History and Gentrification Clash in a Gilded Age Resort

Angry senior couple having argument

After a real estate project met opposition from affluent and low-income residents alike, Newport, Rhode Island, imposed a moratorium on new development.

October 5, 2020
Alex Ulam - Bloomberg

Newport, Rhode Island, is a small New England beachfront town with a permanent population of 26,000 and an amazing collection of historic homes. Billed as “America’s First Resort,” the 350-year-old city on Aquidneck Island hosts more than 3 million tourists every year. They come for the boating, the famous folk and jazz festivals (both canceled this summer), and the architecture.

The narrow streets of the Point along the waterfront are lined with hundreds of modest homes from the early 1700s, one of the largest ensembles of colonial architecture in the country. On Historic Hill sits an assortment of grander antebellum, classical and Gothic Revival structures from the latter part of the 18th and early to mid-19th century, many built by Southern plantation owners. Newport also boasts what is probably the most opulent thoroughfare in the country, a several-mile stretch of Bellevue Avenue lined with shade trees and palatial limestone mansions built by Gilded Age robber barons and industrialists.



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