things to do in newport, ri
Photo via Bowen's Wharf

There is good news coming.

Some of our Newport restaurants will re-open soon for outdoor dining, and later, indoor dining, with appropriate social distancing and masks.

A number of restaurants and bars have already been providing food and beverage services, with take-out, curbside service, and deliveries. The next step is to expand to outdoor dining. Venues will take all precautions to ensure the health and safety of staff and customers alike. 

The retrofitting of dining and drinking spaces will take time and money. The transition may be slower for some than others. But it marks a good next step toward returning to providing guests and residents a full-service dining experience.

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At the mansions, museums, and historic attractions, their re-openings will proceed at a slower pace as these institutions design new protocols to protect their staff and also deliver a memorable experience for guests. Look for announcements on staggered grand re-openings in the next few weeks. These will be celebrations!

Although our businesses have been dealt a serious blow and we have been knocked to the canvas, it has not yet been fatal. There is still some life left in us. We know that our city is still a desired dream destination for tens of millions of people worldwide. We hold the optimism that our tomorrow will be better than today. 

The next few days, weeks, and months will provide a witness to what a strong and determined people can do when faced with the most dire health and economic challenges in a generation. 

Here we will tell the story of how we as a city are rising from discouragement, sickness, loss, despair, and fear to emerge stronger and better and more prosperous. 

We know we can. 

We know we must. 

We know we will.

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Until we meet here again, I want to encourage you to continue to read and research, virtually explore museum spaces and historic places, and learn more about this island we call home. Consider this time as a gift that allows you to improve your knowledge and better equip you for the immense dignity of the work that awaits you. 

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In addition to the following local web sites, where you will find easy

access to photos, videos, and brief history lessons, here is a review of

a recent [and fun!] Newport history book.

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BOOKS FOR NEWPORT TOUR GUIDES & GREETERS

A PASSION FOR PRESERVATION: Katherine Warren and the Shaping of Modern Newport

By Alyssa Lozupone. Carlisle, MA: Commonwealth Editions, Applewood Books, 2015. Some of the greatest and impactful things that move the world forward only happen when the exact right person arrives at the precise time with the perfect set of skills, experiences, and curiosity, and sees something no one else sees and has the passion and perseverance to make their vision a reality in spite of all the odds against their success. Katherine Urquhart was that person who spearheaded the historic preservation of Newport. Like all leaders, her arrival in this city was a circuitous one. 

Urquhart, a Californian by birth, took semiannual trips to New Orleans to visit an aunt, and later, with her sister, spent teenage summers at a cousin’s home in Newport, and there met her future husband, George Henry Warren, Jr.  Travel to France with the American Red Cross in WWI opened her eyes to the power of historic sites and buildings to attract tourists. Further travels took her to China, Egypt, Japan, and India. She and her husband collected contemporary and modernist art and she was involved with the Museum of Modern Art (NYC) and the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design (Providence).  For all her cultural sensitivities, it was news of a threat to the historic Hunter House (54 Washington Street, Newport) that inspired the creation of a local group to preserve historic buildings and places that led to the incorporation of the Preservation Society of Newport County on August 2, 1945. The organization quickly moved to preserve and save many notable mansions in the city. All was not easy, and the group faced many challenges from residents and those who were pushing urban renewal at the expense of the city’s large number of historical homes, municipal buildings, streetscapes, neighborhoods, and historic sites. Katherine Warren persevered in spite of these challenges by following her own preservation philosophy. She was a preservationist, but she also recognized the need to emphasize “community engagement, divergence from the museum model, incorporation of historic resources into city planning, and the use of preservation as a tool for economic growth as well as overall community revitalization.” Before the middle of the 20th century, Warren had already envisioned and anticipated modern 21st century preservation practices.  She went on to help save numerous historic properties and artifacts, and helped guide the creation of other organizations, including the Newport Restoration Society.  Awards and other recognitions followed, and her singular legacy continues to this day.

The full scope, reach, and influence of Katherine Warren cannot be adequately reported in a short book review. But for everyone who works in Newport tourism, travel, tour guiding, museum management, and marketing, this book is a must-read to better understand how we arrived where we are today and how close we came to losing so many of the city’s quintessential historic treasures. Katherine Warren’s vision is now ours to care for and preserve for future generations. Read Alyssa Lozupone’s A PASSION FOR PRESERVATION to learn the exciting details about Warren’s amazing life and vision. 

