Newport County Religious Heritage Trail
Since its very founding, Rhode Island was a refuge of religious freedom. That's why Newport County has such a diverse collection of historic religious structures dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. Along this trail you can visit these sites and learn about their significant role in the religious history of America.
Great Friends Meeting House
The oldest religious structure in Newport. Expanded in 1729 and 1807; recently restored. Home of the New England Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends until 1905. The Quakers were the dominant religious group for the first 100 years of the colony's history; as late as 1730, over half of the people in Newport were members of the society. Farewell Street and Marlborough Street, Newport; Seasonal hours. Group inquiries welcome. For more information, call 401-846-0813; www.newporthistory.org/properties/great-friends-meeting-house/
Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House
Adjacent to Newport Historical Society Museum. Built in 1730, possibly by Richard Munday, the meeting house is the oldest of its faith in America and contains a beautiful pulpit and William Claggett clock. Tuesday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sat, 9:30 a.m.-noon. 82 Touro Street, Newport; 401-846-0813; www.newporthistory.org/properties/seventh-day-baptist-meeting-house/
St. Mary's Church
Oldest Roman Catholic parish in Rhode Island, established April 8, 1828. Wedding location of Jacqueline Bouvier to John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Sept. 12, 1953. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-11 a.m. Closed holidays. 12 William Street, Newport; 401-847-0475
The oldest synagogue building in the United States, dedicated in 1763. The congregation was founded in 1658 by descendants of Sephardim from Spain and Portugal seeking a haven from religious persecution. Designed by noted colonial architect Peter Harrison. Considered one of the finest examples of 18th-century architecture in America. Friday evening services, 6 p.m. in winter; 7 p.m. in summer. Saturday services, 8:45 a.m. Call for times. 85 Touro Street, Newport; 401-847-4794; www.tourosynagogue.org
Trinity Episcopal Church
Parish founded 1698. Washington worshipped here in Pew 81. One of the finest structures in America. Features only three-tiered center-aisle wine-glass pulpit in America. Organ tested by Handel before sent from England by philosopher Bishop George Berkeley. Queen Elizabeth II and the Archbishop of Canterbury visited in 1976. Tiffany stained glass windows. $3 million rehabilitation completed in 1987 to original specifications. The church has been in use since 1726. May, Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; June 15-Labor Day, daily, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sept. 8-April 30, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Queen Anne Square, Spring and Church Streets, Newport; 401-846-0660; www.trinitynewport.org
Whitehall Museum House
Built by Dean George Berkeley, philosopher, educator and Anglican Bishop. Authentically furnished for 1729-1731. Maintained by the National Society of Colonial Dames. July-August, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and by appointment the rest of the year. 311 Berkeley Avenue, Middletown; 401-846-3116
Newport Gateway Center
23 America's Cup Avenue
Newport, Rhode Island
Great spots for snapshots.
- Cliff Walk - picturesque 3.5-mile walkway overlooking the Atlantic and the backyard of Newport's famed mansions. www.newportcliffwalk.com
- Brenton Point State Park - on a clear day you can see forever www.riparks.com/Locations/LocationBrentonPoint.html
Side trips for that one-of-a-kind find:
- Newport County has dozens of antique shops and art galleries for every collector's taste. www.gonewport.com/nav.aspx?id=142
- Newport Art Museum - www.newportartmuseum.com
- The National Museum of American Illustration - exhibiting original artworks form the Golden Age of American Illustration. www.americanillustration.org
Great side trips for outdoor fun:
- Cliff Walk - stroll along the walk to see the rocky Atlantic coast and view the backyards of some of Newport's famed Gilded Age mansions. www.newportcliffwalk.com
- Norman Bird Sanctuary - a 450-acre wildlife refuge offering over seven miles of hiking trails. www.normanbirdsanctuary.org
- Ocean Drive - drive, walk or bike along 10 miles of scenic ocean coastline in Newport. www.tenmiledrive.com
Here are some tips on shopping along the trail.
- Bowens, Bannisters and Sayers Wharf - shops and galleries along cobblestone streets and waterfront.
- Brick Marketplace; Historic Thames Street
- Famed Bellevue Avenue Shops
Did you know.
- The International Tennis Hall of Fame has the only open public grass tennis courts in the country
- The White Horse Tavern is the oldest operating tavern in America
Learn more about Newport County at:
- Museum of Newport History - provides the whole family with an overview of Newport's rich and varied history and architectural beauty. www.newporthistorical.org
- Newport Historical Society Archives and Library - the Society features changing exhibits and has extensive holdings of colonial silver, china, portraits, ship models. www.newporthistorical.org
- Redwood Library and Athenaeum - oldest library building in America - holds collections of 18th- and 19th-century portraits, sculpture, antique furniture, rare and unique books. www.redwoodlibrary.org
- Jamestown Museum - 19th-century schoolhouse with permanent exhibit of memorabilia from Jamestown ferries and special annual exhibits
- International Yacht Restoration School - see students restore classic yachts of yesteryear. Tour Coronet - the most historic American grand yacht still in existence. www.iyrs.org