Archive for the ‘What to Do in Newport’ Category
November 26th, 2010 by billfarrell
Fri, 26 Nov 2010 20:09:41By Eric Tucker
Associated Press / November 26, 2010
NEWPORT, R.I.—Bellevue Avenue, home to a series of eye-catching mansions that famously embody America’s Gilded Age, crams enough history in a two-mile strip of Newport to be a mini-city unto itself.
Now, to accommodate both history buffs and casual passers-by, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates this city’s historic mansions has created a self-guided walking trail linking 11 historic clusters of properties along the avenue.
Markers outside the properties help identify the trail while also detailing the buildings’ history, architectural style and cultural commentary. They even include descriptions of neighboring buildings that have been demolished or are simply less well known.
“We tell the stories of each individual house, and yes, you can reference one house with another, but we felt we didn’t have an effective medium for linking the whole neighborhood together and telling the whole story,” said John Tschirch, an architectural historian and director of museum affairs for the Preservation Society of Newport County, which owns most of the city’s famous mansions and opens them to the public as tourist destinations.
“You get a rich experience in each house, but we wanted to give the experience of the whole streetscape and the urban plan,” he added.
There are about six homes in each of the clusters. Among the best known homes are the Elms, Chateau-sur-Mer and Rough Point, the one-time home of tobacco heiress Doris Duke.
Some of the homes are private; many of those that are not are open to visitors during certain hours.
The four-year trail project was completed this month and cost roughly $35,000, most of which was given by a private donor. It is similar in intent to the red-brick Freedom Trail in Boston, though the pale-green markers in Newport are more subtle and aimed at better blending into the neighborhood.
The markers read like a list of who’s who of wealthy dignitaries and socialites from the late 19th century and early 20th century.
The sign outside the Preservation Society’s headquarters, for instance, reveals that it once was the home of Herbert Pell, a congressman from New York and the father of Claiborne Pell, who represented Rhode Island in the U.S. Senate for 36 years and died in January 2009.
A nearby Gothic Revival house, the marker says, was built for Albert Sumner, the brother of Charles Sumner, a senator from Massachusetts who in 1856 was badly beaten on the Senate floor by a South Carolina congressman after delivering an anti-slavery speech.
The markers also offer assorted tidbits of information, obscure and well-known alike. Visitors are reminded not only that the film version of “The Great Gatsby” was shot at the Rosecliff mansion, but that decades earlier, the home’s owner, a Nevada silver heiress named Theresa Fair Oelrichs, dressed as Mother Goose at a special Fairy Tales ball.
The trail also highlights the Sherwood home, where an engagement party for John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier was once held. The building has since been converted into apartments.
The markers tell of fights over preservation, demolition and even over the fate of an unsightly junkyard that some wealthy residents considered a blight on the neighborhood. Each one includes a section called “Voices from the Past” — typically a quote from a newspaper or magazine article offering commentary on the homes and on Newport society.
“Since the passing of the Gilded Age that these houses symbolize, two wars, a long depression, high income taxes and a shortage of servants have dimmed Newport’s splendor. The doors of these villas will never be opened again,” a 1944 Life magazine article posited.
Dawn Cochran, 38, who works at a bank and recently was taking a morning stroll down the avenue, said the trail is a good idea, even for locals like herself.
“Living here all my life, I don’t know the history of Newport,” she said.
The first signs went up several years ago to a positive reception, Tschirch said. Of course, there are many Newport attractions beyond the ones on Bellevue Avenue — for instance, the Breakers, the most-visited and spectacular of the city’s mansions — that don’t get recognized on the trail.
Tschirch he hopes to ultimately expand the project to other streets to help visitors better appreciate the city’s rich history.
“Newport was America’s architectural treasure chest and as a result, those architects, landscape designers were shaping American culture, or contributing to American culture — just like painters and writers,” he said.
© Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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 newportharborwalk.com. 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 gonewport.com.
