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Washington Street and the Point

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The main portion of the harbor ends to the north in a blunt jut of land. Between this and the approach to the Newport Bridge is a long, narrow gridiron of streets called the Point, fronted toward the harbor by Washington Street. Over a hundred of its houses date from the colonial period, with a sprinkling of later styles through the late nineteenth century. Why “the Point” when no point can be seen? Originally, what is now a jut in shoreline was scooped into a cove, which was gradually filled for building sites. The water side of the scoop was once a southward point of land. Immediately north of the Brick Market, the most impressive of Newport's wharfs, Long Wharf (now, significantly, Long Wharf Mall) bridged the mouth of the cove, crossed the point, and extended beyond it. The Point area was once one of Nicholas Easton's farms and was known as Easton's Point. On his death Easton bequeathed his land to the Quaker Meeting ( NE45). The Quaker proprietors, in turn, divided the area into house lots around 1725, property owners paying an annual quitclaim rental for the privilege of building there. During the colonial period Washington Street (originally Water Street) was an active part of the harbor. Commercial wharfs extended directly from the yards of some very large mansions, so that the grand life in front mingled with dock and countinghouse activity behind.

The causeway to Goat Island is dominated at one end by a towering hotel, the first of the 1970s–1980s spate of hotels and probably the best architecturally simply because of its distinctive shape, but nothing extraordinary inside except views across the bay and toward the town from its multistory bar up in the pinnacle. Goat Island takes its name from its original use as a natural pen for livestock (goats were prominent among its earliest inhabitants). Later it served the navy as a torpedo manufactory. After it was declared surplus following World War II, the hotel, condominiums, and a marina took over.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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