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Category Archives: Newport Art and Culture

60th Annual Newport Jazz Festival Lineup

February 7, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

Tickets for the 60th Annual Newport Jazz Festival, one of Newport’s biggest music festivals, are already on sale and the lineup is here.  Fort Adams will be bringing amazing jazz performances to Newport once again from August 1st to the 3rd.  The music starts at 11:30am on Friday, August 1st and ends at 7:00pm on Sunday, August 3rd.

njf-big[1]George Wein produced the first Jazz Festival in 1954 in order to celebrate jazz music and to make a case for its relevance.  From then on, this festival has continued to showcase jazz icons and bring attention to up and coming performers.  The Newport Jazz Festival has provided many memorable moment for jazz history, such as the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1956 and the introduction of Esperanza Spalding.  Performers at this festival both respect the tradition of jazz and reflect the changes in the current musical trends.

Here’s a list of the artists who will be bringing their talents to the Fort Adams stages.

Firday, August 1st – Jon Batiste & Stay Human, John Zorn’s Madasa Marathon, Miguel Zenon Big Band, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Snarky Puppy, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Rudresh Mahanthappa – A Charlie Parker Project, Amir ElSaffar Quintet, Mostly Other People Do The Killing, Berklee Global Jazz Ambassadors, URI Jazz Festival Big Band

Saturday, August 2nd – Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Dave Holland Prism, Gregory Porter, Robert Glasper Experiment, SFJAZZ Collective, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band, Pedrito Martinez Group, Dick Hyman, Howard Alden & Jay Leonhart, Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet, Newport Now 60 Band, Stefano Bollani & Hamilton de Holanda

Sunday, August 3rd – Bobby McFerrin spirityouall, David Sanborn & Joey DeFrancesco, Dr. John & The Nite Trippers, Gary Burton New Quartet, Vijay Iyer Sextet, Danilo Perez Panama 500, Django Festival All-Stars, Ron Carter Trio, Lee Konitz Quartet, Ravi Coltrane, The Cookers, Migus Big Band, The Brubeck Brothers, George Wein & Newport All-Stars

Preservation Society of Newport– Bringing Newport History to the Public

January 30, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

Some of the biggest attractions in Newport are the Newport Mansion, which wouldn’t be available to the public without the efforts of the Preservation Society of Newport.  The Preservation Society was founded by a group of visionaries in 1945.  Their goal was to save Newport’s historical architecture from neglect and ruin.  It is a non-profit organization, which now has 11 properties, 7 of which are National Historic Landmarks.  They have worked to “protect, preserve and present” these houses as museums to share the history of Newport with further generations.  The Preservation Society of Newport is the largest cultural organization in Rhode Island, and is continuously working to engage the public in America’s heritage.

The Breakers

The Breakers

These historical building date back as far as the 1700’s and tell the story of America from the Colonial Era through the Gilded Age. More than 900,000 people visit these 11 properties every year, learning about what New England life was like within the last 250 years.  From the Hunter House to the Breakers, guests can explore history and see what life was like.  Both audio tours and guided tours are available.

The Preservation Society is always working to improve the historic experience and get their guests involved.  This past summer, the audio tour of the Elms was updated, which includes recent research and tells the story of the Venetian paintings in the dining room.  It also adds more information about servant life in the Gilded Age, incase you can’t experience the separate servants life tour.

In October 2013, the Preservation Society was approved by the RI Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, to create a visitors center at the Breakers, Newport’s largest mansion.  This new center will get rid of the current ticket booth, portable restroom trailer, vending machine shed and seasonal ticket tent and create a one-story building that adopts the style of the original landscape.  It will offer visitors information about the Breakers as well as the other Preservation Society properties.  It will also offer refreshments and comfortable bathrooms.  No irreversible alteration to the landscape will happen and the historic “fabric” and “viewsheds” will be preserved.  They are just waiting on the appeal to the Newport Zoning Board.preservation-society-of-newport-county-logo

Top Ten Historical Attractions in Newport RI

January 18, 2014 by Marshall Slocum Inn

Cliff Walk from the air

Cliff Walk from the air

I decided to write a piece on the  top ten historical attractions in Newport RI to assist our guests if time is short.   Most if not all of these landmarks are within walking distance of the Marshall Slocum Inn and/or have free ample parking.  Although there are significantly more than 10 historical landmarks we decided to offer a top ten list to guide our guests when visiting Newport.  For those guests who are staying longer at the bed and breakfast there are many more places and sites to see than these ten.

