A June 2003 trip
to Newport by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: Newport, Rhode Island has been known as the playground of the rich by many wealthy and famous families since the 19th century. Besides their mansions, Newport also has a colorful and diverse history dating from 1639 and has many beaches and shops for one to enjoy all year long.
But in the late 17th and early 18th century, Newport became a place of religious tolerance for Puritans and Jewish people fleeing persecution in Europe. Newport is home to the Touro Synagogue (1763), the oldest synagogue in the USA. During the American Revolution, Newport was occupied by the British (1776-80) and was liberated by French troops under the command of General Rochambeau. In 1980, I got to see a re-enactment of the liberation of Newport by the French in honor of the bicentennial of this battle.
I had to go to Rhode Island this past week for my Nana''s memorial service, and I decided that the week would not be complete without a trip to one of my favorite childhood haunts.
So I jumped into my rental car at my friend''s home in Riverside and drove to Newport via Route 114 South. When I arrived in Newport about 45 minutes later, I parked my car at Bowen''s Wharf and began my adventure in Newport.
The best things to do in Newport are to shop in the Brick Market Place or Long Wharf Center, enjoy one of three public beaches, visit Fort Adams outside the town, or see one of 300 colonial buildings located throughout the city.
I visited the Touro Synagogue on Touro Street and the 1739 Colony House, which was one of five state capitols in Rhode Island until 1900.
After seeing the sights and doing a little souvenir shopping, I had lunch at the Rhode Island Quahog Company, one of many great seafood restaurants in Newport. A trip to Newport isn''t complete without trying some great seafood.
After lunch, I went to Fort Adams, the 19th Century fort outside of town and an important naval base from the Civil War to World War II. There are many festivities at Fort Adams throughout the summer, and the famous Tall Ships were there during the weekend of June 13-14.
Newport is also a big convention town, and there is always an event going on in many of the historical buildings all year. So, make sure you ask at the information center on Thames Street when and if a sight is open for visitors.
The ferry boat leaves from Providence daily and goes and can get you to Newport in an hour, and there is a shuttle bus from the airport that costs about one way. The public busses (RIPTA) have daily busses that can get you there and around Newport, but are limited on weekends.
If you drive to Newport, the best way to get there is taking 114 South through Bristol and over the Mount Hope Bridge into Newport. 114 goes right into Thames Street, one of Newport''s main drags.
Upon arrival in Newport, free parking is hard to come by and many residential neighborhoods will not allow you to park on in front of their houses. There are many parking lots that you will have to pay anywhere between - for the day, or you can park at a metered parking space for about -4 for 3 hours maximum.
Most sights in Newport are within walking distance or a short drive from Newport''s center. There is an information center on Thames Street that can help you with directions and free maps.
Restaurant | "The Rhode Island Quahog Company"
I was putting money into the meter for my car when I looked across the street and saw the Rhode Island Quahog Company. Its big red, white, and blue sign was calling my name to go and eat there.
So, I ran across Thames Street and to the Rhode Island Quahog Company. I asked the hostess to seat me outside if there was a seat so that I could enjoy the beautiful Newport day and smell the ocean. I got a seat on the patio, and my waitress, Claire, immediately asked me if I wanted a drink.
After my drink, I ordered the restaurant''s claim to fame, Stuffed Quahogs or Stuffies ($5.95), a favorite food from my days growing up in Rhode Island and never seen anywhere else in the USA, as an appetizer. Then I noticed that they had stuffed, baked lobster on their specials menu for $10.95. You can''t get lobster any cheaper than that and I ordered that for lunch because I was going to enjoy my day in Newport.
A few minutes later, Claire brought my Stuffies to me with a smile. They were nicely arranged on a small plate with herb butter. I never ate Stuffies with herb butter before, but I gave it a try. The Sutffies were stuffed with a spicy bread stuffing and quahog meat, and the butter made them nice and moist.
A few minutes later, Claire, brought the piece de resistance, the stuffed lobster. It was a work of art. The lobster had been cut in half and stuffed with a bread, crab, and scallop stuffing, and its claw was still on. There was lemon, coleslaw, and french fries with the meal. After I stopped drooling, I dug into my meal. It was one of the best meals I have had in my life, and I enjoyed cracking the lobster claw open with the nutcracker they gave me and enjoying the sweet meat. Yes, I cleared my plate, and Claire noticed it too. "That lobster had no chance with you, Dianne," she said.
