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Newport Waterfront – See it On Foot

Archive for October, 2010

Newport Waterfront – See it On Foot

October 31st, 2010 by billfarrell

Sun, 31 Oct 2010 21:37:06By TOM MEADE

Journal Staff Writer

The International Yacht Restoration School is one of the sights along Newport’s Harbor Walk North tour.

AP / Michael Dwyer

NEWPORT — For more than 300 years, Newport Harbor has been one of the most important seaports on the east coast of America. The harbor has experienced several incarnations, many still visible on the Newport Harbor Walk.

Friends of The Waterfront, a nonprofit group, has mapped the harbor walk; it complements Newport’s famous Cliff Walk and Ten Mile Drive.

“It’s a fantastic idea whose time is long overdue,” says Evan Smith, president of the Newport County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It gives visitors a sense of how majestic Newport Harbor is.”

On the harbor tour, walkers encounter historic buildings, a working waterfront, tourist attractions and a lot of boats, including world-class racing sailboats, restored antiques, luxury yachts and working fishing boats.

The harbor walk is divided into two parts. Harbor Walk North meanders through the city’s historic Point Section, the original Colonial center of the waterfront. Harbor Walk South takes visitors along today’s working waterfront.

The British destroyed Newport’s Colonial waterfront by breaking up and burning wooden docks for heat during the American Revolution, but the Point Section of the city still has many 18th-century buildings as well as some lovely Victorian houses.

The “driftways” to the water in the Point Section once led to the wooden docks for tall ships. Today, they are public rights of way to the water, open to everyone.

Peek into the yards here to discover some stunning hidden gardens.

The walk includes Newport Shipyard, where visitors may see some of the world’s elite racing yachts as well as some lavish cruisers, depending on who is in port. Next door is the state fishing pier, where lobstermen and commercial fishermen are on the job. The contrast between the shipyard and the state pier is remarkable.

The full Harbor Walk North tour, starting at Perrotti Park, is just under three miles. It’s really a stroll, rather than a brisk walk, so plan on spending some extra time.

The shipyard and fishing pier provide a preview of what lies ahead in Harbor Walk South, which winds through today’s working harbor front.

It includes a lot of T-shirt and souvenir places, restaurants, bars and boutiques, but behind them are working fishing boats, water taxis, tour boats and marinas that provide working wages for hundreds of people.

Along the way, the International Yacht Restoration School, is teaching future workers essential skills for jobs in the marine trades. At the dock behind the school, look for beautifully restored wooden vessels.

Harbor Walk South is about two miles from the Stone Pier at King Park to Perrotti Park, but because of all the interesting stops, it takes a spell to complete.

“What a wonderful visitor attraction!” says Evan Smith. “The harbor walk really enhances the visitor experience.”

Maps and a guide to the Newport Harbor Walk are available online at The site also includes links to the Cliff Walk and Ten Mile Drive. More information about things to do in Newport is available online at

Rhode Island to Vote on Dropping Plantations from Name

October 28th, 2010 by billfarrell

Thu, 28 Oct 2010 11:07:31By ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press Eric Tucker, Associated Press – Tue Oct 26, 1:08 pm ET

Rhode Island Newport Bed and Breakfast

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – This state’s official name — The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations — is more than just a mouthful. To many, it evokes stinging reminders of Rhode Island’s prime role in The Transatlantic Slavetrade.

Voters next Tuesday will decide whether to change the name by dropping the words “and Providence Plantations.” The issue has been debated for years, but lawmakers last year authorized a ballot question for the first time following an impassioned debate over race relations, ancestry and history.

“You go anywhere and you mention plantations and what automatically comes to a person’s mind is slavery,” said Nick Figueroa, 41, a member of a legislative minority advisory coalition that backs changing the name.

Supporters of the referendum see the ballot question as a chance to erase the state’s links to slavery and remove a word they associate with human bondage and suffering. But opponents, including Gov. Don Carcieri, note that the state name actually has nothing to do with slavery and that, in any case, changing it will do nothing to alter history.

Michael Vorenberg, a Brown University history professor, said he understands the contemporary connotation of the word “plantations” but favors keeping the name because it provokes questions.
“People might naturally say, ‘What does that word mean and why is it in the state name?’ And that may lead to a discussion of the role of slavery in the history of Rhode Island, in the history of New England,” Vorenberg said.

The referendum’s prospects are unclear. The issue has been overshadowed by a competitive gubernatorial race and congressional elections, and advocates of the name change haven’t run advertisements. The four leading gubernatorial candidates all oppose it.

“The overall concerns right now are jobs and the economy, and I think that’s foremost in people’s minds, as opposed to altering the name,” Figueroa said.

