By the end of July, “archeological investigators” from Salve Regina University are expected to present findings from their exploration of the site of the spring that sparked Newport’s development and is now being turned into a local park.
Surrounded by some of the city’s oldest buildings, the spring, long forgotten, will be the centerpiece of a park that will commemorate the spot and the values upon which the city was founded. The archeological project will provide greater insight into the spring’s importance and the people who occupied the area hundreds of years ago.
Lillian Dick, a member of the Historic Newport Spring Project board, said the “investigators” had uncovered china and bones dating back perhaps more than 200 years, among its findings. She said Salve Regina’s history and cultural arts department is undertaking the archeological project.
Meanwhile, she said, she doesn’t expect the project’s construction to get underway for more than a year, contingent upon the committee’s ability to raise the $3.5 million needed to transform what had become the site of Coffey’s Service Station into a passive recreation area that commemorates the site’s importance and the city’s values. The Historic Spring Project owns the property, which Dick said will be turned over to the city upon the park’s completion.
“It is the site upon which Newport was founded,” she said. “This is an amazing opportunity to reclaim the space.”
On its website (www.Newporthistoricspring.org), the organization said the Newport Historic Spring Park “will commemorate the values of freedom of religion, religious tolerance, and separation of church and state on which the city was explicitly founded. The site was an integral part of Newport history that has been overlooked for centuries.”
Close to some of the city’s major landmarks – Touro synagogue, the Colonial House, and nearby churches – Dick expects the site to become a meeting place for tour groups, historical landmark itself, and passive recreation for others.