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Newport is home to Colonial and Victorian homes, Gilded Age mansions that bring to mind the Great Gatsby era, and a mysterious stone tower which may or may not have been built by Vikings over 1,000 years ago. Whether you are interested in a specific time period, a type of building, or a neighborhood to wander, you will find unique architectural treasures.
Stainding in a park in Newport's Touro Park, the Old Stone Mill is an architectural and historical mystery. It is a round structure with 8 arches which may have been a fort, a church, and/or a windmill. There are several theories about it's origin:
There are several cemeteries in Newport, perhaps none so unique as God's Little Acre. This is one of the largest and oldest 18th century burial grounds for slaves and freed blacks. Some of the cherubs on the headstones are nearly identical to others of the same time period, while other faces look African. This quiet memorial stands as testemony to the number and importance of black slaves in Newport, which was THE major port in the American slave trade in the last half of the 18th century.
There are hundreds of restored colonial homes in Newport. Many are located in the Historic Hill neighborhood, with a high concentration the rectangle bound by Thames and Spring streets and Touro and Prospect Hill streets.
The Touro Synagogue, the oldest synagogue building in North America - and home of the oldest Torah in North America, is located northeast of this area and is a prefect starting or ending point for a walking or driving tour. Thames Street has many shops and restaurants, so you will never be far from food, drink and necessary facilities.
No trip to Newport is complete without seeing these huge, ornate, luxurious "cottages" built between 1850 and the early 1900s. A silver heiress, a tobacco hairess, a coal baron, Vanderbilts, Astors and others lived and entertained here. Scenes for the film The Great Gatsby were filmed here. And visitors can now see what used to be privy only to a very select circle of family, friends and aquaintances - and their servants.
Newport Mansions can be seen and enjoyed by several different means. There are tours available, by foot, bus or boat. You can drive or walk the streets on your own. And you can take the famed
Cliff Walk. The
Newport County Convention and Visitor's Bureau is a great resource for planning this part of your trip, as is
The Preservation Society of Newport County, and
Newport Historical Society Walking Tours.
The Cliff Walk is a 3.5 mile public access walkway that runs along the front of the Bellevue Avenue mansions and above the Newport shoreline. From the North End (starting on Memorial Avenue), there is a nice stretch of well-paved walkway. Further down, there are places where the path is uneven, where the ground has washed away, or where it is simply not easy to walk. There are several access points for those who do not or cannot manage the entire trail. Be sure to bring your camera and binoculars, to dress for the weather and wear sturdy walking shoes. Keep an eye on children and be aware that strollers might not make it from one end to the other.
It is worth noting that Bellevue Avenue, one of the mansioned streets, with it's brick sidewalks, cobblestone streets and gaslights, is one of the most romantic (and safe) places for an evening walk.
The most accessible mansions: