Preserving Newport’s Historical Character


Take just one step onto the cobblestone streets of Newport, Rhode Island, and you’ll see it isn’t just a charming coastal town; it’s a living tapestry woven from centuries of rich history. From its colonial beginnings and Gilded Age grandeur to its Naval history and vibrant modern art scene, Newport has a story to tell. Due to the preservation efforts made by locals and city managers, Newport is a meticulously preserved chapter of American history.


Various organizations document, restore, and share Newport’s past. Whether collecting personal stories of locals or meticulously restoring its architectural gems, these groups ensure that the stories of Newport don’t become gentle whispers but remain strong voices that seem to travel through time, captivating hearts and minds for generations to come. 

Guardians of the Past

The Newport Historical Society

Preserving The City-by-the-Sea’s history and architecture isn’t a new concept. The Newport Historical Society chartered in 1854, was founded to preserve books, objects, and ephemera about Newport. They are responsible for creating the Newport Historic District. Established in 1965, the Historic District is described by the National Register of Historic Places as “being roughly bounded by Van Zandt Avenue to the north; Farewell, Sherman, High and Thomas Streets on the east; Golden Hill, Thames, and Marsh Streets in the south and Washington Street on the west, just before the shores of Narragansett Bay. This area includes the Easton’s Point neighborhood and its concentration of colonial houses on the north, Washington Square, the shops and stores along Thames Street near the waterfront, and the blocks inland up the gentle rise to the Bellevue Avenue neighborhoods.” 

Newport Historical Society

Every summer, the Historical Society holds an annual living history event, with costumed actors reenacting events from Newport’s history. With the goal of inspiring a passion for historical preservation, their Junior Docents program prepares high school students to be museum docents. 

The Preservation Society of Newport County

The Preservation Society of Newport County has been preserving Newport’s grand homes since 1945. Founded by a group of residents, the PSNC has purchased over eleven historic homes. It’s Rhode Island’s largest non-profit cultural organization, whose mission is to, “protect, preserve, and present an exceptional collection of house museums and landscapes in one of the most historically intact cities in America.” The money raised from ticket sales and major fundraising events like their annual Summer Dinner Dance, the Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival, and the Newport Flower Show goes directly to the organization’s operation and preservation efforts. The Newport Flower Show, held each June, displays gorgeous arrangements using themes related to Newport’s history. The Newport Mansions Food and Wine Festival, held each September, brings world-famous chefs and other culinary experts to Newport for a weekend of fine food, incredible wines, and much more. 

Newport Flower Show- The Preservation Society of Newport County

Newport Restoration Foundation

The Newport Restoration Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by heiress Doris Duke in 1968. Her goal was to, “preserve, maintain, and interpret Aquidneck Island’s 18th- and early 19th-century architectural heritage.” The NRF has collected eighty homes that are rented to tenant-stewards, people who care for the homes and help preserve their historic integrity. They also operate three public museums: Rough Point, Doris Duke’s Bellevue Avenue mansion; Whitehorne House, featuring Newport-made furniture from the 1700s and early 1800s; and Prescott Farm, a public park with direct historical ties to the Revolutionary War. 

Redwood Library and Athenaeum

Newport is also home to the Redwood Library and Athenaeum. Chartered in 1747, Redwood Library is, “America’s first purpose-built library, and the oldest continuously operating in its original location. As such, it is the only remaining secular public cultural institution in this country with an unbroken link to the colonial period and the Nation’s founding.” They offer lectures, exhibitions, and other events to promote local historical research and education. These events help fund the Library’s operation and preservation efforts.  

Community Efforts Keeping History Alive

Newport’s dedication to its past extends beyond physical structures. The city actively fosters cultural events that celebrate its vast heritage. From art exhibitions showcasing local talent to historical reenactments that bring the past to life, these events breathe life into Newport’s story, ensuring it remains relevant and engaging for residents and visitors alike. Beyond established organizations, Newport’s rich history is kept alive by the heart and soul of its community. 

Operation Clapboard

This grassroots organization, run entirely by volunteers, identifies and helps rehabilitate neglected historic properties. They organize workdays, fundraising events, and educational programs, empowering residents to actively participate in preservation.


Art & History Collaborations

Local artists partner with organizations like the Newport Art Museum and the National Museum of American Illustration to create unique exhibits, performances, and educational programs that engage the community with history in a fresh and accessible way. 

Newport Folk Festival

This legendary music festival draws crowds from around the world, celebrating folk music and its rich history. While not directly tied to historical preservation, a portion of the proceeds often benefits local historical organizations.

Community Social Media Groups

Online platforms connect residents interested in sharing historical knowledge, photographs, and memories, fostering a sense of shared responsibility for preserving the city’s heritage.

Looking Forward, Grounded in the Past

Newport’s commitment to preservation isn’t about clinging to the past; it’s about using it as a springboard for the future. By understanding and appreciating its history, the city can ensure its unique character continues to thrive. 

Newport Historical Society

So, the next time you find yourself strolling along Newport’s cobblestone streets or admiring its stately mansions, remember that you’re not just experiencing a beautiful place; you’re witnessing a community that cherishes its past and actively works to ensure it has a vibrant future. Newport is a living testament to the power of history, and its dedication to preservation is an inspiration to us all.


To learn more about living in Newport, RI, call (401) 680-6588 or send a message to info@hoganri.com. We’d be happy to guide you through the process of buying or selling a home in Rhode Island.