New England Trip 2012 – Day 7 – Newport, Rhode Island
Last night we crossed from Connecticut into Rhode Island and toured along the beach area hoping that one of the beach resorts might still be open this late in the season. No luck! They were all closed for the season so we moved back inland a bit and found the Winnapaug Inn which stays open all year long. We had supper in their adjacent Venice Restaurant and then headed off to bed. It was pretty tough to see anything at night but,, in the morning when I walked out onto the room’s balcony, I found out that there was a golf course right next to us that provided me with a pretty nice view of the area.
Our destination for today was Newport, Rhode Island. Neither of us had been to Rhode Island before so were looking forward to the adventure of seeing some of Newport’s famous mansions and its seaport. We were traveling along the secondary roadways so getting to the western end of the Jamestown Bridge (Route 138) was our first challenge. The Jamestown Bridge is toll free and links the mainland to the island community of Jamestown and from there a toll bridge (the Newport Bridge) carries travelers to Newport, RI.
Once we took the right hand turn to get us off the bridge and into Rhode Island, we headed for the Tourist Information office where we received good service and plenty of advice on what sightseeing options we would have for our limited one day tour of Newport Rhode Island. A drive around the cape out to Brenton Point State Park was recommended as it would provide us with good views of the harbour and glimpses of some of the homes of the wealthy who still call Newport, RI their home for at least part of the year.
The route to Brenton Point that was recommended to us followed the shore line at first and then had plenty of twists and turns but was well marked as it winds its way through some residential areas and then suddenly opens out onto farm land which is part of Fort Adams State Park. Quite a transition and worth a more detailed visit at some other time.
One of the attractions of the Newport, RI area is the large number of mansions that have been preserved from the gilded age period when this was THE place to be. There are a number of these mansions that are open to the public for touring and we had decided that we would try to see two of them if time permitted. For the most part, the construction of the mansions on Bellevue Avenue was done in the 1880’s and 1890’s with additions and modifications in later years. Tickets for the tours are available on-line or can be purchased on-site. Multiple mansion tour tickets are also available at a significant discount and are a good buy especially if you are staying in Newport RI for more than one day. See the websites of The Preservation Society of Newport County and The Newport Restoration Foundation for more information on the most popular mansions and tours.
We opted to visit “Rough Point” which is the former home of Doris Duke who lived in this home up until her death in the 1990’s. Clicking on the image above will take you to our separate blog entry for this beautiful ‘cottage’. Photography is not permitted inside the building but I did have the enjoyment of photographing the fire trucks that arrived in response to a fire alarm that went off while we were inside on the tour. The temporary evacuation of the building and the time that that consumed meant that we wouldn’t have time to tour another mansion on this visit to Newport RI. Therefore, after touring “Rough Point”, we just drove along Bellevue Avenue for a drive-by look at the amazing collection of ‘cottages’ that lined both sides of the street. Hard to believe that they were considered to be summer homes.
There are many interesting stories about one-up-man-ship and “Keeping up with the Jones” among the people of Newport when they are describing life in the 1800’s and early 1900’s in Newport RI. One such story related to the Casino which apparently came to be when the actions of an exclusive men’s club, the Newport Reading Room, didn’t respond with open arms when a British officer won a bet by riding onto the premises. In response, the initiator of the bet commissioned the building of the Casino. Casinos of the 1880’s were recreational centers for the wealthy but not gambling establishments.
The Newport Casino building presently houses restaurants and stores but more importantly is the home of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
It was beginning to drizzle a bit as the afternoon light began to diminish. We were heading over to Cape Cod, so I stopped long enough to photograph another fire hydrant and then off we went again.