[Old Tower at Newport in]Chapter XXVII

[…] I passed the day in visiting places of interest in the city and its immediate vicinity. The object of greatest attraction to the visitor at Newport is the Old Tower, or wind-mill, as it is sometimes called. It stands within a vacant lot owned by Governor Gibbs, directly in front of his fine old mansion, which was erected in 1720, and was then one of the finest dwellings in the colony. […] The main object in the picture is a representation of the tower as it appeared at the time of my visit. On the right of it is seen the residence of Governor Gibbs, surrounded by shade-trees and flowering shrubs in abundance. I passed the stormy morning under its roof; and to the proprietor I am indebted for much kindness during my visit at Newport, and for valuable suggestions respecting the singular relic of the past that stands upon his grounds, mute and mysterious as a mummy. On the subject of its erection history and tradition are silent, and the object of its construction is alike unknown and conjectural. It is a huge cylinder, composed of unhewn stones – common granite, slate, sandstone, and pudding-stone – cemented with coarse mortar, made of the soil on which the structure stands, and shell lime. It rests upon eight round columns, a little more than three feet in diameter, and ten feet high from the ground to the spring of the arches. The wall is three feet thick, and the whole edifice, at the present time, is twenty-four feet high. The external diameter is twenty-three feet. Governor Gibbs informed me that, on excavating at the base of one of the pillars, he found the soil about four feet deep, lying upon a stratum of hard rock, and that the foundation of the column, which rested upon this rock, was composed of rough-hewn spheres of stone, the lower ones about four feet in circumference. On the interior, a little above the arches, are small square niches, in depth about half the thickness of the wall, designed, apparently, to receive floor-timbers. In several places within, as well as upon the inner surface of some of the columns, are patches of stucco, which, like the mortar, is made of coarse sand and shell lime, and as hard as the stones it covers. Governor Gibbs remembers the appearance of the tower more than forty years ago, when it was partially covered with the same hard stucco upon its exterior surface. Doubtless it was originally covered within and without with plaster, and the now rough columns, with mere indications of capitals and bases of the Doric form, were handsomely wrought, the whole structure exhibiting taste and beauty. During the possession of Rhode Island by the British, in the Revolution, the tower was more perfect than now, having a roof, and the walls were three or four feet higher than at present. The British used it for an ammunition magazine, and when they evacuated the island, they attempted to demolish the old "mill" by igniting a keg of powder within it! But the strong walls resisted the Vandals, and the only damage the edifice sustained was the loss of its roof and two or three feet of its upper masonry. Such is the Old Tower at Newport at the present time. Its early history is yet unwritten, and may forever remain so.

Source: Benson J. Lossing, "[The Newport Tower in] Chapter XXVII" in Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution, vol. 2, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1850), 65-67.

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