Archive for the ‘History’ Category
August 21st, 2010 by billfarrell
Sat, 21 Aug 2010 21:40:58By Linda Murphy
Special to The Herald News
Posted Aug 21, 2010 @ 08:45 PM
NEWPORT, R.I. —
Alva Vanderbilt Belmont played a crucial role in the passage of the 19th amendment, so it’s only fitting that an event celebrating the 90th anniversary of women’s suffrage this Thursday be held at the summer home where the unifying calls for votes for women echoed through the halls of Marble House.
“The passing of the 19th amendment was transformative for the country; half of the citizens were denied the vote, so it’s a mockery to say the country was a democracy before the passage of the 19th amendment,” said Joanne DeVoe, president of the League of Women Voters of R.I.
Belmont, a social reformer used her power and prestige as a Newport socialite to advocate for the cause of votes for women. She was so passionate about the issue that she had a dinnerware made with the slogan, “Votes for Women” which she used to serve meals at the stately marble “summer cottage” and give out as tokens at rallies that she held to raise money and call attention to the cause.
“She wasn’t just a society lady dabbling,” said Trudy Coxe, CEO and president of the Preservation Society of Newport County. “Her commitment to women’s rights started in the early 1900s.”
The Newport Preservation Society is hosting the 90th anniversary celebration in partnership with the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island, YWCA of Northern RI, Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, the Newport Restoration Foundation and the Newport Historical Society. The celebration on the terrace of Marble House, Belmont’s “temple to the arts,’ as she planned it, will feature music, poetry and readings from historical documents to commemorate the day that transformed the nation. “All anniversaries are occasions to remember what women did to get the vote and to remind people to use the vote responsibly to improve the country,” said DeVoe.
The League of Women Voters, a national non-profit, non-partisan organization with state and local chapters throughout the country was formed the same year with the intention of registering and educating voters and continues today to inform voters through debates, forums and consensus positions on issues for which it lobbies.
Described as a fiery redhead and a rebel even in her youth, Belmont received Marble House in 1892 as a 39th birthday gift from her husband, William Vanderbilt, grandson of railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt. But before Belmont, who designed the marble and gold-encrusted home with architect Richard Morris Hunt, agreed to the gift, she made her husband agree that the home was hers outright.
She later divorced Vanderbilt and married her second husband, O.H.P. Belmont, owner of Belcourt Castle in 1908. “She was the first society woman to divorce and later in life, she used to brag that she set the stage for other women to divorce,” said Coxe. “You could probably argue that as one of the richest women in the world she did make a statement by divorcing her husband.”
After her second husband’s death in 1908 Belmont reopened Marble House and used her position in New York and Newport society and curiosity about the elaborate home to raise money for women’s causes. For the 1909 suffrage rally on the lawn of Marble House she charged $1 to hear the speakers on the lawn and $5 to tour the mansion. She also wrote “Melinda and her Sisters,” an operetta in partnership with songwriter Elsa Maxwell to convince people to grant women the right to vote. After passage of the 9th amendment in 1920 Belmont became the president of the National Women’s Party and was the founder of the Political Equality League.
The event celebrating the 90th anniversary of women’s suffrage will be held at 11 a.m. and is free and open to the public. Marble House is located on Newport’s Bellevue Avenue.
June 21st, 2010 by billfarrell
Mon, 21 Jun 2010 19:57:56By Christopher Klein
Globe Correspondent / June 20, 2010
Bartender Jim Conley at the White Horse Tavern, once a gathering place for members of the Colonial government.
Before the Vanderbilts and the Astors and the other moneyed bluebloods built their magnificent “summer cottages’’ up and down Bellevue Avenue, Newport was a thriving Colonial metropolis.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors spend their time in Newport gawking at the extravagant summer playpens of the rich and famous, but overshadowed by the mansions’ glitz and glamour is the city’s well-preserved Colonial neighborhood, which boasts its fair share of historic sites and architectural gems.
Newport was home to great wealth long before the arrival of the Gilded Age. In the 1700s, it was a bustling port city on par with Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. The 1762 Brick Market, now home to the Museum of Newport History, was once alive with the cacophony of commerce as merchants plied goods procured from around the globe.
