The What’sUpNewp Crew has curated some weird, random, wonderful and fun facts about Newport, RI and Aquidneck Island.
This story was originally published on September 30, 2015; it has been republished due to popularity. Discover Newport’s Fact Sheet provided much information and inspiration for this article.
We hope you’ll find them interesting or at least learn something…
1 – The White Horse Tavern, standing since 1652, has been a tavern since 1673 and many consider it the oldest tavern building in continuous use in the United States. The White Horse Tavern is also considered one of the oldest buildings still standing in Newport.
2 – Built in 1763, Newport’s Touro Synagogue is the oldest surviving synagogue in North America.
3 – Newport is home to the oldest typewriter in America which can be found at the Newport Historical Society’s Brick Market Museum.
4 – Trinity Church has the only three-tiered wineglass pulpit in its original location in the U.S.
5 – Newport became home to the country’s first official circus performance when they hosted the first circus in 1774.
6 – Newport has more colonial homes in use than any other location in the U.S. In a recent story here on WhatsUpNewp.com, Built In 1765: Oldest Buildings in Newport, RI, we discovered there are more than 6o buildings still standing in Newport prior to 1765.
7 – Newport became the home of America’s first jazz festival in 1954. The Newport Jazz Festival is now held annually in July at Fort Adams State Park.
8 – Newport hosted the first two years of the ESPN X-Games in 1996 and 1996.
9 – The first U.S. National Tennis Championship was also held in Newport on August 31st, 1881 at the Newport casino. It’s still an annual event today, making it America’s oldest tennis tourney.
10 – Newport hosted the first lawn tennis championship, the “National Lawn Tennis Championships” in 1899.
11 – Newport was the site of the first airplane passenger line in the United states between Newport and New York City
12 – The Cliff Walk became the first designated National Recreation Trail in New England in 1975.
13 – Newport is home to the oldest US Naval War College, still standing since 1884.
14 – Pelham Street in Newport was first in the country to use gas illuminated street lights. You can find a plaque on the side of One Pelham East today acknowledging the historic fact.
15 – Some estimate that the Tower in Touro Park could have been built as early as 1120 AD.
16 – Newport is home to the country’s oldest continually used library, The Redwood Library and Athenaeum. It’s been in its original location since 1745-1750.
17 – Newport was the site of the first automobile arrest and jail sentence in the country on August 28th, 1904 when the offender was charged by Judge Darius Baker with driving 15 miles per hour
18 – The first traffic law was created in 1678 in Newport, when authorities banned galloping horses on local streets.
19 – Vanderbilt heirs lived in The Breakers Mansion all the way up to 2018.
20 – On September 12, 1953, John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier were married at St. Mary’s Church.
21 – The first auto race was held in Newport in 1895.
22 – In 1876, Polo was played for the first time in the United States in Newport, RI. In 1886, Newport would host the first International Polo Match
23 – Newport has the oldest military unit in continuous service under its original charter from 1741. The museum is located on Clarke Street.
24 – Newport was the site of the first duplex house, located at 57 Farewell Street, built in 1750.
25 – The Newport Mercury was founded in 1758, one the oldest newspapers in continuous operation in the United States (until it was shut down by Gatehouse Media in 2018). Ann (Smith) Franklin became the sole editor and publisher of the Newport Mercury on August 22nd, 1762, making her the first female editor in the United States.
26 – Newport, the colonial capital of Rhode Island, was the first of the thirteen colonies to declare its independence from England on May 4th, 1776.
27 – BankNewport was founded in 1819, the oldest mutual savings bank in the United States
28 – The first New York Yacht Club Regatta was held in 1854, making it the oldest sailing regatta in the country
29 – Ida Lewis, the first female lighthouse keeper, operated the Lime Rock Light (now Ida Lewis Yacht Club) Her many saves were legendary and she was visited by President Ulysses S. Grant and Vice-President Schuyler Colfax
30 – Newport was the site of the first public roller skating rink in the United States in 1866, housed inside the Atlantic House (now the Elks Lodge on the corner of Pelham Street and Bellevue Avenue).