The restaurant was clean with an old wood bar inside and an ocean theme throughout. There is a history of the quahog on the menu and on the wall as you enter the restaurant. The prices are very reasonable and the food is to die for. The service is courteous and quick, and they are there to refill your drinks and answer your questions. So the next time you are in Newport and crave seafood, go to The Rhode Island Quahog Company.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 17, 2003
Rhode Island Quahog Company
250 Thames Street
Newport, Rhode Island 02840
Attraction | "The Old Colony House"
The Old Colony House was the headquarters of French General Rochambeau after American and French armies liberated Newport from the British during the American Revolution (1780). It was here that George Washington, Rochambeau, and many other colonial leaders met to discuss the future of America. This meeting was a historic moment that shaped our history.
I arrived at the Old Colony House in the morning and made my way 1/2 way up the stairs when a man told me that there was a meeting going on upstairs. He said it was OK to look inside at the empty courtroom and main room of the house. I entered the courtroom, passed the police officer at the door, and said hello to the guard. I asked him if this was a courtroom at one time, and he said yes. The courtroom was complete with a bench, witness stand, and a pillory that I joked would be ideal for me to take home and use on a co-worker when he misbehaved.
I looked around the courtroom for about 5 minutes when I heard the meeting upstairs adjourn, and the police officer at the door said, "Miss! The meeting is over! You''ll have to leave!" I said thank you to both the guard and policeman and took my leave before having to be thrown out, but I left the Old Colony House knowing more about our history and a sense of pride.
It is free to tour the Old Colony House, and when there are not any special events going on upstairs, you can tour the upstairs as well as the downstairs. It is well worth 30-45 minutes of your time to see.
Newport Colony House
82 Touro St
Newport, Rhode Island 02840
+1 401 846 0813
I had never visited the Touro Synagogue in Newport in several visits before to the city, and I decided before leaving my home in Idaho to visit the historic house of worship during my most recent visit to Newport.
The Touro Synagoue is the oldest Synagogue in the United States and the only one that survived the colonial era. Founded by Sephardic Jews who fled persecution in Spain, the Touro Synagogue was built in 1739 by architect Peter Harrison in the 18th Century Georgian style of architecture. In the 18th Century, George Washington wrote a letter to the Touro Synagogue''s congregation, and the letter is on display inside the synagogue.
I went to Newport on a Saturday, and I realized on the way there that it was the Shabbat or Sabbath, and I would most likely not be able to tour the inside of the Touro Synagogue. Sure enough, when I arrived there, a Shabbah service was just ending and the congregation was coming out. A guard at the door kept me from going to the entrance but allowed me to take photos and talk with him. He was surprised to hear that I came from Idaho, but I told him I grew up in Riverside and was here for my Nana''s memorial service but wanted to see the synagogue.
If you do get inside the Touro Synagogue, it is free, and there are guided tours every 1/2 hour, except for Saturdays and Jewish holidays. There is a Jewish Cemetery about a block from the synagogue and a park on the grounds to walk around and take photos of the synagogue. It is well worth your time and an important lesson in Jewish history and tolerance.
85 Touro St
Newport, Rhode Island 02840
+1 401 847 4794
Newport can be an expensive place to shop, live, and vacation in, but if you look really hard, you can get some good deals at many locations throughout the city.
In the Long Wharf Mall, a shopping center off of Thames Street, there is Cuffy''s of Newport, a reasonably priced t-shirt and sweatshirt shop where you can get all of your shopping done in one stop. I was able to buy three t-shirts for myself, my friend, and my uncle for $27, which was a good deal for me. Cuffy''s has t-shirts ranging from $20 to 5 for $25. They also have great sweatshirts and other items, and the service is courteous and quick.
Long Wharf Mall also has candy shops, Pier One Imports, and a Yankee Candle Shop.
Those are just a few shops I wanted to give special mention to in this journal, but everyone has different tastes. But the Brick Market Place and the Long Wharf Mall are the best places to shop or eat during your visit to Newport.
Souvenir Shopping in Newport
Long Wharf Mall and The Brick Market Place
Newport, Rhode Island 02840
Attraction | "Fort Adams: A National Historical Landmark"
So I jumped into my rental car and headed towards Fort Adams on the outskirts of town. Upon arrival, I parked my car close to where the Tall Ships were and the Fort Adams Museum and Information Center. I remember seeing the Tall Ships in Newport when I was a child and the French Tall Ship in Oslo in 1995. Most of the ships were built in the 18th and 19th Centuries and are used by the American Sail Training Association as floating schools.
"The Providence," the ship that sank or captured the most British ships during the American Revolution was at Adventure Day along with 3 school ships. I was hoping that there were other Tall ships from other countries there, but I was a little disappointed that they were not there.
