Did you know that Newport has more than 300 pre-Revolutionary War era buildings still standing—more than any other city in the United States?
Many tourists that visit Newport appreciate the history seen in its many houses and taverns, often taking one of the several guided walking tours to see the properties, but few realize it is the hard work of the Newport Restoration Foundation that has made it all possible. The Newport Historical Society collaborates with the Newport Restoration Foundation to run the many tours, with names such as "Rogues and Scoundrels," "Lantern Tour of Colonial Newport," and the "Road to Independence," and both organizations work together as sources of authentic Newport history.
The Newport Restoration Foundation ("NRF") was founded in 1968 by the infamous Doris Duke, who gave away $400 million in her lifetime to charitable causes, and the NRF immediately began working to save Newport's many historic buildings from further deterioration or destruction. Duke had quite a vision - she would select a few properties on a street for revival, anticipating that the surrounding neighbors would then revitalize their homes - which they did. The NRF also preserves a collection of the art of cabinetmaking and of much of Doris Duke's art and artifacts from her life in Newport. The Foundation's collection of period architecture is one of the largest by one organization in the country. The NRF also runs educational Do It Yourself restoration projects for children.
NRF homes (as opposed to those of the Preservation Society of Newport County, which works to preserve the many Newport Mansions) were often the homes of shipbuilders and silversmiths and are distinguished by the refined white plaques that identify them as such. The NRF actually rents out the refurbished homes to approximately 63 tenants, who affectionately deal with oddly shaped closets and slanting floorboards because it is part of the "character" of the homes. Applications can be obtained from the NRF, though wait times can be up to a year to move in to one of the restored homes. In addition, five of NRF's homes are maintained as museums, including Doris Duke's own home, Rough Point, with its three topiary camels, in memory of her pet camels that she kept there.
Newport History Tours are a great way to introduce yourself to some American and Newport history. The tours are entertaining, affordable and are kept to small groups. Led by expert guides, and based on material in the Newport Historical Society’s manuscript collection, each tour runs about 75 minutes.
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