31 – Newport had the first photograph taken by electric light in 1866
32 – At least 25 U.S. Presidents have visited Newport, RI before, during or after their presidency according to our recent story on what presidents have visited Newport since 1781.
33 – Newport hosted golf’s first Amateur Championship and the first US Open at Newport Country Club in 1895.
34 – Although President John Adams never visited Newport, Fort Adams State Park which was established on July 4, 1799 is named after the second President of the United States who authorized its construction
35 – Newport recorded the highest water level of the New England Hurricane of ’38 at 3.53 meters above mean sea level according to a NOAA study.
36 – According to IMDB, there are more than 100 films, documentaries and tv shows that credit Newport, Rhode Island as a filming location. Here are 16 of the most popular films made in Newport, RI.
37 – In celebration of the U.S. Amateur Championship centennial, the Newport Country Club hosted the 1995 U.S. Amateur Championship. At age 19, Tiger Woods became the ninth player to win back-to-back Amateur championships when he defeated Buddy Marucci on August 27th at the 1995 US Amateur at Newport Country Club.
38 – Richard Hatch, a corporate trainer from Newport, was named the Sole Survivor and became CBS’s Survivor first millionaire.
39 – The kissing sailor in that famous picture? That’s George Mendonsa who was born in Newport, RI and called Middletown, RI home until he passed away on February 17, 2019.
40 – During the Colonial era, Newport was the rum capital of the world with over 22 rum distilleries throughout the city.
Newport Firsts By Year
1657: Newport operated the first ferry service in the nation
1673: the White Horse Tavern is built, the oldest tavern building in continuous use in the United States
1687: Newport was the first city to pass a traffic ordinance
1699: The Quaker Meeting House is built, Rhode Island’s oldest house of worship
1716: Schoolhouse in Portsmouth is built, and today is the oldest schoolhouse in the United States
Newport has the oldest military unit in continuous service under its original charter from 1741
1745: The Redwood Library & Athenaeum is established, the oldest circulating library in continuous use in the United States
1750: Newport was the site of the first duplex house, located at 57 Farewell Street
1758: The Newport Mercury was founded, the oldest newspaper in continuous operation in the United States
1759: Touro Synagogue built in Newport, the oldest in synagogue the western hemisphere
1774: Newport hosted the first circus in the country
May 4, 1776: Newport, the colonial capital of Rhode Island, was the first of the thirteen colonies to declare its independence from England
1781: Newport held the first notable celebration of George Washington’s birthday, hosted by Count De Rochambeau of France
1803: The first gas-illuminated streetlights in United States were lit on Newport’s Pelham Street
1819: BankNewport founded, the oldest mutual savings bank in the United States
1854: The first New York Yacht Club Regatta, the oldest sailing regatta in the country
1857-1911: Ida Lewis, the first female lighthouse keeper, operated the Lime Rock Light. Her many saves were legendary and she was visited by President Ulysses S. Grant and Vice-President Schuyler Colfax
1866: Newport was the site of the first public roller skating rink in the United States, housed inside a see-and-be-seen resort hotel, the Atlantic House
1866: Newport had the first photograph taken by electric light
1881: Newport was home to the first National Lawn Tennis Championships
1886: Newport was home to the first International Polo Match
1884: Newport is home to the oldest US Naval War College
1895: Newport hosted golf’s first Amateur Championship at Newport Country Club
1895: Newport hosted golf’s first US Open at Newport Country Club
1895: Newport was home to the first auto race
1904: Newport was the site of the first automobile arrest in the country when the offender was charged with driving 15 miles per hour
1930 – 1983: The prestigious America’s Cup, the oldest trophy in international sport, was raced in the waters off Newport
1975: The Cliff Walk became the first designated National Recreation Trail in New England
1995 and 1996: Newport hosted the first two years of the ESPN X-Games