Road Trip USA: Newport, Rhode Island

I’ll get back to writing about New York again in the autumn but, for now, lets head to the next stop on our road trip, Newport, Rhode Island.  Currently, I am in the process of planning a remodel of our Martha’s Vineyard house which I am finding really exciting.  Unfortunately, on the blog posts, I’m a couple of states behind!

Haven’t had enough of American extravagance with The Great Gatsby?  Newport, Rhode Island is the city for you.

Founded in 1639, Newport became a major port city by the 18th century.  In fact, in colonial times Newport was the center of the slave trade in New England.  Even if racial tolerance was not happening, religious freedom was held to be dear.  Newport has a long-standing Jewish heritage because Jews fleeing the Inquisition were allowed to settle in the city in 1658.  The Quakers were also permitted to settle in the city soon thereafter.

Newport Jewish Cemetary Plaque
Newport Jewish Cemetary Plaque

The French forces were stationed in Newport during the American Revolution.  This war, however, spelled the end of Newport’s trade dominance because the port was closed during much of the war.

Plaque marking the French headquarters during the American Revolution
Plaque marking the French headquarters during the American Revolution

The city’s fortunes turned again by the middle of the 19th century when the city became a summer resort for the wealthy.  By the turn of the 20th century, the extremely wealthy spent their summers in their Newport cottages.  In no way, can these houses be called “cottages” except if perhaps the owners’ other houses were gargantuan.  Some of these houses have been turned into museums but many still remain private homes.

salve regina

One of the most visited and grandest of the houses is The Breakers which was built in an Italian Renaissance style by the Vanderbilts, one of America’s great industrialist families.  It was constructed in the late-19th century at a cost of more than $300 million in today’s money.  Needless to say, the inside is extravagant and not in the least cozy.  Descendants of the original Vanderbilts still summer at the house on the 3rd floor which remains private.

The Breakers even comes with its own pint-sized playhouse on the grounds.  The playhouse is actually about 2400 s.f. which is about the size of the average American home!

photo:  NYLon Living
photo: NYLon Living

Newport is a beautiful New England seaside town.  Many of the buildings have plaques describing the history of the building.   The harbor is still charming and the sailing community is a strongly felt presence.Newport Harbor

Newport is a really pretty New England seaside town rich in its history and architecture.  More on that in the next post!

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I am an American expat based in London with my travel-loving family. I write at Just Go Places Blog about luxury, cultural and family travel.

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