When we visited Newport Rhode Island recently, I had anticipated the Gilded Age Mansion tours, which we spent the day exploring; wonderful! The town still held a few surprises though. I found myself with of hours of evening light remaining after visiting the mansions. I decided to do a little bit of wandering about the harbor area on foot. I’d noticed some very interesting and intriguing neighborhoods of historic houses nearby, on the drive into Newport earlier that day. Once outside our harbor location hotel, I got my bearings and set out to explore the area.
Within a few minutes I was deep into the neighborhoods where the historic homes, I later learned were called Whaling Houses abound. Many of these were built here in the late 1770s when the British troops pulled out of Newport after they were quartered there during the American Revolution. Apparently, during the war, the redcoats initially intentionally destroyed many of the local homes as a political statement and later burned many of them for firewood. There was a bit of a building boom after the war, when many of these homes were rebuilt by families whose income was due in large part to the whaling industry.
Newport has an interesting, albeit dark at times, history stretching way back to its inception in 1639. In the far past, Newport was a valuable harbor town, dealing in the run trade and the slave trade as well as trading in imports and other merchandise. Whaling was a highly profitable industry for many years. Interestingly, pirating, for a long time, was almost condoned in Rhode Island so the state drew pirates like a magnet.
We’d made reservations earlier for the Newport Ghost Walk and met our guide, Rhiana, in the lobby of our hotel where the rest of the group congregated. From there we had an interesting historic walking tour of the town after dark, with many spirited tales included. Apparently, many past residents left a strong ghostly presence behind. Our tour included tales from all walks of life and many old private and public buildings and areas. We concluded our journey at the Trinity Church Cemetery, where we were met by a black cat! From there we meandered back to our hotel at about 10:30 pm, passing by the lit-up waterfront of Newport Harbor.
Our tour showed us a very different side of Newport from the glamorous daytime version we’d experienced earlier. In that one day I felt like we’d had a pretty well-rounded experience in Newport; from glitz to ghosts!