In addition to chronicling Newport’s transformation into a premier resort destination, the museum tells the story of how the small town settled in 1639 by religious refugees fleeing the rigid Puritanism of Massachusetts quickly grew into a Colonial power. Among the artifacts on display are examples of fine Newport cabinetry and furniture along with the printing press used by James Franklin and his younger brother, Benjamin, to publish Colonial currency, pamphlets, broadsides, and laws.
The museum is the starting point for walking tours offered by the Newport Historical Society and the Newport Restoration Foundation, including the Discover Colonial Newport Walking Tour that winds through the hill overlooking the waterfront. On a stroll through the neighborhood’s narrow lanes, we stop outside 18th-century residences and houses of worship and learn that the harbor offered not only a refuge from nature’s fury but a haven from religious persecution for Quakers, Jews, and other groups ostracized in Puritan New England.
“In the early days, people came here for liberty of conscience,’’ our guide Martha tells us. “The principle of religious tolerance started here and provided a foundation for entrepreneurial trade throughout the world when Newport was part of a global economy that created great wealth in the city.’’ The British occupation of Newport during the Revolution decimated the city, turning it into a ghost town as wealthy merchants fled along with half of the city’s population.
Samuel Whitehorne Jr., one of the few Newport merchants to endure the economic ruin in the war’s aftermath, built a waterfront brick mansion in 1811. By the time Doris Duke’s Newport Restoration Foundation — which has preserved more than 80 Colonial-era buildings in the city — bought the Whitehorne House in 1969, it had fallen into disrepair.
After it was restored, Duke (1912-93) used the Federal-period manse to display her collection of 18th-century Newport furniture, many of the pieces finely crafted by the legendary Goddard and Townsend workshops. Duke, heiress to an immense tobacco fortune, played such an integral role in the selection of the pieces and their positioning in the rooms that the Whitehorne House has been called her personal dollhouse. For the uninitiated, a guided tour is necessary to learn about the styles and intricate details of the exquisite furnishings.
It will never be confused with the Breakers, but the 1697 Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House was one of Newport’s finest in the mid-1700s when Loyalist Martin Howard Jr., owned it. That was until an angry mob hanged Howard in effigy during the Stamp Act riots in 1765 and destroyed much of the interior’s fine paneling and refined furnishings for good measure. Newport’s oldest private residence has been restored and is filled with Colonial antiques, some of which were discovered by archeological excavations of the backyard and may have been casualties of the riotous mob.
A few doors down is the stately brick Colony House, built in the 1730s, which was the primary seat of Rhode Island’s government before the opening of the State House in Providence in 1901. The expansive Great Hall on the first floor hosted Colonial banquets and balls. You can still walk on the original pine floorboards worn by centuries of foot traffic that included the presidential shoes of Washington, Jefferson, and Eisenhower. Upstairs is the chamber where the General Assembly sat and the Governor’s Council Chamber, which features a towering Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington.
The Redwood Library & Athenaeum features seven original Stuart paintings. While it is a private membership library, the public is welcome to view the exhibitions in the gallery and the resplendent interior adorned with 18th- and 19th-century portraits and marble busts.
The oldest continuously operating lending library in the country, dating to 1747, is a work of art in itself. It is modeled after a Doric temple and was the first public building in the Colonies designed in the Classical style. Given the building’s intended use, it was apt that self-taught architect Peter Harrison found the inspiration for his neoclassical design while scanning a book on Palladian architecture.
Harrison also used a Palladian style to design Touro Synagogue, the oldest active synagogue in the country. In 1790, President Washington wrote a letter to the congregation vowing to uphold freedom of religion by pledging to give “bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.’’ The synagogue stages a public reading of the presidential correspondence each year, and the newly opened Loeb Visitor Center includes exhibits on religious liberty and the separation of church and state.
The Quakers were another religious group that found sanctuary in Newport. Quakers dominated the political and commercial life of Colonial Newport; they represented half the city’s population in the 1690s. Not surprisingly, the Great Friends Meeting House, built in 1699, is an impressive structure with a soaring roof, sturdy post-and-beam construction, and an intricate pulley system that could partition the interior.
