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Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Magog and Owl's Head
Public DomainNewport, Magog and Owl's Head - Credit: Robert N. Dennis collection

An August 1873 supplement to Harper's Weekly records Rhode Island as being settled in 1638 “by John Clark and a little band of persecuted brethren seeking an asylum from the religious intolerance of Massachusetts.”  The first settlement was on the north of the island, at Portsmouth.  The following spring, Newport was founded on the south of the island. 

Memphremagog House, Newport
Public DomainMemphremagog House, Newport - Credit: Clifford, D. A.

The supplement describes Newport as “the oldest and most picturesque watering-place in this country.  The town began its rise to popularity in 1830, when it “became known as a pleasant watering-place. Families from the Southern States, attracted by its genial climate, began to visit here during the summer, living entirely in boarding-houses.” It took until 1851 before the town became a highly popular and fashionable watering-place.  The rush for development quickly followed – private cottages sprung up along the main streets, and the wealthy soon began building ornate summer residences.  The town was suddenly populated by Swiss chalets, French villas, and English cottages.  According to the supplement, “probably in no other place in America has there been such lavish expenditure of money in the search for comfort and luxury.”

By 1870, Newport was “the metropolis of summer resorts. Its picturesque situation, delightful climate, and the charm of shady groves… must for many years to come give it the preference with those who value these advantages above the attractions of a purely fashionable resort.” Read more from the supplement here.