Few states have as rich and colorful history as Rhode Island, which was originally formed by two colonies. The first belonged to the Providence Plantations (mainland area) founded by Roger Williams after being run out of Puritan Boston in 1636. The second was founded by Anne Hutchinson on Aquidneck island in 1639 after she too was run out and bought it with Williams' help.
Upon arriving, Hutchinson's party also divided in two, with some settling Pocasett (Portsmouth) while William Coddington and Nicholas Easton founded Newport in the south. The latter flourished, quickly growing to become one of five major shipping ports in America and a hotbed of American rebelliousness.
The British occupied it from 1776 to 1779 and the French, after driving them out, began a sojourn in Newport that lasted until 1781. However, even more than the American Revolution, the real beauty of Newport began to take shape in the mid-nineteenth century as wealthy southern planters and northern merchants began building mansions and luxurious cottages.
The Mill Street Inn Was At The Heart Of The Gilded Age.
Built in 1850, The Mill Street Inn was originally a large woodworking shop owned by area architect, woodworker and builder J.D. Johnston. Johnston, who worked with legendary architects like Frederick Law Olmstead and Richard Morris Hunt, designed, altered, and built many of the famous mansions and luxury cottages alongside Ocean Drive and Bellevue Avenue.
While most have been lost to history, his architecture and alterations included work on homes such as the W.W. Tucker House (1869-1939), Caldwell House (1866-1931), The Cloister (1885-1950), and the Arleigh House (1893-1932), which witnessed the 1903 marriage of Cathleen Neilson to Reginald C. Vanderbilt.
In 1890, the original wooden structure of the Mill Street Inn burned down and was rebuilt with brick. It continued to be used for millwork until it was purchased and converted into a small all-suite hotel in the 1980s. Its last renovation, three years ago, preserved much of the history while placing an emphasis on modern green technologies and contemporary furnishings.
The Mill Street Inn Is A Blend Of Historic And Comfort.
While there are 23 suites, the best of them are the large two-level models with downstairs living room (and pull-out sleeper) and upstairs bedroom (large feather bed) with spa shower. They also include a private walkout roof patio with a distant but worthwhile view of the Newport Harbor. The split level is ideal for people traveling with children, although the single story deluxe suites work too.
The staff is exceptionally personal, taking time to answer questions in detail about the area. They will place hotel reservations, ensure parking (located below the building), and even call if someone happens to lose their glasses. They also help prepare breakfast, a diverse continental self-serve buffet with breads, grains, nuts, cereals, and fruits.
Having the option to eat breakfast at the hotel is appreciated in Newport. For all of its lunch and dining attractions, breakfast is surprisingly sparse. There are only two cafes within a reasonable distance from the hotel (plus a Panera Bread location). It seems odd, especially given the expansiveness of the Brick Market and Newport Harbor shops, taverns, and nightclubs.
Everything else is only a short drive away, including the Newport mansions, beaches, Cliff Walk, and Fort Adams (which is seasonal). Currently, Newport is also the leading contender for the next America's Cup.
The Mill Street Inn Sails With An 8.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
While storage space is light and counter space in the bathroom nonexistent, The Mill Street Inn does a nice job of blending the best of preserved history and modern conveniences (except elevators, which is cool). The staff is incredibly attentive, not unlike having a concierge team at the desk. It's also an ideal retreat from all the activities that make Newport a remarkable stopover.
The hotel is a member of the "Green" Hotels Association and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Give that some consideration when you walk streets that still bend as they did almost 400 years ago. If you want to visit the Newport area, check Fare Buzz for special deals.