked on Brenton’s Reef on the night of the 24th of December, 1801 ~ one of the most violent storms on record. “It was truly solemn to hear the minute guns, which continued as long as the brig held together. Ten perished. Three of the bodies were recovered and were buried nearby, on the Castle Hill farm.” What you see now was built as a summerhouse, A windmill nearby supplied the power to pump seawater to a cistern in the attic. Many biologists, later famous, rode in the omnibus that plied each morning from Newport to the laboratory with a party of eager, young naturalists.
Agassiz’s dream was to make enough money to devote his life to science. As a geologist he was asked, in 1866, to inspect some copper mines in Michigan. After a careful look at the whole terrain, he reported a fabulously rich vein being badly mismanaged. Upon being asked to manage the mines, he borrowed a small sum of money to invest in them. After two years of hard labor in most primitive conditions, he set the mines on a profitable basis and was able to withdraw from active management, while retaining an ownership interest. Thus he made the fortune that enabled him to explore the world for scientific knowledge. He firmly established the Museum of Comparative Biology at Harvard, first founded by his father, bestowing upon it more than $1,500,000. His oceanographic expeditions, when the study of oceanography was in its infancy, form the basis for the modern science of marine biology.
He filled his house with the best of Chinese and Japanese art and furnishings, especially bronzes and porcelain. He enjoyed giving small dinner parties. His beloved wife died at an early age, leaving her mother as his hostess upon her death. For recreation he took horseback rides, worked in his extensive gardens, and played on a small golf course, now gone, he had built on the grounds. Agassiz deeded the land for the lighthouse to the U.S. Government for $1.00. The light was first shown on May 1st, 1890. In the great hurricane of 1938 the waters of Castle Hill beach and cove became one, cutting the peninsula off from the mainland. Mrs. Maximillian Agassiz, daughter-in-law of Alexander, became so frightened that she never wanted to stay in the house again. The property was sold to J. T. O’Connell, a local businessman whose heirs are the property’s current owners.
600: Hammersmith Farm
As you probably know, Jacky Kennedy’s maiden name was Jacqueline Bouvier. Jacky started coming to Newport to spend time with her mother Janet Lee Bouvier and step father Hugh Dudley Auchincloss. Hugh Auchincloss was a native Newporter.
Jacqueline Bouvier spent most of her teenage life here, learning to horse ride while working on the farm. As you know, Jackie married John F. Kennedy in 1953. What you may not know is that they actually got married here in Newport at St. Mary’s Catholic Church downtown and had their wedding reception here at Hammersmith, Jackie’s childhood home. During JFK’s presidency, Hammersmith was the Summer White House.
According to local legend, in the summer of 1962 they were throwing a third birthday party for little John. John and President Kennedy asked the Navy to launch a submarine when the little boy blew out the candles. Some locals were in a boat sailing on that peaceful afternoon when the sub came out of the water very close to them and they reported it to the Coast Guard. Supposedly, the incidence made it to the papers.
700: Fort Adams
Fort Adams was established on July 4, 1799 as a First System coastal fortification. Its first commander was Captain John Henry.
The first Fort Adams was designed by Major Louis de Tousard of the Army Corps of Engineers. This fort mounted 12 cannon and was garrisoned during the War of 1812 by Wood’s State Corps of Rhode Island militiamen.
After the War of 1812, there was a thorough review of the nation’s fortification needs and it was decided to replace the “old” Fort Adams with a newer and much larger fort. Construction of the new fort began in 1824, and continued at irregular intervals until 1857. From 1825 to 1838, Colonel Joseph Gilbert Totten, the foremost American military engineer of his day, oversaw construction. In 1838, Totten became chief engineer of the Army and served until his death in 1864.
The new Fort Adams was first garrisoned in August 1841 and was an active Army post until 1950. During this time, the fort was active in five major wars (Mexican-American War, American Civil War, Spanish-American, World War I and World War II) but never fired a shot.
Today, Fort Adams is the venue for Newport Jazz Festival, Folk Festival and other events.
800: Beacon Rock
From the first, they called Beacon Rock the Acropolis of Newport. Commodore Edwin D. Morgan in 1887, commissioned architect, Stanford White, of the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White in New York, to design this residence according to the plan of the ancient Athenian
Stoa of Attalos and the Agora adjoining it.
The resulting ionic marble colonnades and the balanced, matching temple-like facades took more than 3 years to complete. The mansion was ready for occupancy in 1891.
801: Mr. Felix DeWeldon
A new era began in 1951 when Mr. Felix DeWeldon, the world-renowned sculptor, took possession of the house. In 1945, while serving in the United States Navy as a Seabee, Mr. Felix DeWeldon undertook one of his greatest and most famous works, which catapulted him to famed- the flag raising on Iwo Jima.
Today, it is officially known as the United States Marine Corps War Memorial, displayed in Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial is just one of DeWeldon 33 works throughout the Washington D.C. area, which is more than any sculptor in history. The 78-foot high masterpiece, with every detail hand completed, is the largest sculptor cast in bronze in the world and is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year. This memorial is one of the most recognizable monuments in the world.