March 24th, 2010 by billfarrell
Wed, 24 Mar 2010 22:12:40NORMAN BIRD SANCTUARY
583 Third Beach Rd.,
Middletown, RI 02842
by Jackie Sheridan
Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown is quite literally for
the birds. Established through the will of Mabel Norman
Cerio in 1950, the sanctuary is the largest area of preserved open
space in Newport County, comprising more than 300 acres with
seven miles of scenic trails. Although bikes and dogs are
prohibited, snug paths and sprawling undisturbed plant life are
worth the solitary wander on foot, so be sure to don comfortable
sneakers and watch your step’
A gravel path leads you behind the sanctuary barn and
store, by a historical burial site and onto the trail network. A
few steps will bring you to a fork, where the gravel edges right,
along Woodcock Trail, and a grass track stems left. Traipsing
the grass will eventually lead you to a wooden bridge at the
Theodore Clarke Sturtevant Waterfowl Habitat, where, depend-
ing on the season, you’ll see birds and turtles converging on
roots and rocks.
Meander further to reach the vines and rock ridges of
Hanging Rock Trail. When entering the woodlands, look up.
Birds will be twittering and swooping overhead, and you’ll have
to be quick to catch them in the viewfinder of your camera. You
may see anywhere from 30 to 50 species on one walk. Stick to
the path so as not to disturb their habitat.
Flanked by Gardiner and Nelson ponds, continuing your
walk will lead you to a rock face with panoramic views of Sachuest
Point and the Atlantic Ocean. Maneuvering across the ridge can
be tricky, so stick to the boardwalk over dense wetlands. After
your hike, follow trail markers back to the barn, where exhibits
describe the species of birds and the eco-system. Norman Bird
Sanctuary is open every day from 9am to 5pm, and you can
explore for a nominal entrance fee of $5 ($3 for seniors; $2 for
children). Members walk for free.
Less than a mile from the sanctuary, an expanse of 242 acres
comprises Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. The
Middletown property saw sheep grazing and farmland until World
War II, when it was employed as a rifle range and
communications hub for the US Navy. In 1970, a 70-acre donation from the Audubon Society of Rhode Island established the wildlife refuge. Wide, flat and lacking tree cover, 2.7 miles of open trails at Sachuest make for a comfortable walk on a beautiful day.
There are two hiking trails designed to follow the curves
of the point. Flint Point Trail, 1.2 miles around, curves to the
north, showcasing views of Sakonnet River and Third Beach via
three public observation platforms. Ocean View Loop runs SOUtl1,
for 1.5 miles of shoreline, with signs to at least six access points
for some of the best fishing in Newport County, day and night.
Surf rolls against the southernmost cliffs and Island Rocks in the
distance, and drowns the crackle of gravel underfoot.
Sachuest Point provides more than spectacular views of the
sea. Walkers look out to Sakonnet Point Lighthouse, and on a
clear day, if you squint hard enough you’ll see tiny Cuttyhunk
and the Elizabeth Islands to the southeast. Trails on the point
see moderate traffic; you’ll most likely cross paths with runners,
fishermen or other locals out for a stroll. Your pooch can join
you too, but only on a leash no longer than 10 feet. Kids should
leave the kites at home, as the flying shapes resemble large birds
of prey, which might scare smaller birds away. The refuge offers
ample parking and free entry from sunrise to sunset. A Visitor
Center houses bathrooms and a small museum where children
can learn more about Sachuest Point animals and sea life.
February 27th, 2010 by billfarrell
Sat, 27 Feb 2010 23:31:44
The Preservation Society of Newport County Calender of Events
NEW! Vanderbilt Treasures Return: Gothic Art in the Gilded Age
MAY 8 – OCTOBER 31
Alva Vanderbilt’s collection of more than 300 Medieval and Renaissance art objects returns to
the Gothic Room in Marble House, which was designed to display them in 1892. Come see her extraordinary collection as it returns to its first American home.
For more information on these events and our 2010 Operating Schedule, visit
The Newport Flower Show
The Newport Flower Show celebrates its 15th year as America’s premier summer
flower show at Rosecliff. Come celebrate Africa and the exotic treasures of a continent that
boasts the most diverse range of plants and animals in the world.
