It was a time of significant growth in Newport. Reflected in the rapid expansion of the working waterfront, workshops, warehouses and docks were built and rebuilt to keep up with the demands of the city’s rising industry. Everything from ice storage, to coal, cordage, manufacturing facilities, small trade shops, boatyards and fishing could be found along the burgeoning waterfront scene. The U.S. Navy, already a major player in the area’s economy, continued to expand its presence. The birth of the Gilded Age brought some of the wealthiest families in the country to Newport; their summer homes (to put it modestly) started springing up along the coast.
The beginning of the 20th century brought significant changes to Newport. The state capitol relocated from Newport to Providence, industry slowed, and the longstanding naval presence was greatly reduced. A new era began, with The America’s Cup relocating to Newport, ushering in a sailing dynasty that would last over 50 years. The city found itself in the national spotlight with JFK’s wedding and The Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals were born. By the 1980’s the city’s economy had shifted. The waterfront, where for over 300 years hard-working residents made their living in the commerce, trade, and manufacturing industries, saw its historic surroundings turned into fashionable residential properties, shops and restaurants–fueling Newport’s rise in popularity as a premier travel destination.
Today, visitors and locals vie for the best seats and views of the stunning Rhode Island sunset. They frequent bars and restaurants that have replaced the edge where goods that were once hauled, stacked, and stored. Hammetts Wharf has undergone many transformations, once home to a cargo depot, lumberyard, bank, coal yard, temperance-oriented tea house, laundry, concert venue, ice rink, yacht basin, and most recently, a parking lot, reflects this evolution. Its newest resident, Hammetts Hotel, and its neighbors, will continue to bring new life to the historical sites along this vibrant and thriving waterfront for generations to come.