Located at the southern tip of the largest island in Narragansett Bay, Newport was established as a colony by William Coddington of Providence in 1639. Due to its excellent harbor, it developed rapidly through sea trade, whaling and smuggling - a fact that led some neighbors to call the tiny state &Rogues Island.&A reputation for religious freedom encouraged Jews, Quakers and Baptists to settle in Newport to become part of the lucrative international trade until British occupation in 1776 caused a decline in prosperity. Rhode Islanders were in the forefront of Revolutionary passion. They resented the economic pressures placed on them from England, severely affecting commercial enterprise.
At the turn of the last century, Newport regained importance as a resort for wealthy industrialists, such as the Astors, Belmonts and Vanderbilts. Their ostentatious &summer cottages,& modeled after European palaces, elevated Newport to the position of undisputed &Queen of Summer Resorts.& During the Depression much of this decadent lifestyle came to an end. Today the majority of these opulent mansions are run by the Newport Preservation Society. A visit to at least one or two of these mansions is a must for any visitor.
Newport is also famous as a well-heeled yachting capital and site of international tennis championships. As such, it offers sophisticated boutiques and excellent restaurants that have replaced the earlier seasalt rawness of its waterfront. Walking tours in the downtown district are very popular, offering a great introduction to Newport&s colonial heritage. A fine assembly of 18th- and 19th-century and even pre-Revolution buildings rival those of Boston.