Photo Credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel |This work is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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If ever there was a year for people from all over our country and the world to visit Newport, 2020 is that year!

For 2020 marks the beginning of the new decade and the achievement of some important milestones in the City-by-the-Sea. For all of the people who meet, greet, and lead tours for our visitors, this year is one with a lot of important historical dates to celebrate.  There are many reasons for our visitors and guests to return multiple times in 2020. 

Among the milestones we will note, and in some cases celebrate, include outstanding people, key historical events, business anniversaries, and community events that have shaped and enriched our city. This year we will recognize and salute the untiring work and perseverance of some this city’s early visionaries. 

There will be plenty to celebrate this year as we look back on our history and reflect on how far we have come and what amazing progress the city has both preserved and achieved. 

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It was 1945 when Katherine Warren and a few others formed the Preservation Society of Newport County (PSNC) to purchase, save, and preserve Hunter House (1748). From this small beginning, some of the city’s most magnificent homes have been acquired and preserved for future generations. Today there are nine houses and a total of eleven properties in the care of this organization.  This year marks the PSNC’s 75th anniversary of preserving our Newport Mansions.

The mansions have been a major attraction for visitors and guests from around the world since the first tours began at The Breakers in July of 1948. Recently, the Preservation Society announced that for the fourth year in a row, the Newport Mansions hosted more than 1 million tours – 1,006,190, to be exact. PSNC Executive Director, Trudy Coxe, reported that, “This milestone again puts us among the four most-visited museums in New England. We are especially pleased that our guests come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.”

100th ANNIVERSARY OF WOMEN’S RIGHT TO VOTE: Another important summer resident, Alva Vanderbilt (Marble House, Belcourt Castle) , directed her considerable energies and wealth to supporting the Women’s Suffrage movement – “Votes for Women” — that led to the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote. Many of the movement’s early rallies took place at her summer cottage, Marble House (1892). This year marks the 100th anniversary of the amendment’s ratification on August 18, 1920. In Rhode Island, women began enrolling as voters on July 1, 1919.  Let’s celebrate!

125th ANNIVERSARY: Best of all, we will recognize and celebrate the 125th anniversary of the grand opening Midnight Ball of the largest and grandest of all the Newport mansions – The Breakers, which opened, after just 28 months of construction, on the evening of August 14, 1895.  Following a dinner at 8:30 for 30 close friends, over 300 guests began arriving at 11 pm to attend the formal cotillion at which Gertrude, the daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and his wife, Alice Claypoole Gwynne Vanderbilt, was formally introduced to society. Watch for news of a late summer commemoration.

BUSINESS MILESTONES

Several other milestones we are recognizing this year include the 75th anniversary of longtime business and important hospitality partner, Blackstone Catering, of nearby Middletown. They have been an important participant at so many landmark Newport events and celebrations since 1945. 

Iconic restaurant, Newport Creamery, based in Middletown, will celebrate its 80th anniversary in 2020. Newport Creamery began as Samuel Rector’s Newport, a small dairy business in 1928. In 1940, Rector and his son opened their first restaurant in nearby Middletown, where the company is still headquartered. The company, famous for its Awful Awful milkshakes, now operates 12 restaurants, including one on Bellevue Avenue in Newport. 

OTHER MILESTONES TO REMEMBER

▪ In July of this year, Newporters may remember the 240th anniversary of the arrival of French General Rochambeau and 6,000 troops with a fleet of ships on July 1, 1780 to help the Americans in their battle with the British. Their arrival was critical to the cause of freedom for the American colonies. Previously, in 1955, Newport celebrated the 175th anniversary of the arrival of the French fleet with a ten-day celebration that paid homage to the French generals and troops whose arrival in Newport changed the course of the Revolutionary War. The city pulled out all the stops. There were parades, dances, tours, and exhibitions. Actress Grace Kelly appeared at the final event of the festival series, attending The Breakers Ball, along with some friends and another eleven hundred other guests who filled the Great Hall. In all, it was a fitting tribute to the French and their military leaders.

The 25th Annual Newport Flower Show opens at Rosecliff on June 19 and runs through June 21. This year’s theme is “Voices in the Garden.”  This 25th anniversary show is expected to be the largest and best attended in the series history.

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What’s missing here?  Is there a Newport history milestone or anniversary we should know about and highlight in these pages?  Send me a brief note at: kennethproudfoot@hotmail.com  

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