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“The oldest circulating library in the USA”

Redwood Library & Athenaeum
Ranked #43 of 117 things to do in Newport
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: About the Redwood Library and Athenaeum: Chartered in 1747 by 46 prominent citizens of Newport with "nothing in view but the good of mankind," the Redwood Library & Athenaeum is a hybrid museum, rare book repository, and the oldest continuously operating lending library still in its original structure, the nation's oldest public Neoclassical building. Designed by Peter Harrison, the Library is a registered National Historic Landmark. The Redwood contains over 200,000 titles in its Circulating and Special Collections, with another 751 titles forming the Original Collection, purchased by the founders in 1750 and housed in the historic Harrison Room. Collections strengths include: colonial American history and material culture, early modern architecture and garden design, the history of Newport, Aquidneck Island and Rhode Island. The Redwood also possesses substantive holdings of historic printed materials, archives and private papers. Featured on permanent view is an exceptional collection of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century portraits by such artists as John Smibert, Robert Feke and Gilbert Stuart, in addition to a range of sculpture, furniture, and decorative arts. Two gallery spaces feature temporary exhibitions, while the Redwood's Reading Room, with its iconic green leather chairs and original Palladian windows, is a welcome sanctuary for visitors. Lectures, gallery talks, and musical events are scheduled throughout the year, and unique gift items and used books are available in the gift shop. As an athenaeum born of the American Enlightenment values of liberty, equality and democracy, and capitalizing on its unique position as a catalyst for intellectual pursuit across periods and disciplines, the Redwood is approaching its fourth century in the service of a rigorous and accessible humanities education for the benefit of the widest possible audience.
Useful Information: Activities for older children, Wheelchair access, Bathroom facilities, Activities for young children
Reviewed October 17, 2012

Newport, RI is packed with historic buildings and the Redwood Library is one of the most outstanding examples. Founded in 1747 by Abraham Redwood the library thrives as one of the archives of American history and architecture.

There is an art gallery, a beautiful reading room and the Harrison room with its priceless American portraiture collection, all open to the public. One can also sign up for tours.

This is the perfect place to go if you have maxed out on the Gilded Age mansions and now need a little peace and quiet.

Thank CarolMaeRay
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviews (71)
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64 - 68 of 71 reviews

Reviewed September 30, 2012

We put the Library on our to do list because of the incredible history and it's story. Since it's the oldest continuously operating lending library in America we had to check it out. It was founded in 1747.

The staff was very friendly and happy to answer any questions. They pointed us in the direction of the oldest part of the Library. Other than old books it didn't seem all that old anywhere inside. I was disappointed that it seemed to be updated and in my opinion it took away from it's Historical value.

We were glad that we stopped, but we were expecting to see an old room or something that would tend to suggest the building was old. It could have been build in the 1980's and I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference. 95% of it seemed to be a modern library. As far as Library's go, it was really nice. If we lived here I would check out a few books.

Thank Eric S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 12, 2012

I love this place. it actually gives the feel of a private club with leather chairs and reading nooks, great art exhibits, wonderful books you can't find elsewhere. The staff is always friendly and helpful, and its programs are innovative.
Does it sound like I'm in love with the Redwood? I am!

Thank Patti C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 1, 2012

First off the admission is by donation so you could go and not leave a dime but they are a private facility and depend on memberships, grants and donations to continue. Built in 1747. Building designed by Peter Harrison completed in 1750. Collection boasts of 6 original Gilbert Stuart paintings and other 17th & 18th century portraits, sculpture, furniture and other items of decorative arts. Well worth a visit especially on an inclement day.

2  Thank MeaganLeigh
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 8, 2011

We were stunned to find such the old fashion charming library. We recommend to visit the library and it is free. I ended up buying a few things at the gift shop that I could not find any where else.

4  Thank annepainter
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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