After seeing the ships, I went into the information center and museum and grabbed some brochures and looked around the little museum with its displays of the history of Fort Adams. Don''t miss the great view of the Newport Bridge from the parking lot with the fort in the foreground.
Fort Adams was built from 1824-1857 by French military engineer Simon Bernard nd ws named for John Adams, our 2nd President. It was on the sight of a 1799 fort. It was made from Maine granite, brick, and earth and served as the Naval Academy during the first months of the Civil War. Many new weapons and technology were designed and used at Fort Adams and during World War II, the fort was an important coastal defense network for Narragansett Bay and Long Island Sound. Fort Adams was never attacked when it was an active fort.
You can only see the fortifications on hourly guided tours which cost $6 and run daily. Fort Adams Park is open sunrise to sunset and is a nice day trip from the city for a picnic or to tour the fort. It is free to get into the park, but guards are located at the entrance.
For more information on Fort Adams, see their website.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 19, 2003
Eisenhower Trust Building
Newport, Rhode Island 02840
+1 401 841 0707
Attraction | "Trinity Church"
The Trinity Church was built in 1726 according to the designs of London churches that were designed by the famous British architect, Sir Christopher Wren. It is another National Historic Landmark and was visited by many dignitaries and famous people in its history.
Unfortunately, Trinity Church is only open a few hours a day and I did not get to see its beautiful and simple interior with its three-tiered wineglass pulpit. The pulpit is the only one in existence in the United States. Since I couldn''t go inside this time around, I walked around the cemetary outside the church and took photos of the gravestones that date from 1726 and the exteriors. I enjoyed a few minutes of peace and quiet before embarking for my day of fun and sun in Newport.
It is free to get inside the Trinity Church, and the hours vary with the seasons and when services are going on. It is another place of worship and tolerance that is a great educational tool for young and old alike.
Trinity Church (Trinity Episcopal Church)
Queen Anne Square
Newport, Rhode Island 02840
(401) 846 0660
When I was a student at the University of Idaho in the mid-1990's, I took several classes on the history of Native Americans from my favorite History professor there, Bill Swagerty. During my last semester at UI, I took is Native American/White Relations class, and one of our topics was about the tribes of New England, the Wampanoags and the Narragansetts. Professor Swagerty began to talk about wampum, the Native American currency made from qhahog shells. Professor Swagerty started to say that wampum was made from quahogs, and he began to pronounce the word. I began to wonder "What the heck is he trying to say." Then Professor Swagerty saw me looking at him like he was crazy and said, "Dianne, you looked puzzled. What's the matter?" I said to him "I think you mean quahog." He was very impressed with me and said to the class that I was from Rhode Island. In future classes, Professor Swagerty still couldn't pronounce "quahog" and had me say it everytime he needed to.
Quahog is pronounced kwa-hog or ko-hog, depending on which part of New England or the United States you are from. I pronounce it the former way. The quahog is indigenous to the waters of New England and is a bivalve crustacean and is a cousin to the clam. Quahogs are best eaten stuffed with bread stuffing and quahog meat baked in its shells or in chowder.
So if you ever go to Rhode Island, make sure that you either go to a supermarket or to a good seafood restaurant for some Stuffies (stuffed quahogs) or chowder. You will never forget the experience.
Claus von Bulow is a Danish aristocrat and playboy. He lived in one of Newport's famous mansions with his second wife Sunny. In 1981, von Bulow alledgedly put Sunny in a coma by injecting insulin into her while she slept and Claus was arrested for attempted murder. He was found guilty in the first trial, but won his appeal for a second trial saying that he wasn't given a fair trial because he was rich. At the second trial, in 1982-83, von Bulow was defended by Alan Dershowitz, the famous defense attorney and Harvard professor. This time, von Bulow was acquitted and ran off to London to live in exile with his mistress. Sunny von Bulow has been in vegetative state ever since and is in a hospital in New York.
It is said that von Bulow tried to kill Sunny with insulin because he wanted her inheritence and to live with his mistress. The famous black bag was found in his bedroom by a maid and was supposed to be the weapon and smoking gun.
Von Bulow's trial put Rhode Island and Newport in the news and von Bulow became a sort of folk hero around New England. My mom and I were at the veterinarian with our dog Klaus (born in 1974 and named for the German Santa Claus) one day during the trials, and our veterinarian, Dr. Teide said that he was seeing many people with puppies or kittens named Claus for von Bulow.
The movie "Reversal of Fortune" starring Jeremy Irons in his Oscar winning role as Claus and Glenn Close as the unfortunate Sunny was based on this famous incident and trial. I highly recommend "Reversal of Fortune" and enjoy Jeremy Irons hissably delicious turn as the villianous von Bulow. "You have no idea!"