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History Bytes

History Bytes: French Huguenots in Newport

Recently, President Obama reminded the world that the French were our first European allies during the American Revolution. France formally recognized the United States on February 6, 1788. In 1780, the French fleet arrived in Newport to join the American forces.

The French were not new in Newport in 1780. Almost 100 years earlier, French Huguenots were arriving in New England from France, England and Holland, seeking religious freedom. Among them were Gabriel Bernon and Hester Le Roy who were married in La Rochelle, France in 1673 and settled in Newport shortly after 1688. Gabriel Bernon helped establish the first three Anglican parishes in Rhode Island at Newport (with fellow Huguenot Pierre Ayrault), Kingstown and Providence. Hester’s kinsman Jacob Le Roy sailed to New York from Rotterdam and established a dynasty of Le Roys whose descendants also include summer colonists Livingstons, Kings and Rhinelanders. Le Roy and Ayrault are commemorated as street names in Newport.

Image: Memorial tablet to Gabriel Bernon found in Trinity Church. NHS Collections.

History Bytes: Bushy Park

The “Bushy Park” estate, long gone, was located on Memorial Boulevard/Bath Road, between Cliff Avenue and Annandale Road. It dated to 1852 when it was “Beach Cliff” the summer home of DeLancy Kane. It later belonged to Philadelphia publisher Charles Peterson and then Richard V. Mattison of Ambler, PA.

Mattison (1851-1936) was a chemist and pharmacist who made a fortune in patent medicines. He was the co-founder of Keasbey and Mattison, a manufacturing company that produced asbestos building materials. Mattison was responsible for turning Ambler, PA into the asbestos capital of the world.

Around 1895, Mattison hired Newport architect and builder J. D. Johnson to construct a new carriage house and stable on the west end of the Bushy Park property fronting Annandale Road. In 1939 the estate was developed into small house lots. The carriage house and original brown-stone gate house (located at the corner of Rhode Island Avenue South) are all that remain of “Bushy Park”.

Mattison’s Ambler, PA home was a massive stone house called “Lindenwold Castle” which was converted into a Catholic orphanage and later served as the set of the 1966 Hayley Mills film The Trouble With Angels.

Above: An August 1913 postcard advertisement for Asbestos “Century” Shingles. This image from the NHS collection shows Bushy Park Carriage House.

History Bytes: Candy Stores

As we gather our M&Ms and Reese’s Pieces for Halloween trick-or-treaters, it is interesting to note that access to sweets was far more difficult in the past. One of the first confection businesses in Newport was started in 1852 by Charles Gottlieb Muenchinger at 70 Spring Street. Muenchinger emigrated from Germany to Norwich, Connecticut as a teacher before moving to Newport. He later opened a shop at 208 Thames Street.

Through his sons, the business expanded into Newport’s first catering company. His son Gustave, with his wife Amanda, owners of a boarding house and cottage business, purchased the Muenchinger-King building in 1903 and turned it into one of Newport’s most fashionable hotels. The Muenchinger-King building stands today at the corner of Catherine Street and Bellevue Avenue.

Above: An advertising card produced for “Muenchinger & Sons, Confectioners and Caterers” from Lulu B. Barker’s scrapbook of Newport souvenir business cards in the NHS Collection.