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History Bytes

History Bytes: Norman Bird Sanctuary

Each May, pet owners across the United States celebrate National Pet Month. Given the popularity of pets, it’s no surprise that the NHS collection contains many images and stories of animals. One notable story features the origins of the Norman Bird Sanctuary.

The Norman family of Newport, whose wealth was partly secured by the development of the Newport Water Works, maintained residences both at Belair on Old Beach Road and Paradise Farm in Middletown. Photographs in the NHS collection reveal the family’s apparent menagerie of animals included dogs, exotic birds, chickens, a monkey and even a pig. Most notably, Mabel Norman (later Mabel Norman Cerio), a member of the Audubon Society, allocated $135,000 in her will towards the formation of a nature sanctuary, “for the propagation, preservation, and protection of birds.” The Norman Bird Sanctuary (NBS), which operates today on the family’s former Paradise Farm property, is a valued part of the local natural landscape and popular retreat for locals and visitors alike. May 30th marks Mabel’s birthday, which the NBS often commemorates with a party.

Above, clockwise from top left, Exotic bird on the grounds of Belair; Mrs. Abby Kinsley Norman with chickens at Belair; monkey on miniature house at Belair; dogs, possibly on porch at Belair; pig on a leash, unidentified location; rustic hen house at Belair.

History Bytes: Cornerstone Ceremony

As the Newport Historical Society’s Resource Center Renovation project progresses, we reflect on the 1915 cornerstone that was laid 100 years ago on 25 May 1915. On that day, the NHS held its annual meeting in the Senate Chamber of the Colony House and adjourned to the Touro Street headquarters to officially set in place the new cornerstone, which was filled with local mementos. President Daniel B. Fearing, Vice President Rev. Roderick Terry and Librarian (Executive Director) Edith May Tilley presided over the festivities.

Above: A photograph taken during the cornerstone ceremony on 25 May 1915 with Newport Historical Society officers. Librarian Edith May Tilley, standing to the right of the cornerstone, holds the Society’s feline mascot William Ellery. The Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House can be seen in the background.

History Bytes: Brewing in Newport

Giles Hosier (1724-1806), a Quaker merchant and brewer from Dorsetshire, England, married into the Mitchell and Hadwin families of Newport. In 1770 Hosier joined another Quaker merchant, Thomas Robinson, to operate a brewery in Hosier’s home. Because the brewery was producing more barrels, hogsheads and bottles of beer than they could store on their property, on 5 May 1770 Hosier and Robinson petitioned the General Assembly to lease the basement of the Colony House for beer storage for 14 years. The Hosier – Robinson partnership ended in 1774 and the brewery was closed soon afterwards. However by June of 1795 Hosier was back in business, once more petitioning the General Assembly for space in the Colony House.

Today the Hosier House continues its association with beer. Located at Broadway and Hosier Street, the same corner where it stood in the 18th century, it is now the home of the Fastnet Pub.

Above: A March 1795 ad from The Newport Mercury promoting the sale of Giles Hosier’s beer.