  1. The Breakers – The Breakers is undoubtably the most famous tourist attraction in Newport RI for domestic and international visitors.  Completed in 1895, The Breakers is a concrete example of the Vanderbilt families exorbant wealth derived from, amongst other things, the New York Central Railroad.  This National Historic Landmark consists of 70 rooms adorned with rare marble, alabaster, and gilded woods.  Perhaps the most enjoyable feature of the Breakers are the spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and the historic Cliff Walk.
  2. Touro Synagogue – The Touro Synagogue is the quintessential example of Roger Williams’s promotion of religious tolerance and could be a main topic of why Rhode Island is it’s own state.  Completed in 1763, the Synagogue became the first accepted active place of worship in the United States for Jewish persons.  During the British occupation of Newport RI the synagogue survived burning due to it’s usefulness to the British troops as a hospital and meeting place.  Recently, a beautiful new visitors center was completed giving tourists a great resource to learn about Judah Touro and his followers.
  3. The Marble House – Inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles, the Marble House is the other grand property of the Vanderbilt family.  The house is ordained with gold and marble throughout which architect, Richard Morris Hunt, intended to be a statement of wealth during the infamous Gilded Age.  Alva Vanderbilt, the properties owner, held her “Votes for Women” rallies at the mansion as part of her lifelong commitment to women’s rights.
  4. Rough Point – Rough Point is the home of Doris Duke, heiress and art collector who turned her good fortune into a life’s work in philanthropy.  Most of Duke’s fortune came from the tobacco plantations owned by her family and she is said to have donated up to $400 million throughout her lifetime.  Her philanthropic legacy continues today throughout the City of Newport by means of the Newport Restoration Foundation and the Doris Duke Foundation.
  5. National Museum of American Illustration – The National Museum of American Illustration is perhaps the most under visited and cautiously marketed attraction in Newport.  Located at Vernon Court, a Gilded Age mansion on Bellevue Avenue, the building hosts the first national museum devoted exclusively to American illustration art, featuring Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parish, JC Leyendecker, NC Wyeth, Jessie Willcox Smith, and 150 other artists.
  6. The Elms – A personal favorite of the staff at the Inn, The Elms was completed in 1901 as a summer retreat for coal magnate Edward Berwin and his wife Herminie.  Features of the house include modern amenities that were unheard of at the time as well as floor to ceiling artwork and tapestries.  Perhaps the best part of the Elms preservation is the behind the scenes tour where visitors can see the staff living quarters, boiler room, laundry room, kitchen, and the secret roof deck with expansive views of Newport and the Atlantic Ocean.
  7. Fort Adams – Situated in a strategic location overlooking Narragansett Bay, Fort Adams is a unique example of coastal defense systems utilized pre Revolutionary War up to World War II.  Visitors can take a guided tour of the interior of the fort, the many underground tunnels, and the amazing overlook posts with 360 degree views of Aquidneck Island and Narragansett Bay.  Fort Adams is also home to the Jazz and Folk Festivals which occur each summer in Newport.
  8. The Newport Mill – The Newport Mill is located in beautiful Touro Park and is thought to be the oldest remaining structure in Newport.  There is no confusion about it’s usage from the 18th century onward but the debate rages on as to the buildings origin and purpose.  Some theories point to an astronomical tool and others to an observatory for the Chinese.  In a document of 1741 the tower is described as “the old stone mill” an d in 1760 the Tower was used as a haymow.  During the American Revolution, the tower was used by the Americans as a lookout, and by the British to store ammo.
  9. The Cliff Walk – Other than the Breakers the Cliff Walk is perhaps the number one tourist attraction in Newport.  Although there is not a lot of historical facts associated with the walk it offers too many beautiful scenic views and has been around since the Gilded Age to be left off this list.  The 3.5 mile walk was used by the Vanderbilts and all their wealthy neighbors on walks to Easton’s Beach.  In 1975 the walk was designated as a National Historic Trail, the first in New England.
  10. Washington Square – Two of Colonial America’s most significant structures are located at either end of Washington Square, the Colony House and the Brick Market.  Built in 1741, the Colony House is one of the best maintained surviving Georgian buildings in the United States.  The stately building was used for the colonial legislature during the fight for independence.  Another example of classic Georgian architecture is the Brick Market built in 1762.  The traditional open first level served as a marketplace for trading, much like Fanueil Hall in Boston.

White Horse Tavern

September 27, 2013 by Marshall Slocum Inn

Most people don’t think about history when they go out to eat, but at the White Horse Tavern it’s hard not too.  This Tavern is the oldest, still running Tavern in the United States, rich with history and still serving excellent food.

The White Horse Tavern has only had 6 owners since being built in 1652 as the two story home of Francis Brinley.  Just over 20 years later in 1673, this property was acquired by William Mayes, Sr., who transformed it into a tavern, identifying it with a white horse – the symbol of a tavern during that time.

