Tuesday, October 5, 1999
Newport was founded in 1639 by a small band of Boston colonists who
had left Massachusetts for the wilds of Narragansett Bay. They settled
on the south end of Aquidneck Island where an excellent natural harbor
afforded greated opportunity for commercial development.
By the mid-eighteenth century, Newport was at the height of its maritime
prosperity. Merchants engaged in various forms of commerce, including
smuggling and slavery.
The Revolution brought an end to Newport's mercantile economy. Never again
would this port be a major trading center. Many merchants left because of
the war, business dwindled, and the building came to a halt. Yet, even its
decline, Newport's climate and setting still attracted Southerners, and
a growing number of families from New York, Boston, and Baltimore. Most
visitors boarded at farms and thus there was no center of summer activity
until the first hotel went up in the mid-1820s. The earliest summer houses
date to the 1830s and were build on the hill above the port.
British novelist, Anthony Trollope paid a visit to Newport in 1862 and
proclaimed that the city had achieved as international reputation as a
prestigious resort. Cottages, not hotels, were by then its special attribute.
By the 1860s, it was not fashionable to stay at a Newport hotel for the
season: one must own or rent a cottage. Most of the bigger hotels closed
while more cottages were being built.
The rush to opulence began in the 1880s with a series of very large, late
Gothic stone houses at Newport. They were quickly overshadowed by a residence
designed by Richard Morris Hund and built by William K. Vanderbilt, as an
anniversary present for his wife: Marble House. Marble House was soon
eclipsed by The Breakers, summer home of W.K. Vanderbilt's older brother,
photo images by Cap'n Vic.
Sail a Legend! Sail aboard a real America's Cup Yacht.
Newport Conventions & Visitors Bureau.
Places to visit in Newport.