Founded in 1639, Newport was united (1640) with Portsmouth and then entered (1654) in a permanent federation with Providence and Warwick. Shipbuilding, dating from 1646, and foreign commerce brought pre-Revolutionary prosperity to Newport. In the American Revolution the British occupied the town (1776–79) many buildings were destroyed, most of the citizens moved away, and Newport never regained its former economic prestige. It was replaced in importance by Providence, with which it was joint state capital until 1900.
In the 19th cent., Newport developed as a fashionable resort of the wealthy, and many palatial
cottages were built. Outstanding tourist attractions from that era are The Breakers, the former summer house of Cornelius Vanderbilt Belcourt Castle The Elms Marble House and Château-sur-Mer. Cliff Walk and Ocean Drive are known for their spectacular views of the ocean and the coastline.
Of historic interest are the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House (c.1675 scene of a Stamp Act riot in 1765) the Newport Tower (thought to date from the 17th cent.) Trinity Church (1726) Touro Synagogue (1763), oldest in the country and since 1946 a national historic site the Redwood Library and Athenaeum (1747) and the brick market house or city hall (1762). Matthew Perry was born in Newport.
See E. Warburton, In Living Memory: A Chronicle of Newport, Rhode Island, 1888–1988 (1988).
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