Newport Rhode Island: Summer Residences of the Rich and Famous

Drove to see the Ghetto community of Newport RI, the home of the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the Americas Cup Yacht Club. The town is one of the oldest, settled in 1639, in Rhode Island. It and Portsmouth, RI have a great US Naval History, being the home of the SeaBees, the origin of the Quanset hut, and the continuing Naval War College.

The town has always been very kind to people in need of a home, especially if you had the money to spend. The story is told of a sloop which set sail from Newport for some whaling. The captain asked his men if they wanted some adventure and became a pirate ship. They sailed to Madagascar, were refitted, and then attacked the treasure ship of one of the wealthiest Maharajahs of India. Because of their small size, they were able to play a cat and mouse game with the heavier and slower ship. Each one of the 100 sailor came home with 1,500 pounds British Sterling, valued at over one million dollars. The captain and mates received more than that. Newport welcomed these robbers with open arms.

A century later they welcomed newer robbers, the robber barons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as the Vanderbilt’s,, the Astors, and other notables. Many of their summer cottages are visible from Bellevue Avenue and the Cliff Walk along the ocean.  Salve Regina University has been endowed with some of these properties along the cliff walk. Some of the properties are open for the commoner to see the sinful opulence of those who made an indecent amount of money, while paying the laborers slave wages. The prices charged to see their cottages is still robbery.(Enough preaching).

In the center of town are the many homes dating from Colonial times. The Truro Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in the United States. During the early 19th century it fell on hard times, because of the lack of a congregation. When the Ashkenazy Jews from Eastern Europe started to immigrate to the US, their congregation built in size. George Washington paid them a visit in 1790 and assured them that religious freedom was important for this young country, which would not tolerate persecution or any sanctions against any religion.  While we were visiting, a docent was answering question from the group.  One man commented that the Hewbrew writing on the wall was incorrect.  Another gentleman remarked: “That is sooo Semetic.  When they weave a rug, they always drop a stitch at the beginning.  Then they are perfect.  This imperfection shows that only Allah is perfect.”

Nearby is a tower of unknown origin.  People think that it was erected by the Vikings. From archeological sites in Scandinavia and ones in Ireland, I think that the design is more Celtic in origin. None the less it is a mystery.

Directly across the street is the Channing Memorial Unitarian Universalist Church, one of the first I America. Channing was instrumental in the fostering of this church in America. He was born and grew up in Newport.

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