For about 100 years before the Colony House was constructed, this tavern was a meeting place for the Colony’s General Assembly, Criminal Court, as well as City Council.  When William Mayes Jr., a notorious pirate, became the innkeeper in 1702 after his father, he was granted a license to sell “all sorts of Strong Drink.” William caused much embarrassment to the British officials and William’s sister Mary and her husband Robert Nichols soon became the tavern’s innkeepers.  City councilors continued to dine here and charged their meals to the public treasury.White_Horse_Tavern_in_Newport_RI[1]

In 1730, a new tavern keeper, Jonathan Nichols, gave the tavern its present name, The White Horse Tavern.  He was followed by Walter Nichols, who left Newport in 1776 to avoid the British, but returned later. When he returned, he added a gambrel rood and re-opened the tavern.

The Nichols family sold the tavern in 1895 to Thomas and Bridget Preece and it became a rooming house.

The structure suffered from use and neglect by 1954, but was acquired by the Preservation Society of Newport and was restored.  In 1957 it re-opened as the White Horse Tavern.  In 1981, O.L. Pitts and three partners purchased the Tavern and continued the tradition of “good fellowship, good food and good cheer.”  O.L. Pitts gave the tavern over to Paul Hogan, a native of Newport on his 90th birthday, and the White Horse Tavern continues to thrive.

 

 

 

 

The Whitehorne House

September 19, 2013 by Marshall Slocum Inn

The Whitehorne House, located on Thames Street, was built in 1811 and is a rare example of a Federal-style mansion.  It features a formal garden, a hipped roof and classical entry portico, as well as a grand central hallway featuring hand carved details.  This house is home to a large collection of 18th century American furniture, including works from the Townsend and Goddard workshops and Benjamin Baker.Whitehorne House Newport

Samuel Whitehorne Jr. made his fortune through various commercial enterprises, such as rum distilling, banking, shipping and most likely slave trading.  Whitehorne was one of Newport’s last great merchant “princes” due to the collapsed economy after the American Revolution.  The Whitehorne House was a symbol of his prosperity.  However, it was short lived after two of his ships were lost at sea.  Whitehorne went bankrupt and his house was sold at auction in 1843.  It was converted to shops and apartments and gradually deteriorated.  Thankfully, in 1969, the Newport Restoration Foundation purchased and restored the property.

Not only is the Whitehorne House now home to some of the best examples of Newport and Rhode Island furniture from the late 18th century, but it has a magnificent garden, which is an interpretation of a Federal period garden for an affluent, urban family.  The garden is filled with antique roses, blueberry bushes, fruit trees and various perennials and annuals.  The garden maintains a rustic quality despite its “refined geometry”.

 

Chateau-sur-Mer

August 31, 2013 by Marshall Slocum Inn

Since it’s completion in 1852, Chateau-sur-Mer has undergone a major transformation.  Chateau-sur-Mer was first built by Seth Bradford, for William Shepard Wetmore, as a romantic Italianate villa.  Wetmore wanted something a little more than the ordinary summer home and therefore had his made of rough-cut, Fall River granite, giving it a more rugged look, which wasn’t found in any of the other seaside villas.  Though smaller than it is now, it was expensive and substantial enough to be considered palatial.  It became a turning point in domestic architecture and triggered an architectural competition among summer residents.

Wetmore was a great entertainer and was featured in the New York Times for his “fete champetre,” held in 1857, and attended by over 3,000 guests.  This party was the “start” of Chateau-sur-Mer.  Unfortunately, when Wetmore died in 1862, his estate was passed to his son, George Peabody Wetmore, who undertook a major rebuilding of his fathers estate.

Richard Morris Hunt was the architect hired for the project.  He altered the appearance of the Chateau so much that many believed the original had been torn down and replaced.  His revisions began in 1871.  He switchedchateau-sur-mer-newport-ri[1] the main entrance from the west side to the north, built a grand carriage entrance, and replaced the gambrel roof with a steeper mansard roof.  Hunt tore out the old service wing and replaced it with a billiards room, added a wing on the north side for a service area and new dining room, and created a dramatic entrance hall three stories high with balconies, skylights and an imperial staircase.

Several years later he continued the transformation of Chateau-sur-Mer and added another floor above the dining room and service wing as well as raising the mansard roofs.  Critics have since used words such as “stern” and “severe” to describe this impressive mansion.