SUBSTOP: More about DeWeldon
Felix DeWeldon has produced an impressive body of work ranging from great monuments to busts of distinguished people to beautiful religious works. Many important people have sat for de Weldon in an official capacity. DeWeldon has been referred to as the artist to presidents and kings. He is ranked in the company of masters such as Michelangelo and Rodin. A bronze replica of the Iwo Jima monument, along with other sculptures signed by Mr. Felix DeWeldon, are on display at Beacon Rock. Currently, Attorney Brian R. Cunha, who acquired “Beacon Rock” in 1996, owns the estate and has fully renovated and restored it.
Coming up on your left, is Bonniecrest Condominiums. This Stuart Duncan estate designed by John Russell Pope c. 1914 in Newport, Rhode Island. Duncan was a banker from the Midwest. One of the big preservation battles of some decades back involved the purchase of Bonniecrest by a man named Louis Chartier, a Newport local who bought up many of the big estates at the bottom of the market in the decades after WWII and carved them up for housing and converted to condos.
803: The John Nicolas Brown’s Estate
Have you heard of the unsinkable Molly Brown? Well Molly Brown along with Lady Astor were on the tragic Titanic. Women and children were saved first so, Molly Brown and Lady Astor made it back safely. Unfortunately Lady Astor’s husband didn’t make it.
The Brown family made their fortune in the Triangle Trade. This lovely estate up the hill on your left was built by John Nicholas Brown. The Browns are the same family whom funded the Brown University in Providence. In 1987 this estate was purchased by New York Yacht Club.
SUBSTOP: Yacht America in 1851 by Currier & Ives
Yacht America in 1851 by Currier & Ives-The Cup itself is an ornate silver-plated Britannia metal bottomless ewer, designed and crafted in 1848 by Garrard & Co. The trophy is inscribed with names of the yachts that competed in the regatta’s matches. Bases matching the silver cup were added in 1958 and 2003 to accommodate more names. The cup is one of three or six that were made as off-the-shelf trophies. Sir Henry Paget, the Marquess of Anglesey bought one and donated it for the Royal Yacht Squadron’s 1851 Annual Regatta around the Isle of Wight. It was originally known by the Squadron as the “Royal Yacht Squadron Cup” or the “RYS Cup for One Hundred Sovereigns.” The Cup subsequently became known as the “One Hundred Guinea(s) Cup,” by the American syndicate that won it. As time went by, the Cup was also referred to as the “Queen’s Cup”, the “America Cup”, and the “America’s Cup”. Today, the trophy is officially known as the America’s Cup and affectionately called the “Auld Mug” by the sailing community.
900: Ida Lewis Lighthouse
On your right, is Ida Lewis Lighthouse which was formerly the Lime Rock Lighthouse, is in Newport harbor. It is named after Ida Lewis, who was the lighthouse keeper from 1879 until her death in 1911. She was celebrated for many acts of bravery in saving lives.
901: Rochambeau Statue
On your left, is Rochambeau Statue and Memorial is a monument to French nobleman and General Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau. General Rochambeau was a key commander of the French forces, assisting the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.
The monument is located on the waterfront in Kings Park, along the southern edge of Newport Harbor, near Brenton Cove and Fort Adams state park and was erected in 1934.
The Washington–Rochambeau Revolutionary Route (W3R) is a 680-mile (1,094 km)-long series of roads used by the Continental Army under the command of George Washington and the Expédition Particulière under the command of Jean-Baptiste de Rochambeau during their 1781 march from Newport, Rhode Island, to Yorktown, Virginia.
SUBSTOP: National Historic Trail
The Washington–Rochambeau Revolutionary Route (W3R) is a 680-mile (1,094 km)-long series of roads used by the Continental Army under the command of George Washington and the Expédition Particulière under the command of Jean-Baptiste de Rochambeau during their 1781 march from Newport, Rhode Island, to Yorktown, Virginia is a designated National Historic Trail (2009) with interpretive literature, signs, and exhibits that describe the key role of French diplomatic, military, and economic aid to the United States during the American Revolutionary War.
902: 5Th ward
Coming up on your right is the 5th ward area. During the 1890s when the mansions were being built on Bellevue Avenue, there was a need for skilled workers and masons. The Irish and Italians being great builders and skilled masons arrived in Newport. They worked on Belleview and lived on Spring Street and ward avenue areas. Today, we have a big community of Irish and Italians in Newport, RI. This is marked proudly during the St. Patrick’s day parade on 17th March every year rain,shine or snow.
903: The 40 Steps
One of the most popular Newport RI attractions, the 40 Steps has been a gathering spot for servants, locals, and tourists for the better part of the last two centuries. If you’re looking for a great spot to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean and watch the waves crash into the rocky coast, there are few better than this one.
904: St. Mary’s church
As we drive back to Visitor Center, we will see a few more important landmarks. Such as St. Mary’s church where the famous couple Jacky and John F Kennedy were married on September 12, 1953.
905: Back to VC Center
As you can see preservation and restoration is an integral part of Newport RI. These architecture and buildings, mansions that you have enjoyed today is available to us, thanks to the hard work and effort put in by people of Newport and its community as a whole. As we know we must explore the past to understand the present and shape the future.
Thank you for choosing Historic Tours of Newport.