Home to spectacular coastal scenery, awe-inspiring architecture, a thriving waterfront downtown, and welcoming hospitality, Newport is considered by many to be a shining gem in the coastal crown of New England.
From weekend getaways spent touring the famed Gilded Age mansions that once were the summer playground for socialite families with names like Astor and Vanderbilt to an afternoon of wine tasting through Newport's three scenic vineyards, the options for interesting activities, distinctive stories, and enticing photo opportunities are countless!
Visit Discover Newport for more information.
History of Newport
Courtesy of the Newport Historical Society
Since its founding by English settlers in 1639, Newport has bustled with diversity. During the 17th century, the cornerstones of Newport’s architectural heritage were laid. The buildings that survive from that period – the Old Stone Mill, the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House, and the White Horse Tavern – are part of Newport’s rich, architectural tapestry that today also includes the great “cottages” along Bellevue Avenue.
Trade and the export of rum, candles, fish, furniture and silver were the main engines of economic growth during the 18th century. During this time the waterfront bustled with activity with over 150 separate wharves and hundreds of shops crowded along the harbor between Long Wharf and the southern end of the harbor.
By the 1760s Newport had emerged as one of the five leading ports in colonial North America, along with Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. The economic growth spurred a building boom which included hundreds of houses and many of the internationally important landmarks that survive today, such as Trinity Church, the Colony House, Redwood Library, and the Brick Market.
Following the Revolutionary War, Newport was faced with a bleak future and in the early 19th century was forced to re-invent itself. Newport had been bypassed by industrialization and its landscape became frozen in time. Ironically, this became an asset for the town as it transformed itself into a summer resort and used its picturesque qualities to advantage in attracting summer visitors.
During the Gilded Age elite families, such as the King, Griswold and Vanderbilt families, helped transform Newport into the Queen of the Resorts, building the mansions for which Newport has become famous, employing architects Richard Morris Hunt, McKim Mead and White, Peabody and Stearns, and others. Several of these mansions have become major tourist attractions, including the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Learn more about the history of the Newport Casino.
Newport’s history has always been tied to the sea. During the colonial period the city’s harbor teemed with trading ships. With the arrival of the Summer Colony and the New York Yacht Club, Newport was on its way to becoming an international yachting capital. The Yacht Club brought the famed America’s Cup to Newport in the 1930s where it stayed until lost to the Australians in 1983. In 2013 the cup returned home to Newport with a win by Team Oracle!
After World War II, one of the most successful historic preservation movements in the country saved hundreds of structures throughout Newport County. With the success of the preservation movement a new kind of tourism, known as “Heritage Tourism”, began to develop. Visitors to Newport came to learn about the area’s remarkable history as well as to enjoy the beauty and the hospitality of the City by the Sea. From beautifully restored colonial landmarks and museums to events such as the Jazz and Folk Festivals and the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, all draw thousands to Newport every summer.