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United Baptist Church, John Clarke Memorial – Founded in 1638, Built in 1846

30 Spring Street

Previously known as the First Baptist Church in Newport, Second Baptist Church in Newport and the Second Baptist Church in America

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Five Fun Facts

1 – It is one of the two oldest Baptist congregations in the United States and is currently affiliated with the American Baptist Church.

2 – The congregation has a rich heritage dating back to 1638. In that year, Dr. John Clarke, one of the original settlers of Aquidneck Island , began to hold worship services in the newly formed town of Pocasset , now called Portsmouth . One year later, he helped to establish Newport in the southern part of the island, where he continued to hold church services. By 1644, he had guided his congregation to become one of the first two Baptist churches in America.

3 – In 1656 while John Clarke was in England, a group of congregants broke off from Clarke’s church to found the Second Baptist Church in Newport, which followed Six Principle Baptist (Arminian) principles in contrast to Clarke’s more Calvinist theology. The Second Baptist Church eventually reunited with First Baptist in 1946.

4 – In 1737 Hezekiah Carpenter and Josiah Lyons donated the current land on Spring Street for a meeting house which was constructed that year. The current meeting house was constructed as a replacement in 1846, and the earlier building was eventually moved, then demolished

5 – According to the United Baptist Church’s website “in 1943, the Rev. Lester Revoir, who became the pastor of the nearby Second Baptist Church on Clarke Street, in 1942, added to his responsibilities by becoming the pastor of the First Baptist Church. Three years later, in 1946, the First and Second Baptist Churches merged to form “The United Baptist Church, John Clarke Memorial”, the present name of the church.” The church steeple was replaced with a smaller version after the 1938 Hurricane

Info via United Baptist Church Website

Touro Synagogue – Built in 1763

85 Touro Street

Touro Synagogue - Dedicated in 1763

Five Fun Facts

1 – The Touro Synagogue is the oldest synagogue building still standing in the United States, the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue building in North America and the only surviving synagogue building in the U.S. dating to the colonial era.

2 – It was designed by noted British-Colonial era architect and Rhode Island resident Peter Harrison and is considered his most notable work.

3 – The interior is flanked by a series of twelve Ionic columns supporting balconies. The columns signify the twelve tribes of ancient Israel. Each column is carved from a single tree.

4 – The building is oriented to face east toward Jerusalem.

5 – In 1790, the synagogue’s warden, Moses Seixas, wrote to George Washington, expressing his support for Washington’s administration and good wishes for him. Washington sent a letter in response. Each year, the Touro Foundation sponsors an educational lecture series and holds a public reading of the George Washington letter as a celebration and pronouncement of religious freedom.

Information From Touro Synagogue’s Website & WikiPedia

Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House – Founded in 1644, Built in 1730

82 Touro Street

Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House

1 – The oldest surviving Baptist church building in America, The Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House boasts a beautifully carved pulpit and interior paneling.

2 – The meeting house was constructed in 1730 by Richard Munday on Barney Street, and can now be seen as part of the Newport Historical Society’s building.

3 – The first Baptist church in Newport was founded in 1644 by John Clarke. Several years later, a group of 7th Day Baptists (celebrating the Sabbath on Saturday) separated from Clarke’s church. In its early years this congregation met in a building at Green End, but as the congregation grew land on Barney Street was purchased for the purpose of building a new church.

4 – In its early years this congregation met in a building at Green End, but as the congregation grew land on Barney Street was purchased for the purpose of building a new church. The building was erected in 1730 and was considered to be one of the finest colonial interiors in Rhode Island.

5 – The grand reopening of the newly-restored Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House was celebrated the summer of 2009, in conjunction with a rare clothing exhibit, From Homespun to High Fashion.

Information from the Newport Historical Society

Trinity Episcopal Church – Founded in 1698, Current Building Built in 1726

141 Spring Street

Trinity interior

Five Fun Facts

1 – The Anglican Church came relatively late to Newport; early settlers moved here to get away from the Church of England. By 1698, however, there were enough Anglicans, joined by Huguenots and Quakers, to form Trinity’s first congregation. The congregation quickly outgrew its 1701 home, and in 1726 built the church in which they worship today.

2 – A striking feature in Trinity Church is the wine-glass or chalice-shaped pulpit. It indicates the importance of preaching during the colonial period, and the sermon at Sunday services is still given from it today. Most colonial churches had central pulpits, but many later moved them to the side. This is the only center-aisle, freestanding, triple-decked pulpit left in America today.

3 – The chandelier closest to the Tower is original, made in Exeter, England, by Thomas Drew in 1728; the other three are reproductions. They seem to hang a little to the north, but actually it is the building which leans, showing the impact of three hundred years of winds from the sea.

4 – The original organ was a gift from Dr. George Berkeley, later Bishop of Cloyne (Ireland). Bishop Berkeley spent three years in Newport and was much indebted to the members of the congregation. It was Bishop Berkeley who posed the famous question: “If a tree falls in the forest, but there is no one to hear, is there sound?”. Local legend has it that the Bishop first formulated his query while meditating in his favorite retreat, a niche (still called “Bishop’s Seat”) in the craggy rocks overlooking Sachuest Beach.

5 – On the south side of the main aisle, adjacent to the Clerk’s Desk, is a box pew ornamented with engraved silver plaques commemorating visitors of special significance who were seated there. The earliest of these is George Washington; others include Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Andrew, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah. Archbishop Tutu addressed Trinity’s congregation a scant two weeks after learning he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As an aside, he smilingly mentioned that the Nobel Peace Prize was excellent life insurance.

Information from Trinity Episcopal Church’s Website 

Great Friends Meeting House – Current Building Built in 1699

30 Farewell Street

Newport Friends Meetinghouse.JPG

Five Fun Facts

1 – Great Friends Meeting House is a meeting house of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) built in 1699 in Newport, Rhode Island. The meeting house, which is part of the Newport Historic District, is currently open as a museum owned by the Newport Historical Society.

2 – It is the oldest surviving house of worship in Rhode Island and features wide-plank floors, plain benches, a balcony, a beam ceiling, and a shingle exterior.

3 – The meeting house the Friends constructed in 1699 was a reflection of their status within the Newport community. During the first few decades of the eighteenth century, it was largest and most recognizable building in town, and throughout the 1700s it appeared as a landmark in maps and painted landscapes of Newport. From its original square shape with a hip roof and cupola, the meeting house grew to meet the needs of the growing Society.

4 – In 1705 and 1729, the building was expanded, according to the congregations’ minutes, “for the conveniency of the women’s meeting.” Despite the decline of Quakerism in Newport after the American Revolution, in 1807, 1857, and 1867, additions were constructed to accommodate the New England Yearly Meeting, which brought thousands of Quakers from all over the region to Newport to discuss theology, peaceful alternatives to war, and the abolition of slavery.

5 – After the departure of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends in 1905, the building was used as a recreation center. It became an important meeting place for the African-American community and it was here that the Martin Luther King Center, a social service agency now located nearby, was founded. In the 1970s, the meeting house was restored under the guidance of architect Orin M. Bullock, and was presented to the Newport Historical Society by its owner, Mrs. Sydney L. Wright.

Information from the Newport Historical Society

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