Let’s go explore the mysterious Newport Tower in Newport, Rhode Island. This 28-foot tall stone and mortar tower is located in the heart of the city. Over the years, many people and professional historians have hypothesized how the tower came to be. They thought it could’ve been built by the Vikings as a round church, by Medieval Scottish Templars as a temple, or by the Chinese as a lighthouse.
In 1942, historian Philip Means wrote a 300-page book titled Newport Tower and concluded “The circular arcaded tower at Newport continues to be the most enigmatic and puzzling single building in the United States.”
Jim Eagan, the curator of the Newport Tower Museum believes he knows the truth about this tower. The story started in 1577 when John Dee convinced Queen Elizabeth I of England that she had a legal right to North America. In 1578, explorer Humphrey Gilbert was awarded an exclusive right to discover and settle all of North America for England. Gilbert discovered Newport in 1580 and in 1582, two ship crews from England spent 9 months in Newport to establish a presence. It was likely during this year that the tower was built considering stone masons were part of the crew. John Dee designed the tower to be the heart of this future colony. Gilbert returned to England after the tower was built and planned to go to Rhode Island again in 1583. During this trip, he and the rest of his crew were killed due to a violent storm.
After Gilbert’s death, his younger half-brother Walter Raleigh colonized North America, but he chose to start in North Carolina. The Newport Tower was abandoned.
Over the years, the stone tower was used for different purposes and had changes made. Learn more about the tower by visiting the Newport Tower Museum or their website.
- Year Established: 1582 (estimated)
- Year Abandoned: First abandoned in 1583
- Original Function: Monument to celebrate the Newport Colony, but it was never successfully established
- Address: 5 Touro Park Street
- Town: Newport
- State: Rhode Island
- GPS: 41.485842, -71.309864
- Parking Notes: The tower is located in Touro Park and there is public parking all around the park. Free two-hour parking can be found along Pelham Street, Touro Park Street, and Mill Street.
- Parking Directions: HERE
- Location Directions: HERE