Historic Walking Tours of Newport
Save precious vacation time on this Historic Walking Tours of Newport. Your guide leads you through the city’s narrow streets to landmarks often inaccessible by car or Trolley. Admire the exterior of Touro Synagogue,Trinity Church and hear fascinating information about their historical significance. Book your tours today!
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 ships 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.