George Peabody Wetmore died in 1921 and left the estate to his two daughters, Edith and Maude, who began adding some softer touches to the very masculine residence.  The house gradually filled with contemporary paintings and drawings and Chinese porcelain.  The furnishings of the house were auctioned off after the death of Edith Wetmore in 1968, many of which were purchased by the Preservation Society, whom also purchased the estate.

Isaac Bell House

August 12, 2013 by Marshall Slocum Inn

The Isaac Bell House sits on the corner of Bellevue Avenue and Perry Street and is one of the best examples of shingle style architecture in the nation.  It was built between 1881 and 1883 by McKim, Mead and White as the summer residence for Isaac Bell Jr.  Bell was a wealthy cotton broker and the brother-in-law of theIsaac Bell House Newport Mansion publisher of the New York Herald, James Gordon Bennett.

This house blends English Queen Anne with New England colonial.  The architects used Oriental design influences which created a new “vernacular” style, known now as “shingle style.”  The Isaac Bell House helps illustrate the evolution of Newport as a premier place for great design and a distinctly American style of architecture.  This house also features Arts and Crafts interiors, an open floor plan and Japanese inspired columns.

This house was passed through a variety of owners before being purchased by the Preservation Society of Newport County in 1994.  The house was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

America’s Oldest – Touro Synagogue

July 26, 2013 by Marshall Slocum Inn

Touro Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in America, is located just minutes away from our Newport Inn.  Newport’s first Jewish residents made their way to the island in 1658 from Barbados.  Upon the arrival of these fifteen families, a new congregation was formed.  They called themselves the “Yeshuat Isreal.” By 1677, the congregation realized they needed to acquire land for a Jewish cemetery and Mordechai Campanal and Moses Israel Paeheco, two of the original immigrants, purchased a lot on the corner of what is now Kay and Touro Streets.

The Jewish population had grown by 1758, to a point where they needed a larger, permanent gathering place and house of worship.  Peter Harrison, a Newport resident volunteered to design the synagogue and construction began in 1759.  Newport’s Jewish csynagogueinterior2009[1]itizens were closely tied to communities throughout the mid-Atlantic region as well as the Caribbean and garnered significant financial support.  Communities in London, Jamaica and Surinam also lent financial support.  The building was completed in 1763 and was dedicated on December 2nd, during the Chanukah festival celebrations.  The dedication was a regional ceremony attended not only by the congregation, but by clergy and other dignitaries from around the colony.

During the American Revolution, the British occupied Newport and many of the Jewish residents fled the city.  Isaac Touro kept watch over the synagogue and it became a hospital for the British military as well as a public assembly hall.  British troops were desperate during the cold winters and tore down and burned a number of local residences and buildings, however, since the synagogue was used as a hospital and meeting place, it was saved from the same fate.  British troops evacuated Newport in October of 1779 and within the next few years many of the Jewish families returned.

The war took a toll on the regions economy and rival ports quickly overshadowed Newport.  Many of the Jewish merchants had business interest in these other cities, and by the end of the War of 1812, most of the families had moved.  The synagogue was used occasionally for holy days and funerals.  The congregation decided to lock the doors and left Stephen Gould as caretaker.  Legal oversight and its deed were given to Congregation Shearith Isreal of New York, with whom there was already a close relationship.  Even with the distance from the synagogue, Newport natives Abraham and Judah Touro both provided aid to maintain the properties. Abraham had a brick wall built around the cemetery in 1820 and bequeathed $10,000 to the State of Rhode Island for the support and maintenance of the “Old Jewish Synagogue” when he died.  He also bequeathed $5,000 for the maintenance of the road connecting the cemetery and the synagogue.  Because of his generosity, this street was named Touro Street the synagogue took on the name of Touro Synagogue.  Judah died in 1854 and had previously replaced the wall his brother had made which had fallen into disrepair.  His will included $10,000 towards the ministry and maintenance of the synagogue.

In 1881, the “new” Jewish community of Newport petitioned the New York congregation to reopen the synagogue for services and to appoint a permanent rabbi.  Congregation Shearith Isreal in New York complied and sent a rabbi from London, but retained the rights to the building.  A lease amount of $1 per year is still paid to the New York group.  In 1946, Touro Synagogue was designated as a National Historic Site, followed two years later by the Touro Synagogue Foundation to aid in the maintenance and upkeep of the building and grounds.  Touro Synagogue remains an active house of worship and is open for tours.