Presenting Sponsor Bartlett Tree Experts
The Breakers Revealed A Compelling New Look at a Legendary Mansion
Introduced in 2009, the Audio Tour of The Breakers continues to enchant and delight our visitors. Listen to reminiscences of life in The Breakers as you hear from servants and their children and tour never before seen rooms. Audio Tours of The Breakers, The Elms & Marble House available in English, French, German & Spanish.
The Breakers Family Tour Coming Late Spring
A new Family Tour is being added to the Audio Tour of The Breakers. Specifically
suited for families with children, this tour will provide a new perspective. Visitors will see the
house from the point of view of some unexpected spectators at its great events and daily activities.
Lunch at The Elms Carriage House Cafe
DAILY MAY 15 – OCTOBER II, 10 AM TO 4 PM
Offered to Newport Mansions ticket holders and members.
Children’s Party at Green Animals Topiary Garden
JULY 14, 4 PM TO 8 PM
Come and frolic among the green animals!
The 5th Annual Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival
SEPTEMBER 24 – 26
The Breakers & Marble House This remarkable weekend experience features hundreds of wines from around the world, fabulous food, cooking demonstrations by nationally renowned chefs, live and silent auctions and a gala celebration.
Presenting Sponsor Food and Wine Magazine
August 17th, 2009 by billfarrell
Mon, 17 Aug 2009 08:59:11
By ERIC TUCKER
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
August 16, 2009
NEWPORT, R.I. — The Touro Synagogue was barely 25 years old when George Washington offered a vision of religious tolerance in a letter he sent its congregants.
The new American government, the president wrote in the most famous passage of the 1790 letter, “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”
Plan a visit
Location: 85 Touro St.
Parking: The synagogue is a 10-minute walk from Newport Gateway Center.Information: www.tourosynagogue.org or call 401-847-4794.
A copy of the letter is the highlight of a new $12 million visitors center that opened last Sunday next to the Touro Synagogue, the oldest existing Jewish house of worship in the United States.
The visitors center details the history of the synagogue, which was dedicated in 1763, but has a broader focus on colonial Jewish history and culture and the principles that guided the nation’s founding, center curator David Kleiman said.
“There’s a placement in history of the role that this building has played and, more importantly, the role as a living symbol of the concept of religious freedom, separation of church and state,” Kleiman said. “The building and its history are the embodiment of that concept in America.”
Touro Synagogue, designated a National Historic Site in 1946, maintains an active Orthodox Jewish congregation and still offers tours. But the goal of the visitors center, 12 years in the making, is to offer even more information in an interactive setting, said Keith Stokes, chairman of the board at the Touro Synagogue Foundation.
“We’ve got this great story and history to share, but we needed to create a platform where everyone felt able to attend and learn,” Stokes said.
Visitors to the center, which is separated from the synagogue by a grassy park, can scroll through hundreds of images and biographies of early American Jews. Panels detail the origin of the synagogue, its architect and its founding members. Costumed actors play out scenes of colonial life in eight video vignettes projected onto glass.
The center’s timeline starts before Rhode Island even had a Jewish community.
The first Jewish community in America is generally traced to 1654, when Jews from Recife, Brazil, arrived in the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam — today New York City.
In 1658, 15 families of Sephardic Jews traveled to Newport, a bustling waterfront hub in Rhode Island, a colony founded by Roger Williams on the principle of religious freedom. Isaac Touro, a Dutch Jew, arrived 100 years later from Amsterdam and became the congregation’s first spiritual leader.
The congregation bought land, and the synagogue was designed by architect Peter Harrison, who also was responsible for King’s Chapel in Boston.
The synagogue was dedicated Dec. 2, 1763, during Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. It served as a hospital for British soldiers during the Revolutionary War and later as a meeting place for the state Legislature and Supreme Court.
In August 1790, Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson paid a goodwill visit to Rhode Island, after it became the last of the 13 original colonies to ratify the Constitution.
Washington exchanged letters with the synagogue’s warden, Moses Seixas, who expressed gratitude that the American government “gives to bigotry no sanction,” words Washington would echo in his letter to Newport’s Jewish community in 1790, a year before the ratification of the Bill of Rights.