Befitting the Quakers, the interior of their Meeting House, which is the oldest surviving house of worship in Rhode Island, is strikingly austere. There is no pulpit, statuary, stained glass, or any type of religious iconography. There are just a few rows of white pews and a small set of risers along the walls — used by the elders during worship meetings — which resemble an old-time gymnasium. (In fact, you can still see where a basketball hoop was once affixed to the balcony when the Meeting House was used as a recreation center in the early 1900s.)
After worship services, some of the Quakers reconvened over tankards of ale in the White Horse Tavern, which still stands across the street from the Meeting House. Dating to 1673, the tavern was the gathering place for the Colonial government before the Colony House was built. Glassware has replaced the pewter and a meal costs more than a few shillings these days, but a Colonial atmosphere lingers. In the candlelit dining room or the cozy bar, you can close your eyes and imagine the distant voices of the merchants, freedom seekers, and revolutionaries who gave birth to this city.
With all the history that Newport has to offer, plan your adventures from the comfort of your room at The Spring Seasons Inn, a stately Victorian Inn.
May 10th, 2009 by billfarrell
Sun, 10 May 2009 15:34:26An Historic Perspective of Newport
The following text was graciously provided by the Newport Historical Society.
* Since its founding by English settlers in 1639, Newport has bustled with diversity. The policy of liberty of conscience and religion embodied in the Newport Town Statutes of 1641 was a result of the religious beliefs of its founders and their frustration over political intervention in their religious life in Boston. This policy was a beacon to settlers with wide-ranging religious beliefs, who came primarily from other colonies at first, and co-existed in the rapidly growing settlement, unaware that their towns religious diversity was a prototype of the America to come.
* The first English settlers arrived on Aquidneck Island in 1636 following a remarkable woman named Anne Hutchinson. She had been driven out of Boston for her religious beliefs which challenged the very foundations of Puritanism. She and her band of supporters followed the path taken by Roger Williams when he, too, was banished from Massachusetts for religious reasons. After consulting with Williams, her group purchased Aquidneck Island (later named Rhode Island) from the native Americans.
* What the English settlers found on their arrival was hardly an empty wilderness. Native people had been in the area for at least 5,000 years, and had established sophisticated land management and fishing practices. Current evidence points to the existence of a large summer settlement in what is now downtown Newport, and the work these native people had done clearing the land was one of the factors that made this area attractive to English settlers.
* Anne Hutchinson’s group settled at the northern end of the island in an area known as Pocasett. In just over a year, however, that settlement split in two. A group lead by William Coddington and Nicholas Easton moved south to form Newport in 1639.
* By the time they arrived in Newport, many of these settlers were becoming Baptists and were embracing a belief that was central for the Baptists of Europe at the time – the separation of church and state. These early settlers founded their new town on the basis of liberty of conscience and religion and Newport became one of the first secular democracies in the Atlantic world. The founder’s commitment to religious freedom had a profound impact on all aspects of the town’s subsequent history.
* Among the religious groups attracted to this haven in a world of threatening intolerance were Quakers and Jews. Together they transformed the town from a small agricultural outpost to one of colonial America’s five leading seaports. The Jews came in the 1650s. Their real contribution to cultural and economic life came in the 1750s. The Quakers also came to Newport in the late 1650s. The Society of Friends flourished and grew, and, by 1700, over half of Newport’s population was members of the Society of Friends. The Quakers became the most influential of Newport’s numerous early congregations and they dominated the political, social and economic life of the town into the 18th century. Their “plain style” of living was reflected in Newport’s architecture, decorative arts and early landscape.
* The Quakers neighborhood on Eastons Point was home to some of the most highly skilled craftsman in colonial America. Among the best known of these were the Townsend and Goddard families, who made extraordinarily fine and beautiful furniture.
* During the 17th century the cornerstones of Newport’s architectural heritage were laid. The buildings that survive from that period – the Old Stone Mill, the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House, and the White Horse Tavern – are part of Newport’s rich, architectural tapestry that also includes the great cottages along Bellevue Avenue.
* Trade and the export of rum, candles, fish, furniture, silver, and other value-added goods were the main engines of economic growth during the 18th century, activities inexorably linked to Newport’s participation in the slave trade and widespread ownership of slaves by families throughout the city.
