During the Summer of 1926, America was celebrating its Sesquicentennial, with special events nationwide and a huge exposition at Philadelphia. Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden (1882-1973) was touring and made a stop at Newport between New York and Boston. He arrived at Newport Harbor aboard J.P. Morgan’s yacht Corsair, and was met by his host Arthur Curtiss James in his private launch. The prince visited the Navy Base with Admiral Sims, toured the Old Stone Mill, was entertained at the new Hotel Viking and was the guest of honor at a lavish dinner at James’s Beacon Hill House. The following day he left to visit Worcester’s large Swedish community and on to Boston. Prince Gustaf inherited the Swedish throne in 1950 and served until his death in 1973. He was the father of the present King Carl Gustaf XVI, who visited Newport for the Swedish Challenge of the 1977 America’s Cup Race.
Archive for the ‘History Bytes’ Category
The Jewish cemetery on the corner of Bellevue Avenue and Kay Street dates back to 1677, long before the construction of Touro Synagogue. Sephardic Jews have been present in Newport since 1658 and required their own segregated burial place. The cemetery contains 38 marked graves dating from 1761-1866, and is enclosed by gates donated by Judah Touro in 1842. Other Newport families are buried in lower Manhattan, Philadelphia, the Caribbean and New Orleans.
After a long dormancy in the 1800s, Touro Synagogue experienced a re-birth from a new generation of Ashkenazi worshippers. Under the leadership of Max Levy, Jewish burial lots were purchased in Newport’s Braman Cemetery on Farewell Street and fenced off from non-Jewish graves as required. A wrought iron fence with granite and limestone entrance gates graced Farewell Street and the site was formally dedicated on Memorial Day (Decoration Day) 1911.
In 1945 cities from around the world were invited to promote themselves as the ideal site for the new location of the United Nations Headquarters. Under the leadership of John Nicholas Brown and kinsman Hon. Major Sherman Stonor of Oxfordshire, Newport submitted a proposal with the support of Governor Pastore and Theodore Francis Green. Newport’s ideal climate, sophisticated culture and legacy of democracy would make a perfect location, with the new headquarters building erected at Fort Adams. Ochre Court, Seaview Terrace and The Breakers would serve as offices and embassies, and a plethora of underutilized and abandoned mansions throughout Newport would be available for purchase. The international search committee rejected all proposals and chose free Rockefeller land in New York City for the headquarters, started in 1948.
1756 Cost of mahogany boards: £ 12.
1756 Cost of mahogany table and bed: £ 32.
2013 Cost of Job Townsend Newport table and bed, market value, adjusted for inflation and consumer price index with currency conversion: Priceless.
As part of the New Deal, the United States government established the WPA (Works Progress/ Projects Administration) to address unemployment during the Great Depression. From 1935-1943, approximately 8 million jobs were created, mostly local civic improvement construction projects such as road and sidewalk paving, wall building and shoreline erosion control. Locally the WPA built sidewalks and most of the stone walls, grandstands, concession buildings and other facilities in Newport’s public parks. Vernon Park, Freebody Park and Cardines Field are the most visible examples.
April is here and the Tax Man is lurking around every corner. In earlier times, taxes were ordered by the town and colony for the annual budget and specific projects such as building construction, military support and aid to the poor. In 1662 the General Assembly ordered a tax to help pay for John Clarke’s living expenses and passage from London to Newport. He arrived safely the following year with his luggage, carry-on bag and a box of parchment affectionately known as the King Charles Charter.
John D. Rockefeller was one of the few great industrialists who did not have a presence in Newport because he preferred the hills of upstate New York. Son John D. Jr. married Abigail Aldrich of Providence and brother William established connections to Newport through business partner, friend and in-law James Stillman. Descended from early Seventh Day Baptist settlers of Westerly, James Stillman (1850-1918) was a partner in Standard Oil, president of the National City Bank of New York and had interests in railroads with J.P. Morgan and E.H. Harriman. In 1892 he purchased “Oakwood,” the old Charles Russell cottage on Narragansett Avenue and spent summers there with his two daughters, who were married to William Rockefellers’ two sons. The house remained in the family until 1922 and was later demolished to make way for “Bois Dore” in 1926.
On 22 September 1963 the Alexander R. Walsh family of Gibbs Avenue delivered a singing recital to President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy at Hammersmith Farm. The family performed widely in the early 1960s and appeared on The Ted Mack Amateur Hour several times.
All of the great financiers and captains of industry visited Newport during the Gilded Age but not all had summer cottages here. John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) had numerous business connections with Newport families and participated in yacht racing as commodore of the New York Yacht Club while staying on his yacht Corsair (of which he had three). He had little interest in the frivolities of the Newport social scene and chose to spend time fishing with his buddies in the waters of Rhode Island Sound and Narragansett Bay. He was instrumental in establishing elite fishing clubs at Gooseberry Island and Graves Point, with clubhouses and a support staff to serve meals and other refreshments as needed.
Long before the Forever stamp and the threat of Saturday closures, Newport’s Post Office was an essential gathering place for mail and information from around the world. The modern Post Office system was an invention of Benjamin Franklin who established himself as Post Master General of the American colonies while in Philadelphia. In 1745 he appointed Thomas Vernon the Deputy Postmaster of Newport, a post he held until the Revolution began in 1775. Thomas Vernon (1718-1784) was the Tory brother of merchants and patriots Samuel and William Vernon of the Vernon House and United States Navy Board. He was later imprisoned for his loyalist activities and kept a journal of his captivity which is in the collection of the Society.
Signed by Benjamin Franklin and bearing his heraldic seal, this document (pictured above) appointed Vernon Deputy Postmaster of Newport on 20 January 1764 for a three year term. The Post Office was located several doors south of the Brick Market on Thames Street.