Exploring Newport, Rhode Island’s Historic Districts

Exploring Newport, Rhode Island’s Historic Districts

Newport, RI is home to more 17th and 18th-century structures than any other city in America. Dating back to 1697, the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House stands as Newport’s oldest surviving residence. Each of the city’s historic neighborhoods offers a distinct window into a bygone era. While most homes and buildings have undergone modernization to meet contemporary comfort standards, their historical essence remains intact. Living in these neighborhoods affords homeowners a tangible link to the city’s vibrant heritage. So, lace up your walking shoes – let’s explore Newport’s rich history through its charming historic districts.

The Point

Beyond the bustling commercial streets of Newport lies the hidden gem of The Point neighborhood, a treasure trove for history and architecture fans. This tightly-knit community boasts over fifty meticulously preserved Colonial-era homes, nestled on streets named after trees. These residences were once owned by sea captains who built their homes close to the water to keep an eye on their ships. The Point’s historical charm wouldn’t exist without the heroic rescue mission of Doris Duke and The Newport Restoration Foundation. In the 1960s, they acquired over 50 colonial-era homes from demolition, preserving them meticulously. Today, this neighborhood stands as the largest collection of Colonial homes in the United States. The Point is located just north of the Goat Island Causeway and consists of about 30 small blocks of homes creating a grid along Second and Third Street, parallel to Washington Street. 

Newport National Historic Landmark District

This neighborhood in the city’s historic heart is lined with 18th and 19th-century buildings along cobblestone streets. When you think of the quintessential old New England seaport village, this is it. Learn about Newport’s maritime heritage or delve into the city’s cultural roots at the Newport Art Museum. Admire the Georgian elegance of Trinity Church, wander past the quaint shops on Thames Street, and soak up the colonial atmosphere in Queen Anne Square. This district is a living museum, where history breathes into every brick and cobblestone. The Newport Historical Landmark District is bounded roughly by VanZandt Avenue, Newport Harbor, Thames Street, Pope Street, William Street, Bellevue Avenue, Bull Street, Broadway, and Kingston Street. 

Kay Street-Catherine Street-Old Beach Road Historic District

These picturesque streets lined with sea captains’ homes will transport you back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Imagine the lives of seafarers and whalers, explore restored homes transformed into museums like the Hunter House, and soak in the charm of this quintessential New England neighborhood. Stroll along Catherine Street, lined with charming shops and galleries, and let your imagination sail away with tales of daring voyages and salty adventures. The Kay/Catherine/Old Beach Historic District consists of Broadway, Rhode Island Avenue, Prairie Avenue, Champlin Street, Gibbs Avenue, Memorial Boulevard, Bellevue Avenue, Whitfield Place, and Sherman Street. 

Bellevue Avenue Historic District

Step into the opulent world of the Gilded Age, where “summer cottages” built by America’s wealthiest families stand as testaments to their extravagant taste. Marvel at architectural masterpieces like The Breakers and Marble House, each boasting unique styles from Beaux-Arts to Renaissance Revival. The Bellevue District stretches along a two-mile section of Bellevue Avenue, north to south from Memorial Boulevard down to Bailey’s Beach, to Spring Street and Coggeshall Avenue on the west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.

Fort Adams Historic District

Experience military history at this sprawling coastal fortification, built in the early 19th century. Step onto a military fortress, where cannons still stand guard over the harbor entrance, and explore the Civil War-era fort, tour underground tunnels, learn about the fort’s strategic role in American history, and enjoy breathtaking views of the ocean. This district offers a unique blend of history and natural beauty, a reminder of Newport’s role in national defense. President Eisenhower summered at the Commanding Officer’s quarters during his presidency and the house was renamed Eisenhower House in his honor. The Fort Adams District comprises about 80 acres of land and includes the entire fort, the fort’s officer’s quarters, and other buildings that kept the fort running during its years of operation. Today, it’s a museum, although some military families are still lucky enough to live in the officer’s quarters on site. 

