We stumbled on this wonderful resource, operated by the Newport Historical Society, quite by accident. The building itself dates to 1762. Downstairs is a terrific gift shop staffed by friendly personnel while upstairs is an amazing museum. Donations are voluntary but $4 a person is suggested for adults, $2 for children over five. Very reasonable for what you get, which is an easily absorbed smorgasbord of Newport history, peoples, and culture through the centuries.
Best of all we discovered the walking tours offered through the Society, which begin here. In my fascination with Newport’s Gilded Age mansions, I had overlooked the many other facets of the city’s history. We decided to take two, back-to-back, one-hour tours of two colonial structures, at $8 per person, per tour, so $32 all together. We arranged to meet Jenna, who turned out to be both lovely and knowledgeable, in an hour’s time. We whiled it away at the museum upstairs.
By the way, there is also a bathroom, small but convenient. And the building is cool on a hot summer day!
Our first stop, about a three-block walk from the Brick Market, was the Newport Colony House, built in 1739. The imposing, two-story, brick edifice was the official state house, and scene of many important pronouncements and celebrations, until 1901 when a new one opened in Providence. It then became the Newport County courthouse before being restored and eventually designated a National Historic Landmark. Certainly worth seeing…plus, upstairs hangs a treasure, one of Gilbert Stuart’s portraits of George Washington. The real deal!
The building is kept locked between tours and because it is not air-conditioned can be rather close and stuffy inside.
Our second stop was a block away, the 1697 Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House, the oldest surviving house in Newport. It’s an almost plain, brick-red, wooden building that began life as two rooms on either side of a shared fireplace and grew over the centuries into its present two-story configuration. Restorers chose not to strand it in a single period but to highlight evolving architectural trends and lifestyles, admirably communicated by our guide. The 1720s kitchen is intact and an upstairs bedroom mirrors its 17th-century décor.
These truly were worthwhile landmarks to see and the background information we received was an education in itself. Bravo to the Newport Historical Society!
If your tour ends, like ours, around noon or the dinner hour, and you want to continue your immersion in history, the 1673 White Horse Tavern is only a block away.
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