Saturday, September 8, 2012

Newport, Rhode Island

Newport was settled in 1639,and by 1646 had established itself as a shipbuilding center.  It was once the hub of Colonial commerce,and remains still a busy seaport. Today,from its docks,large sailing ships as well as massive ocean liners can be seen.  As John and I walked along the harbor we noticed that some of the old stone walls of the wharf are still present.  We felt like time travelers yesterday as toured the town of Newport.  We walked from Long Wharf to Colony House, fairly much the same path which George Washington took in 1781.  At Colony House he met with the French General de Rochanbeau to begin planning battle against the British in Yorktown,Virginia.  Colony House is said to be the nation's oldest capital, it was the State House from 1776-1900.  Presidents Dwight Eisenhower,Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson were said to have been entertained here.
Our walking tour of Newport took us also to the oldest Jewish synagogue in the United States, built in 1763.  It stands on a lot at an angle so that the ark which holds the Torahs faces east toward Jerusalem.  The park surrounding it is a memorial to all Early American Jewish Patriots.
While in Newport we also drove on Ocean Drive which took us along the rugged Atlantic coastline.  Large summer homes border the drive, some of which were built during the Gilded Age and since have been maintained by the Preservation Society of Newport County.  During the late 1800s Newport became the hot spot for the elite- here the Astors and the Vanderbilts erected their summer mansions.  We toured The Breakers, summer retreat of Cornelius Vanderbilt who built it with fortunes from the New York Central Railroad.  It is a 70-room Italian Renaissance estate with a two and half story high Great Hall complete with a grand staircase.  Original furnishings and decorative details reflect the wealth of the Vanderbilts, which can be seen in the imported French and Italian alabaster and marble, ceiling paintings, platinum leaf panels, and gilded woods. Over the years this summer home was the scene for memorable family galas as weddings and debutante balls. The family lived in it from 1895-1938.   The sweeping back lawn flows down to the shores of the ocean, as do many of the other Newport Mansions.
We concluded our trip to Newport with a lovely supper of lobster crepes and Rhode Island clam chowder, which we enjoyed in a restaurant overlooking Narragansett Bay.

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