Located in southern Narragansett Bay, the Port of Newport is about seven nautical miles (12 kilometers or eight mile) south-southwest of the Port of Melville, Rhode Island. The Port of Newport is almost 60 nautical miles (38 kilometers or 24 miles) southwest of the Port of New Bedford, Massachusetts. The Port of Newport is known for its collection of historic mansions, and two American Presidents (Eisenhower and Kennedy) had Summer White Houses there. Today, the Port of Newport has more surviving colonial buildings than any other city in the United States. The 2010 US Census reported a population of 24,672 people living in the Port of Newport.
The United States Navy has been an important employer in the Port of Newport for many years, and there are several important Navy institutions there: the Naval War College, Naval Justice Center, Surface Warfare Officers School Command, Naval Education and Training Center, and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. Tourism is also important to the local economy, and the Newport Mansions attract many tourists to the Port of Newport. In the 1700s, the Port of Newport was a major seaport. Today, the Port of Newport is still a maritime city busy with pleasure craft and fishing boats. The Port of Newport was one of the US Golf Association's five founding clubs, and it was the site for the first US Open and first US Amateur tournaments in 1895. It also hosted the US Women's Open in 2006. The Port of Newport is also home to the annual International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum.
In 1639, a group of religious refugees from the Massachusetts Colony founded the Port of Newport. With an outstanding harbor, the Port of Newport was soon one of colonial North America's busiest seaports. Between 1640 and the early 20th Century, the Port of Newport and Providence, Rhode Island, shared the same town government. Until 1854, the Port of Newport was one of five original rotating capitals of the State of Rhode Island. From 1854 until 1900, it shared that position with Providence.
In the Port of Newport's heyday as a seaport, merchants grew rich from the trade of slaves, molasses, and rum between New England, the West Indies, and Africa. Benjamin Franklin's brother, James Franklin Jr., brought printing to the Port of Newport in 1727, and he established the Newport Mercury newspaper, still a weekly publication, in 1758. When the British occupied the Port of Newport from 1776 to 1779 during the American Revolution, many of the merchants fled to the mainland.
With a moderate climate and beautiful scenery, the Port of Newport became a popular and affluent summer resort after the Civil War. The Vanderbilt's "The Breakers" was built in 1895. Other elite Americans like the Astors and the Morgans built mansions in the Port of Newport as well, and visitors can tour many of them today.
Today, the Port of Newport has the largest collection of colonial buildings in the US. The Port of Newport is home to the 1763 Touro Synagogue, America's oldest, founded by Jews from Spain and Portugal. The Port of Newport also contains the 1699 Friends Meeting House, the 1725 Trinity Church, the 1739 Old Colony House, and the 1747 Redwood Library and Anthenaeum. The Port of Newport's "The Point" is the old section of town on the waterfront with many homes of colonial merchants. The Old Stone Mill atop the hill in Touro Park is one of the oldest European structures in the country, perhaps representing pre-Columbian contact.
A center for yachting for many years, the Port of Newport has held many America's Cup races. The Port of Newport was also the home to the Newport Jazz Festival from 1954 through 1971 when it moved to New York. The 1880 Newport Casino now holds the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum.
The Port of Newport is home to three National Historic Landmark Districts. The downtown Newport Historic District contains many homes that have been restored, preserving the city's colonial heritage. Its mansions from the United States' Gilded Age have also been restored by private owners and groups like the Preservation Society of Newport County, and these Port of Newport mansions are one of the country's most popular tourist attractions.