* During this time the waterfront bustled with activity with over 150 separate wharves and hundreds of shops crowded along the harbor between Long Wharf and the southern end of the harbor. As Newport’s trade throughout the Atlantic basin grew, the city became an epicenter in the development of modern American capitalism.
* By the 1760s Newport had emerged as one of the five leading ports in colonial North America, along with Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. The economic growth spurred a building boom which included hundreds of houses and many of the internationally important landmarks that survive today, such as Trinity Church, the Colony House, the Redwood Library, and the Brick Market (now home to the Museum of Newport History).
* Newport helped lead the way toward the American Revolution and independence. Because the city was such a well-known hot-bed of revolutionary fervor, and because of its long history of disdain for royal and parliamentary efforts to control its trade, the British occupied Newport from 1776 to 1779, and over half of the towns population fled. The British remained in Newport despite efforts to drive them out by patriot forces in partnership with the French for the first time in the Revolution. Eventually the British did withdraw and the French, under the leadership of Admiral deTiernay and General Rochambeau, began a sojourn in Newport that lasted until 1781 when they left Newport on their historic march to Yorktown to assist in the decisive victory there.
* Newport’s history is remarkable in many ways, but perhaps the most unique aspect is that so much of its history is still visible on the landscape in an unparalleled concentration of preserved architecture. Newport continues its commitment to liberty of conscience and religion and Newport’s resilience and creativity in meeting the economic changes that have overtaken it offer strong proof that diversity works in keeping the city alive and vibrant.
April 7th, 2009 by billfarrell
Tue, 07 Apr 2009 12:43:46
By Linda S. Manning
For hundreds of years, Newport, Rhode Island has lured a varied population of inhabitants. With her glorious 22 miles of coastline surrounded by Rose, Gould and Coaster Harbor Islands, she is a magnificent picture of beautiful beaches, harbor side cafes and boutiques dressed up with gas lit lamps on cobblestone streets.
During the 18th century, Newport was well known for the trading of exports of rum, candles, fish, furniture and silver. There were hundreds of wharves and shops and it was known as an epicenter for the development of modern capitalization. Newport was one of the leading five ports in Colonial America at that time.
Throughout the 1760’s there was a building boom and such architectural marvels as Trinity Church, Colony House and Redwood Library were erected.
The later part of the 1800’s found many pillars of society, the Vanderbilt’s, Berwinds and Oelrich’s in yet another building boom of the famous Newport Cottages along picturesque Bellevue Avenue. Becoming part of the list of 400 was an honor bejeweled with prestige.
The 1900’s brought about many changes. With the onset of the auto, airplane, railroad and cruise liners, Newport again became a bustling harbor and a site to visit.
In the present day, Newport is set apart from any other seaport by way of Naval Station Newport, The Naval War College, Surface Warfare Officers School, mansions, museums, yacht racing, sail regattas, as well as Coaching, Polo and The Tennis Hall of Fame.
Such properties as The Inn at Castle Hill, Hammersmith Farm and The Newport Bridge decorate its landscape.
Panoramic vistas from every angle can be captured by means of a Harbor Tour on one of the colossal schooners or clippers as well as chartering a private motor boat .Set sail with a few or many, depending on your style. In addition to boat tours exists sailing and power boat lessons where you get to be the Captain for the day. Such opportunities are not well publicized; conduct your search by talking to the locals.
As a tourist today you can expect activities throughout the year. Log on to www.gonewport.com for a calendar of events. There are numerous places to stay such as lush hotels and quaint B&B’s. Log on to www.newportribedandbreakfast.com web site for a list of enchanting and charismatic B&B’s along with fine restaurants and things to see and do while visiting Newport.
Stepping back to yesteryear during the time of glitz and glamour is magnificently exemplified by the elegant and grand mansions owned by The Preservation Society. The most ornate and electrifying is The Breakers.
The Breakers, a 70 room estate was built by Richard Morris Hunt, a leading American architect for the affluent Cornelius Vanderbilt II, patriarch of America’s wealthiest family. With its magnificent ocean views, The Breakers offers open air terraces and rich interiors. For a complete list of the Preservations Societies collection of America’s grandest summer places, log on to www.NewportMansions.com web site.