The letter is “one of the great documents in American history,” said John Loeb, a philanthropist who largely funded the center and was ambassador to Denmark in the administration of former President Ronald Reagan. But the center had to settle for a copy of it since the original is under the stewardship of the Jewish advocacy organization B’nai Brith in Washington, D.C., and is owned by a private family that has been reluctant to lend it, Kleiman said.
Stokes, who also is executive director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, said the visitors center would enhance the city’s colonial heritage, which jostles for attention alongside images of the city’s Gilded Age mansions and the contemporary yachting culture.
“At the end of the day,” Stokes said, “historic structures and sites and places — historic occurrences — are important, but if you don’t tell it from the perspective of the people the visitor can’t connect with it.”
Let the Spring Seasons Inn which is just a half a block from Touro Synagogue provide you with lovely accomodations while visiting Touro and all that Nepwort has to offer.
Information: www.tourosynagogue.org or call 401-847-4794.
May 31st, 2009 by billfarrell
Sun, 31 May 2009 17:07:47OVERVIEW
TRADITION HAS IT THAT on a late October’s day in 1884, Commodore Stephen B. Luce, USN, was rowed from the flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron anchored off Newport to Coasters Harbor Island two miles north of the center of Newport, a site designated earlier that month by the Secretary of the Navy for a new kind of college. Once on the island, Luce proceeded to a large stone building, the former Newport Asylum for the Poor, climbed its rickety stairs, and as he opened the front door solemnly announced to his few companions and the empty grounds, “Poor little poorhouse, I christen thee United States Naval War College.”
Today the “little poorhouse” is a well preserved and stately structure, a National Historic Landmark and home to the Naval War College Museum. Named Founders Hall in honor of the founding fathers of the College, it is uniquely suited for its current purpose. In addition to being the original site of the College, it is where Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, USN, second president (1886-1889) and subsequently a renowned naval historian, first delivered his lectures on sea power—lectures which were first published in 1890 as the epochal The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783.
COLLECTION and EXHIBIT THEMES
The Museum’s themes are the history of naval warfare, particularly as studied at the College, and the naval heritage of Narragansett Bay—a tale that begins with the nation’s colonial roots. Its collection consists of items relating to these subjects that are perceived to be of value to scholarship, and it forms the core for exhibits throughout the College and for educational outreach projects. Besides permanent exhibits on the College, the genesis of the Navy in the region, and the evolution of permanent naval installations from the late nineteenth century to the present, the Museum features short-term special exhibits relating to College curriculum and to current naval-related topics. In general, Museum exhibits identify milestones in the evolutionary development of war at sea; explain the significance of the sea as a factor in the formulation and the attainment of national policy objectives; describe the character, educational philosophy, and mission of the College; and chronicle the eventful relationship of the U.S. Navy with Narragansett Bay and its people.
While the Museum is primarily for the education and the edification of the Naval War College community, it is in a larger sense the corporate memory of the Navy in the region, and it serves as a clearinghouse for naval history information in New England. The Museum Director, a subjects-area specialist, and staff answer inquiries, provide guidance and orientation talks to visitors on regional naval history and current exhibits, and assist scholarly researchers in the use of the Museum holdings. You may also access the U.S. Navy 20th Century Ships History Database, available on a kiosk at the museum.
The Museum is open to the public 10 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., Mondays through Fridays throughout the year, and 12 noon-4:30 P.M. on weekends during June through September. It is closed on holidays. Public access to the Museum with personal vehicle is through Gate 1 of U.S. Naval Station, Newport. Tours and school buses enter through Gate 10 of the Naval Station. For reservations please call (401) 841-4052 at least one working day in advance. Reservations and photo identification are necessary for entry onto the Naval Station. Visitors must stop at the Pass Office before proceeding to Gate 1.
Facilities for the handicapped are available, as is a gift shop operated by the Naval War College Foundation (which partially funds Museum operations). Further information on exhibits and special events is available by writing to: Director, Naval War College Museum, Naval War College, 686 Cushing Road, Newport, RI 02841-1207, or telephone (401) 841-4052/2101 (DSN 948-4052/2101). Fax (401) 841-7074 or e-mail: email@example.com