Touro Synagogue Outside

 

Brenton Point State Park

July 6, 2013 by Marshall Slocum Inn

Located on Ocean Drive, Brenton Point State Park is the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon in Newport.  Brenton Point is located right where Narragansett Bay meets the Atlantic and has one of the greatest views in town. Picnicking, hiking and fishing are some of the activities that can be enjoyed here, as well as simply sitting back and enjoying the cool ocean breeze. Brenton Point State Park

Brenton Point’s history dates back to early Rhode Island history. Brenton Point State Park was named after Governor William Brenton, a religious refugee from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  After living in Boston for four years he was “vigorously excused” in 1637 and spent time in Anne Hutchinson’s Portsmouth community before settling at the southern end of the Island in 1639.  He divided his land, which today would not only be Brenton Point, but Castle Hill, Hammersmith Farm and Fort Adams, into two farms.  Brenton understood that this area was very good for raising sheep (one of Rhode Island’s earliest economic export), and eventually he was raising 11,000 sheep.  Brenton not only became a prosperous land owner, but also a prominent political figure in the colony.

William Brenton became the governor of Rhode Island and served from 1666 to 1669.  Brenton happily took chances in annual elections and held office under the Charter of 1663.  He died in 1674.  Two years after Brenton’s death, Newport faced its first real challenge when the Wampanoag Indian Chief, Metacomet, united Indian tribes to expel white settlers in the mainland Massachusetts and Rhode Island towns.  Fortunately, Newport and Portsmouth avoided massacres and being burned to the ground, and instead took in refugees from the areas that did.  During the time that followed, Brenton Point and Castle Hill held their guard against pirates who were also seeking refuge in Narragansett Bay.Brenton Point State Park WWll Batteries

In the first half of the eighteenth century, Brenton point became a “portal” to the Privateers (commercial ships ready to wage war on England’s enemies).  In 1776, Newport was a captured town, behind enemy lines, in the American Revolution.  Cannons at Brenton Point and Castle Hill defended any attempts of the Americans to free the inhabitants under British garrison control for three years.

When the war was finally over, Newport and the surrounding farms were devastated for decades.  Eventually the city was rescued by those seeking summer fun.  Farm houses from before the civil war were transformed into guest houses.  Wealthy industrialists from New York and Pittsburg began building mansions along Cliff Walk and Ocean Drive.  Theodore M. Davis from Boston built a house known as “The Reef” in 1885 at Brenton Point, which became famous for its walled gardens and green houses.  The estate took up eighteen acres, and after Davis’ death it went to Mr. and Mrs. Milton Budlong who used it until 1941.

During WWII, the site was one of the gateways to Narragansett Bay, making it an ideal location for coastal artillery battery.  The house was returned to the Budlongs in 1946, but remained unoccupied and thus continued to deteriorate, until finally, a fire destroyed the villa in 1960.  In 1969 the site became “open space property ,” under the control of the State of Rhode Island as part of the Green Acres Program.  It became a Brenton Point State Park in 1976.

 

Source: http://www.riparks.com/History/HistoryBrentonPoint.html

Greenvale Vineyards

June 22, 2013 by Marshall Slocum Inn

Greenvale Vineyards is located five miles from Newport, RI, along the Sakonnet River in Portsmouth.  Greenvale is one of three Vineyards in Newport County and is committed to producing fine wines as well as conserving open space.  Listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, this farm has been owned by the same family since 1863.  In the beginning, this land was intended to be a 50 acre, self sustaining, family run operation.  The combination of water, rich soil and temperate climate make Aquidneck Island the perfect place for farming and growing grapes for wine production.

Greenvale’s mission in simple: they want to maintain their historic farm by producing world class wines and selling them from their Tasting Room, which is a restored stable, as well as various locations in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  At the Vineyard, they provide recreation and education to visitors while alsosunrise-1[1] focusing on the preservation of beautiful buildings and the conservation of open space.

Cortlandt and Nancy Parker, fourth generation farmers began growing grapes as a hobby in the 1960’s.  About 20 years later, they recognized the pressure that farm land was facing on the Island and decided to develop a commercial vineyard in order to have a viable farming operation.  They started growing their grapes for Sakonnet Vineyard, located in Little Compton, across the river.  In the 90’s, with the help of their daughter and her husband, the Parkers set out to develop Greenvale’s own wine after hearing that their fruit was “too good” and should be produced under a Greenvale label.  In 2000, the Stable at Greenvale Farms was restored, which allowed the farm and vineyard to be open for tours, tastings and music.

Greenvale produces 3, 500 cases of wine annually from grapes grown on 24 acres of farmland.  All the harvesting is done by hand and the wine is produced right on Aquidneck Island and processed the old fashion way, in a basket press.  Greenvale Vineyards produces seven types of wine including: Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay Select, Greenvale Chardonnay, Elms Meritage, Greendale Vidal Blanc, Skipping Stone White and Rosecliff Pinot Gris.

 

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