There are so many points of interest; it seems as if almost everywhere you see the symbol of hospitality noted by its pineapple which in Colonial times was a signal of the seafaring captains returning home from West Indian ports and the Triangle Trade Route.
Explorations are vast with another site to visit on every corner. Take one of the walking tours of Historic Hill and The Point sections of Newport to view over 200 restored homes. There, history has its foundation. Stroll the 3.5 mile Cliff Walk along the coast beginning at Easton’s Beach and ending at Bailey’s Beach or visit Historic Fort Adams, the largest 19th-century U.S. coastal fortification. www.fortadams.org.
And lest we forget, the beaches and vineyards for all to enjoy along with the hundred’s of shops and restaurants. A few of the favorite restaurants of the locals are La Forge Casino, 22 Bowen’s, Canfield House, The Mooring, Puerini’s, The Red Parrott, Cheeky Monkey, The Inn at Castle Hill and Bistro styled cafes such as Percy’s. Visit hundreds more just a footstep away.
Some of the greatest arts and antiques can be found on the streets of Newport such as Franklin Street, Spring Street, Bellevue Avenue and Thames Street.
Numerous activities are scheduled every month of the year. Summertime’s best is the Music Festival, Jazz and Folk Festivals, Newport International Polo, Newport International Film Festival, Black Ships Festival, Irish Festival, Gallery Nights, Newport Arts Festival and many more.
As you can see, not only does Newport possess the finest of everything, there are activities for the young and old, summer, fall, winter and spring.
Visit Newport as your next tourist destination.
April 6th, 2009 by billfarrell
Mon, 06 Apr 2009 13:56:55The Providence Journal / Frieda Squires
NEWPORT — Overlooking Newport Harbor and busy Thames Street and America’s Cup Avenue, Newport’s Historic Hill section is marked by its impressive and densely packed collection of well-preserved Colonial-era houses and buildings.
It is a popular spot with tourists and visitors interested in the city’s history.
But the Historic Hill is also “very much a living, breathing neighborhood,” according to Lisa Dady, director of education and public programs for the Newport Restoration Foundation.
It is one of the most urban, walkable neighborhoods in the city, close to downtown shopping, restaurants and the waterfront, but one where space, particularly parking space for cars, is at a premium.
“You can walk to anything you need” from the Hill, Dady said.
The neighborhood is home to Touro Synagogue, built between 1759 and 1763, the nation’s oldest standing synagogue, and Trinity Church, built in 1725-26. It is within walking distance to the Redwood Library and Athenaeum, a private subscription library founded in 1747.
Ingrid Peters, director of education for the Newport Historical Society, said the Historic Hill and The Point neighborhoods are the geographical heart of Newport, the places where the city was first settled.
Newport “grew up the hill” from the harbor, and its two oldest neighborhoods were formed in the city’s “golden age,” when it was a thriving seaport populated by prosperous merchants, she said.
Newport was also a center of slave trading and piracy during the Colonial period.
Peters said Newport went into an economic decline after the American Revolution, but ascended again during the Gilded Age, when the city’s noted mansions were built for the new barons of industry.
The Historic Hill “has always been a mixed neighborhood, with businesses, housing — single-family and apartments — and institutions,” Peters said. “It would appeal to someone who likes small city living.”
Real estate prices for the 15 single-family houses listed for sale in the Historic Hill last week ranged from a low of $279,000 to $1.1 million.
At the low end was a 448-square-foot, one-bedroom cottage built in 1870, described by the listing agent as “one of Newport’s tiny treasures.” The property, located at 133 Spring St., also has a separate, renovated studio space, according to the listing information.
The $1.1-million house for sale, at 81 Pelham St., was built in 1860 and has 11 rooms, including 5 bedrooms, 5 full bathrooms and one half bathroom. “The exterior has been significantly restored, with the interior yet to be finished,” according to the property’s MLS information, but it will be sold “as is.”
(Newport, 2000) 26,475
MEDIAN HOUSE PRICE:
(Newport, 2008) $392,500
A gift from the Vanderbilt family to the people of Newport, a 1908 Georgian Revival mansion at 41 Mary St., was once a social club, but today is an elegant hotel and timeshare resort, the Vanderbilt Residence Club and Hotel.