Sail-Newport-RI

Sure, Newport is a Great Sailing Town, But Did You Know?

Posted by Michael Healy on Jun 14, 2019 2:59:42 PM
Michael Healy

Newport is known as a Sailing Town

Most of us in the Northeast know that Newport, RI is the sailing capital on the East Coast and has hosted and kept the America’s Cup right up to the mid 1980’s. This year Newport is hosting the international 12 meter class world championship event, which promises to be the largest ever gathering of these boats in the U.S. This event runs from July 8-13th. Newport has also been the only Volvo Ocean Race American stopover in the last two competitions and hosts a slew of national and international sailing events.

But there is so much more history in this city by the sea. Did you know that Aquidneck island, where Newport is situated, is the first place in America to be founded on civil and religious liberty? Portsmouth, on the northern edge of the island was founded by Anne Hutchinson, a teacher, who had to flee religious persecution in Boston and founded Portsmouth on the ideal of religious freedom. Newport followed suit a few short years thereafter. As a result of the charter that was obtained, the town boasts the oldest Synagogue (Touro Synagogue) in the country as well as the oldest Friends Meeting House (Quakers) in addition to the oldest First Free Black Church.

Other Historical areas in Newport, RI

In the harbor itself, are some very interesting historical gems: Goat Island manufactured most of the torpedoes in the First and Second World War and once completed, they were stored in nearby Rose Island. To the south of Goat Island is Lime Rock, famous for the first female lighthouse keeper in America, Ida Lewis, who during her tenure in the 1800’s managed to save no fewer than eighteen lives, single-handedly, in a rowboat. In 1881 she was the first woman to receive the rare Gold Lifesaving Medal from the U.S. Government.

Just to the West of Lime Rock is Fort Adams, the largest coastal fort in the United States. Built mostly by Irish immigrants, it boasted no less than 460 cannons at one time, but in fact there was never a shot fired in anger from this iconic fort. Today it hosts many events, most notably the Newport Jazz Festival and the Newport Folk Festival on the lawn facing the Bay.

Rose Island Lighthouse - Newport, RITo the north of Fort Adams is Rose Island, so named because viewed from above at low tide, it resembles a rose with a stem. This island was used by the British, the French and eventually the Americans as a defensive fort. Today it doubles as a nature preserve in addition to serving as a self-catering Bed & Breakfast that can accommodate up to fourteen guests. The lighthouse still stands and operates, but is obsolete since the Pell Bridge was erected in 1969. You can book a stay here through the Rose Island Foundation.

Gould Island is north of the Pell bridge and this was used by the military as a testing range for the torpedoes made in Goat Island. To this day the nautical charts forbid mariners from dropping anchor in the waters just to the north of the island as there are still unexploded ordinance on the seabed.

So next time you are sailing in Newport Harbor and the East Passage of Narragansett Bay, take note of all the history that surrounds you!  Newport may be famous for being a sailing town, but there's so much more to this area. Just take a look around!

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