A Brief History of Newport, RI
Walk around Newport today and you’ll find preserved architecture, museums, festivals, and a dynamic blend of cultures—all with a backdrop of coastal charm with a luxurious twist. In addition to locals, the city draws visitors year after year to explore Newport’s rich history. Since its establishment by English settlers in 1639, the town has attracted a diverse range of people and religions who have coexisted amid burgeoning growth. The 17th century laid the foundation for Newport’s architecture, with surviving landmarks like the Old Stone Mill, also known as Newport Tower, reflecting its rich heritage. The Revolutionary era further highlighted Newport’s significance, leading to British occupation and eventual aid from French forces. Facing economic challenges in the early 19th century, Newport reinvented itself as a summer resort, drawing influential artists, writers, and thinkers to spend the season. The Gilded Age witnessed the construction of iconic mansions—which occupants referred to as “summer cottages,” cementing Newport’s reputation as a resort destination for the lavishly wealthy. Many of these mansions are now open to visit, providing guests with a glimpse into Newport’s history in the flesh. Throughout its history, Newport has remained tied to the sea—in both name and persona as it’s become known as a yachting hub and home to significant naval institutions. Waves of immigration diversified the population, contributing to the city’s ethnic landscape. Successful preservation efforts post-World War II safeguarded Newport’s historic structures and paved the way for heritage tourism.
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