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TOUR GUIDE TIP OF THE WEEK ▪ STAY ENTHUSIASTIC

As we all prepare for the next stage of the re-opening of our state’s economy, we will need to really raise the bar for our first guests. Not everything will open at once. Many places will have limited availability and restricted capacity. There will be rules put in place in places that have never had such rules. But our first guests – Pioneers! – should receive our absolute best welcome!

Tour guides, greeters, and the front-line staff at our city’s many museums, historic homes, hotels, motels, restaurants, and cafes must be ready to take on the Herculean task of re-starting our important travel and tourism industries. Our work uniforms and dress clothes will have additional wardrobe accessories including gloves, masks, and supplies of portable hand sanitizer.  Guests may also be required to wear masks. There will surely be other rules and suggestions as well.

In spite of the lost momentum and gradual restart, guests and visitors to our city will still expect a certain level of excitement and enthusiasm from those who welcome and wait on them during their visit here. Most of the time excitement and enthusiasm is part and parcel of what we deliver. Of course, our visitors do not see, nor can they appreciate the challenge of greeting and serving sometimes thousands of guests on a daily basis. This work requires lots of “hellos,” smiles, and high energy.  And we do it happily. 

Staying enthusiastic during a busy day is a challenge for even the most spirited tour guide and greeter. Trying to deliver a high quality of service at an increasingly fast pace can be exhausting after too many hours. Staying healthy and protecting yourself from the virus will be a continuing concern. Maintaining your ideal level of enthusiasm with each and every guest will be the biggest challenge. 

Knowing yourself and your energy highs and lows and working rhythm can be the best check to be able to revive and maintain your enthusiasm over a long shift. Sometimes you will just need to stop for a moment, even when you do not have time for a scheduled break. Discuss some re-energizing options with your supervisor or colleagues. Know when you need to take a deep breath, take a quick short break, or simply step away from your post long enough to perhaps take a short stroll and let your whole mind and body relax. Find the strategy that works best for you to help you keep and maintain your enthusiasm and continue to provide inspiring service to your guests and visitors.

Most of all, keep communications open with team leaders and managers and your colleagues to share the questions, queries, problems, and fears of your guests and visitors. Share with them your own worries and problems. Together we can work through this time of great change, an unknown future, and restore our businesses and our shared industry, and rebuild the economy of our City-by-the-Sea. 

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Each week in this column we share tips and strategies for planning,

marketing, and providing quality guest services. If you have a suggestion, 

please send it along to kennethproudfoot@hotmail.com

We will share it with all our readers. And you. Thanks!

Until this public health crisis passes and we are back open for business, please take time to read, learn, study, and better understand our city’s exciting heritage. 

Meanwhile, continue to check for openings and available services at our local restaurants, stores, and historical sites on the city’s visitor site at www.discovernewport.org with daily updates on www.whatsupnewp.com   

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OUR WEB SITE LISTINGS

  Belcourt of Newport (www.belcourt.com) – Wonderful videos of the restoration of this gem 

 Fort Adams (www.fortadams.org)

 Touro Synagogue (www.tourosynagogue.org) – Read the history, view the photo galleries

 Museum of Newport Irish History (www.newportirishhistory.org)

 Rose Island (www.roseisland.org

 Newport Historical Society (www.NewportHistory.org)

 Preservation Society of Newport County (www.NewportMansions.org) — Several new virtual tours have recently been added to the web site

 Newport Art Museum (www.NewportArtMuseum.org

 Gansett Cruises (www.gansettcruises.com) – Check out their photo & video galleries 

 Redwood Library and Athenaeum (www.RedwoodLibrary.org

 The Newport Experience (www.newportexperience.com) – Includes OceanCliff and the Schooner Aurora

 Audrain Automobile Museum (www.AudrainAutoMuseum.org) – The YouTube site for this museum is worth a look  

 Discover Newport (www.DiscoverNewport.org) – Video, photos & numerous links to more

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OPERATING SCHEDULES UPDATES

With so many cancellations and postponements and new ones announced every day, it is wishful thinking to list any upcoming events with any assurance they will take place. The future is still too unknown and constantly changing.  Therefore, this column is suspending its regular detailed listings until such time as Newport re-opens and the major attractions and historic sites post their new schedules and re-set the dates for key events. 

Until then, please check back daily with www.whatsupnewp.com for schedule changes and updates. 

KENNETH PROUDFOOT, a Newport Tour Escort and Guide, is author of The Official 2018 Newport Tour Guides & Greeters Handbook (Shoreline Press (RI), 2017). 

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