Many Rhode Islanders might not even know its formal name. It isn’t listed on modern-day maps, though it is on the state seal, is found in many official state documents and can be heard in the courtroom when the judge is announced.

The phrase “Providence Plantations” appeared in the royal charter granted in 1663 by King Charles II to the colony of Rhode Island. At the time, “Plantation” was a general term for settlement or colony. In this case, it referred to the merger of the Providence settlement, which was founded by minister Roger Williams following his banishment from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and nearby towns into a single colony.

Keith Stokes, who is multiracial and can trace his family’s arrival to Newport back centuries, said the debate over the state name ignores Rhode Island’s legacy as a colony founded on religious tolerance, where Jews, Quakers and other minorities settled in large numbers after being rejected elsewhere. The principle of separation of church and state is laid out in the colony’s charter long before being formalized in the Bill of Rights.

“It has all these people who have been cast out because they worship differently and they all land in Rhode Island State,” said Stokes, who is also executive director of the state’s economic development corporation. “We have so many stories to share, we have such rich histories.”

Proponents of the name change say they recognize the word “plantations” was not initially associated with slavery, but argue the original meaning is irrelevant — especially because 18th century Rhode Island emerged at the forefront of a thriving industry in which local merchants got rich off the exchange of slaves, rum, sugar and molasses among New England, the Caribbean and West Africa.

They say “plantations” is inextricably linked to slavery, just as the swastika — traditionally a harmonious symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism — has since been adopted as an emblem of Nazi Germany and is today associated with ethnic hatred.

The name change had previously been debated by the General Assembly but wasn’t approved for a referendum until last year, when a group of primarily African-American lawmakers made a strong push and spoke of racial divisions and the lingering negative connotations of the word “plantations.” Even some legislators who said they were personally ambivalent agreed to put the issue to the voters after seeing how strongly their colleagues felt.

Figueroa said he didn’t know how much it would cost to change the name but expected it would be minimal. He said the focus was on phasing out the name on state correspondence but not on changing the Rhode Island State Seal in the Rhode Island State House.

The ballot question in itself is a victory, regardless of what voters decide, said Harold Metts, a black state senator who helped lead the effort for the referendum.

“At least people understand why we feel the way we feel. For me, that’s part of healing,” Metts said.

Washington Square: Newport’s Historic Center Still Draws A Crowd

October 21st, 2010 by billfarrell

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 21:01:56NEWPORT –– Washington Square is in the heart of Colonial Newport, and home to some of the city’s most notable historic sites, many visible from Eisenhower Park.

Colony House, Newport, RI

In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read from a balcony of the Old Colony House, Rhode Island’s first State House, built in 1739 by architect-builder Richard Munday.
The Brick Market, built in 1772 at 127 Thames St. as a town marketplace, today is the home of The Museum of Newport History.

The White Horse Tavern, constructed before 1673 at 26 Marlborough St., is one of the oldest tavern buildings in the United States.

The Friends Meeting House, at Marlborough and Farewell streets, was built in 1699. Quakers had first arrived in Newport in 1657.

Nearby, at 72 Touro St., the Touro Synagogue, the first synagogue in the country, was built in 1759.
The Florence K. Murray Judicial Complex, a brick Colonial Revival built in 1927, overlooks the Eisenhower Park and a statue of Oliver Hazard Perry.

Washington Square was Newport’s original town square, and the city has been leading an effort to improve the neighborhood for the past several years. The next phase will begin in the spring, according to Bill Riccio, director of public services for the City of Newport. He said the cost of all the improvements will be between $3.5 million and $4 million.

Washington Square has been improved with new cobblestones, blue slate sidewalks and antique lighting, and there have been infrastructure improvements, mainly financed with federal grants, Riccio said.

The Jane Pickens Theater, at 49 Touro St., was built in 1835 as the Zion Episcopal Church, designed by Bristol architect Russell Warren.
It was turned into a theater in 1919 and in 1970, it was renamed for Jane Pickens, a singer, actress and Newport socialite.

The theater is currently available for sale at a price of $1.425 million.

Four residential houses in the Washington Square neighborhood were listed for sale last week, ranging in price from $277,200 for a bank-owned house built in 1721 at 6 Coddington St., with three bedrooms and two full baths, to $649,000 for a new, 2,200-square-foot house to be built on Barney Street.
The listings include the 1759 Peleg Barker House at 11 Clarke St., which is zoned for commercial use and priced at $595,000, and an 1880 Colonial at 44 Clarke St., priced at $519,000.
POPULATION: (Newport, 2000) 26,475
MEDIAN HOUSE PRICE: (Newport, 2009) $360,000

While visiting historic Newport, consider making The Spring Seasons Inn your vacation getaway bed and breakfast.

86 Spring Street, Newport, RI 02840  |  401-849-0004  |  887-294-0004  |