Ocean Drive Historic District

Cruise along this scenic cliffside road, lined with elegant estates showcasing Queen Anne, Shingle Style, and Colonial Revival architecture. These late 19th- to early 20th-century homes showcase some of Newport’s most breathtaking architecture – aside from the Mansions. This district is a haven for nature lovers and architecture enthusiasts, offering a calming escape with stunning historical context. The Ocean Drive Historic District includes Ocean Drive, Price’s Neck Road, Commonwealth, Atlantic, Castle Hill, Winans Avenue, Jeffrey Road, Hazard Road, Wickham Road, Brenton Road, Beacon Hill, Hammersmith Road, Mooreland, Ridge Road, and portions of Ruggles Avenue and Harrison Avenue. 

Ochre Point – Cliffs Historic District

Wander through this charming and diverse district, encompassing everything from grand waterfront estates to quaint cottages and historic churches. Immerse yourself in the beauty and grandeur of the Cliff Walk as the scenic oceanside walking path winds along the rocky coastline, offering panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and showcasing impressive estates perched precariously on the cliffs. This district is a photographer’s paradise, a place to lose yourself in the natural beauty and architectural wonders. Discover hidden gems like the Rough Point Museum, admire the picturesque Cliff Walk, and appreciate the district’s unique blend of architectural styles and landscapes. The Ochre Point–Cliffs Historic District includes a portion of the Bellevue Avenue mansions and the Gilded Age mansions along the waterfront facing Easton Bay between Memorial Boulevard and Marine Avenue. It also includes the world-famous Breakers, once owned by The Vanderbilt Family, many properties owned by Salve Regina University, and the iconic tourist attraction, 40 Steps.

Southern Thames Historic District

Step beyond the glittering mansions and delve into the heart and soul of Newport’s working-class history with the Southern Thames Historic District. Imagine tightly packed streets lined with modest yet meticulously kept wooden houses, each a testament to the industrious spirit of Irish immigrants who built this community. Explore the majestic Emmanuel Episcopal Church, a beacon of hope towering over the neighborhood, or lose yourself in the bustling energy of Spring Street, once a vital commercial artery. This district isn’t just about architecture; it’s about the stories etched in every brick and cobblestone, whispers of shipbuilders, shopkeepers, and families forging their lives in this dynamic corner of Newport. So, wander its vibrant streets, soak in the rich tapestry of history, and discover the beating heart of a community that shaped Newport’s soul. The Southern Thames Historic District is a 135-acre district that runs from Thames Street to Morton Park, just before Fifth Ward.

Unofficial Historic Districts

Historic Hill

The Hill, affectionately known as Newport’s “Historic Hill,” isn’t a formally defined historic district, but rather a vibrant, charming neighborhood overflowing with history. Encompassing much of the downtown area, Historic Hill is just that. Imagine cobblestone streets whispering tales of the 18th and 19th centuries, lined with meticulously restored colonial homes and stately churches. Wander past Trinity Church, a Georgian gem, or get lost in the maze of charming streets brimming with art galleries, boutique shops, and cozy cafes. The Hill isn’t just a district; it’s an experience, an invitation to step back in time and soak up the unique charm of Newport. 

Fifth Ward

Another should-be-a-historic-distric-but-isn’t is Newport’s Fifth Ward. Brick-lined streets named after Irish saints lead to meticulously restored cottages and stately Victorian homes, each whispering tales of the neighborhood’s immigrant roots. This vibrant community, nestled between Brenton Cove and the downtown area, fosters a strong sense of belonging. Formed during the late 18- to early-1900s the Fifth Ward was a melting pot of Scottish, Irish, and Italian immigrants, many of whom kept the homes of the Gilded Age elite running smoothly. The Fifth Ward was a testament to the unseen labor that powered Newport’s golden age. 

Newport’s historic districts are more than just collections of buildings; they are vibrant communities where history whispers from every corner. Whether you’re drawn to colonial charm, Gilded Age grandeur, or military might, Newport’s diverse districts offer a captivating journey through time, waiting to be explored and cherished. 

Visit our website to learn about Newport’s Historic Homes For Sale. If you’re curious about owning a home in one of Newport’s historic districts, or have one to sell, call us at (401) 845-9500 or send a message to info@hoganri.com.