After touring some of the beautiful coastline that surrounds the island, we headed inland to explore the picturesque streets that tell a lot about Newport’s history. If you’re not being guided around this nostalgic community by a lifetime resident, then you might want to consider taking a trolley to see the sites. The driver will provide a brief, but very detailed description of the many landmarks that will pass by your open window seat.
We started our adventure with a drive down the historic Bellevue Avenue or the nickname I gave it – Millionaires Lane. These elaborate homes, mostly used for summer retreats are the epitome of noble wealth and unrestricted spending on these one-of-a-kind architectural marvels.
One of the more prestigious mansions that line Millionaires Lane is Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s The Breakers (shown left). The home was constructed in 1893 an has 70 Italian Renaissance style rooms. Oliver H. P. Belmont’s Belcourt Mansion (shown below – right) took 3 years to build. His enthusiastic love for horses inspired his namesake for the Belmont Stakes – one of three races needed for capturing the triple crown. The Mansion (shown below – left) is where Claus Von Bulow allegedly attempted to murder his wife Sunny and is one of the most well known sites in the neighborhood. This legendary trial and its ultimate outcome still lingers amongst the Newport residents.
The sprawling estates flow in every direction. They gracefully illustrate their majestic presents with lush landscape, towering chimneys and sloping roofs. Rhode Island was and still is a popular destination for the rich and famous. There are way to many mansions for me to talk about. If and when you get a chance to visit this part of the country, Bellevue Avenue is a must see.
Our next stop moves us towards Newport’s downtown district. However, before touring main street, we stop to admire a few of the historic churches. The Channing Church (pictured below – left) was built in 1880 to commemorate the predominant Unitarian preacher William Ellery Channing’s 100 year anniversary of his birth. Just a couple of blocks away is the United Congressional Church (shown above – right). The structure was built in 1857 and is noted for its unique architectural design inside and out. It’s construction included brownstone brought in from the neighboring state of Connecticut. One thing I did notice while exploring on foot is that most all of the streets that run through these older communities are lined with colorful trees and shrubs.
Newport’s downtown district is filled with plenty of early American history. There are lots of shops, bed & breakfasts, eateries and taverns up and down the brick-laid streets. The White Horse Tavern lays claim to being the oldest tavern in America. Note the registry on the plaque shown below. Now we know where our forefathers spent their time laying out our new country’s governmental policies. The International Tennis Hall of Fame (pictured upper – left) is located close by as well.
During the Civil War – 1861 to 1865, the US Naval Academy was located in Newport during these troubling years. How much of the original campus still remains? I can’t say, but the building pictured below-left is and/or the only part left of the historical site. The academy was eventually relocated sometime after the war.
Moving right along, our next stop is Goat Island. The island sets in Narragansett Bay and is home to the Newport Harbor Light – built in 1842 just off the north end of the island. It replaced the original lighthouse, which was relocated to Prudence Island and still remains there today.
The attached marina leads out through the bay and onto open waters. There are some awesome looking sailing vessels waiting for a chance to spread their sails and meet the ocean breeze. On the way to our next stop, we passed a few quaint Inns (pictured left) that fits the island’s colonial ambiance. Most of them are situated within walking distances to such amenities like restaurants, boutique shops and site seeing.
Before our day ends, our host wants to take us to one more historical site. Rochambeau Memorial Park is dedicated to the French born General who helped the thirteen colonies during the American Revolution War. There is a statue and plaque honoring Comte de Rochambeau and his accomplishments. Like every other waterside attraction, this too has some fantastic views. The mooring boats rock back and forth with every gentle wave that makes it way through the Narragansett Bay. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house, or island.
Newport, Rhode Island is not only an ideal destination for history buffs, but is also a great place for families and couples to vacation. The fabulous food, gorgeous scenery and hometown setting can be a vacation destination that the whole family can enjoy.
Author: Anthony Scopel
Photography: Anthony Scopel
Associate Editor: Maureen Scopel
Technical Mastering & Support: Matt Kemper
A special thanks again to our guide – Colonel John Beebe